A Summer Sunset in the Scottish Highlands
After a rare day of great weather in the Scottish Highlands, we decided to go all out for this particular sunset. Myself and my two companions set off from our home in Ullapool, Scotland and made the thirty minute journey to one of the many picturesque mountains nearby - Stac Pollaidh.
Stac Pollaidh (612 m) is one of the most popular peaks in the area, attracting many who spot its rugged shape from the road while heading North. At this time of year the area is normally mobbed with tourists and the car park at the base of Stac Pollaidh is often packed full all day. This particular summers day in the highlands however, was different... This was during the Covid-19 era, which meant that this natural play park of peaks was reserved exclusively for those who live there this unique summer!
Upon arrival at the bottom, we knew already that we had chosen a great night for a sunset hike, the sky was clear and crisp. It cant all be perfect though... As we parked up, we could see all around us, thick clouds of Midges. For anyone unfamiliar with Midges, they are small, nasty flying creatures native to Scotland that will eat you alive if the conditions suit them. A summer evening with no wind is their ideal conditions...
The bug spray was quickly applied and we set off up the steep trail with our camera bags packed, hoping to capture the very best that the highlands has to offer! Thankfully once we got moving and heading upwards the midges became less of a problem, however in their place we were now facing a tough leg workout. Stac Pollaidh is one of the shorter hikes in the area but it is also one of the steepest, so you truly feel the burn.
The ascent was filled with good conversation and excitement as the sky was looking fantastic, ready for the impending sunset - we knew already that we had chosen the perfect evening. Deer scampered away from us as we approached, not accustom to seeing people in the hills at this time in the evening. The hike only gets steeper and tougher as we gained elevation. Luckily the reward of at the top helps to quickly forget the battle on the way up.
The summit of Stac Pollaidh is a labyrinth of distinctive sandstone pinnacles, providing the photographers in us with overwhelming opportunities for unique foreground options. However for all its beauty, exploring the peak of Stac Pollaidh is not for the faint hearted... For full access you will often be required to scramble up and along some sketchy features while looking down at significant drops. It is best not to push oneself if anything feels too uncomfortable.
Once settled on the top, we dove straight into our camera bags. The sky was bright, the evening light you get before the colours begin to burst! I wanted to get my drone up in the air twice this evening. Once for this light and again when the pinks and oranges start to fill the sky. Flying over Stac Pollaidh gave me a new appreciation for the mountain, I had admired this peak many times but never from this point of view. Thin cloud would occasionally pass through us, completing that magical feeling of being up in the sky. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was my first time back hiking in a long time and what a feeling it was to return. It is always so special to be up among the hills.
As the sky began to turn more colourful I set up a timelapse pointing at Cùl Mòr, the next peak along from Stac Pollaidh. Cùl Mòr was partly smothered in cloud which is always a good sign when you want a great timelapse, as cloud moves in such mysterious ways. As well as the timelapse I set up some compositions and began to shoot at the magical landscape all around us. In every direction the mountains and lochs were lighting up, the scene was breathtaking.
For the last half hour I concentrated less on taking photos and just enjoyed watching the red sun drop below the horizon, with a slice of lemon cake in hand. Sunsets and sunrises are such beautiful moments to witness. It's always been very peculiar to me how few people take the time to watch them. It's a daily spectacle, a light show that too many of us take for granted too often. Thankfully this one was not missed. Natures lights were switching off and our head torches came out, the descent from a successful evening began.
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