I have recently completed a trip I had planned to make in 2012 but had to postpone due to a sudden back problem that stopped me from driving never mind walking, plenty of which I always have to do on any photo trip. The main objective of the originally planned trip was to visit the Cairngorms National Park as it prepared for its 10th-anniversary celebrations in 2013. The second objective was to visit the Moray and Banffshire coast which I decided to visit first on this two location trip. This rethink also gave me the idea of taking a look at part of the Aberdeenshire coastline.
After a seven hour and four hundred mile drive, I arrived at my first base at Findlochty and settled down to decide which of my planned locations I should visit first. The next day I decided to drive to Portsoy and walk to Sandend and Findlater Castle. Leaving Portsoy I made my way along the coast reaching Sandend Bay where the incoming tide was just reaching its peak of one of the highest tides for some time as you can see from the waves on the view below. Whilst this produced great conditions for this image it, unfortunately, meant that my route to Sandend was restricted. Not being able to walk along the beach and no obvious route through the dunes I decided to enter a gated field which included a small herd of cows. As I walked through the field they started to move towards me and the more I tried to keep a safe distance the more they followed. Eventually I ended up in a corner of the field with no exit, a barbed wire fence and a ditch between me and safety. As the herd got closer I realised that it also included young bulls so I had no alternative but to scrape under the fence and jump the ditch. As soon as I had done that they started to move away. One of the locals explained that they probably followed me because that’s where the farmer feeds them from each day. So that brought a timely reminder to make sure I know tide times and be more careful about entering fields with cows in. The local did also explain that there is a route through the dunes but it’s not obvious unless you know where to start. Pity I didn’t know that.
Moving on along the coast I reached Findlater Castle which to gain access to you have to walk along a short narrow path with drops to the sea below on either side. Still, it was worth it and it also made a suitable spot for a lunch break. Whilst I was there I also took a look at the underground areas of the castle only to find out afterwards that accessing them could be dangerous as the may be subject to collapse at any time. This landscape photography is getting more risky 🙂 but if you want the shots you have to take calculated risks.
So with enough excitement for one day I made my way back to Portsoy except I was prepared to try to find my way through the dunes at Sandend but luckily the tide was going out and I could safely walk along the beach.
On my second day, I decided to venture slightly out of Moray driving west towards Inverness visiting Fort George. Fort George is a large 18th-century fortress near Ardersier. It was built to pacify the Scottish Highlands in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745 replacing a Fort George in Inverness constructed after the 1715 Jacobite rising to control the area. The current fortress has never been attacked and has remained in continuous use as a garrison. Well worth a visit if you are in the area with its wide sweeping views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle.
The main objective of the day was to visit Culbin Forest and Sands. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised just how extensive the forest area was and decided to walk first towards Findhorn Bay, which apparently has the driest climate in Scotland. As it turned out this did not leave me sufficient time to visit the sands and dunes. Disappointing but the views that I did manage to see across the bay to Findhorn in the late afternoon sunlight were a worthwhile alternative.
Two more days to go before I move on and after the all the driving I had done over the last few days I decided just to walk eastwards along the coast from Findlochty via Portknockie to Cullen with the hope of capturing some decent images of Bow Fiddle Rock, possibly one of the strangest sea rock formations in Britain. It was a reasonably level walk along the coast path but on arriving at Bow Fiddle Rock conditions were far from ideal. As I was returning along the same route I decided to move on towards Cullen but photographic opportunities were few and far between. Instead of returning along Cullen Bay beach I walked along the Cullen viaduct with its panorama over the bay. I was fortunate on reaching Bow Fiddle Rock for the second time that the late afternoon sun appeared for a short while allowing me the opportunity to capture at least one reasonable image. Whilst certainly not one of the better images of this famous rock formation I was pleased to have managed to include a rather nice and unusual cloud formation in the upper right corner of the frame.
My final day on this coast was planned to visit the Hopeman, Covesea and Lossiemouth area but photography conditions were unfortunately very poor and disappointingly I was unsuccessful in capturing any images that I am happy to add to the portfolio. Still, there is always the next time and even the next few days as I move on along the northeast coast for an overnight stop at Stonehaven. Along the way, I called in at Rattray Head and unlike the day before the conditions as I arrived were almost perfect allowing me to photograph its famous lighthouse just as the tide was turning to cover the sands I was standing on.
Luck was again on my side has I arrived at Stonehaven before moving on to the Cairngorms, which after all was the main reason for the trip. It was late afternoon and fortunately, the nice weather had followed me most of the day so I immediately decided to visit Dunnottar Castle which must be one of the most dramatic coastal locations of any castle. Approaching the castle I tried to find the best point of view before that last good light of the day disappeared which it did shortly after I managed the shot below.
The following morning I moved on via the eastern end of Royal Deeside to enter the Cairngorms National Park driving along the Cock Bridge to Tomintoul road, which I believe is usually the first road to be closed if we ever have snow, and Tomintoul itself being the highest village in the Scottish Highlands but not the highest in Scotland.
Why not join me next time to see whether my long awaited visit to the Cairngorms was just as enjoyable as this first part.