The Trip Of A Lifetime - Road Tripping In Scotland - Part 2

The second half of our trip saw us returning to the Scottish mainland. The journey from Stornoway in Lewis to Ullapool is one of my favourite ferry journeys in Scotland. You can watch the Outer Hebrides fade into a haze over amazingly blue water and then enjoy the spectacular appearance of the mountainous Scottish coastline. In the last 30 minutes you pass some of the Summer Isles and are surrounded by massive hills on both sides. We had amazing weather so could spend time up on the outdoor viewing decks but all the Cal Mac ferries I've been on usually have great viewing areas indoors, especially the one from Stornoway to Ullapool. It cost us £72 for the 2.5 hour crossing, 2 adults and 2 kids with a car. You can read more about the first stage of our trip in Part 1.

Ullapool is stunning. In summer the bustling streets are filled with hikers and kayaks and families. It's an infectious atmosphere that primes you for adventure. It's also a testament to how amazing the area is for outdoor pursuits. In practical terms Ullapool is one of your last opportunities to buy from a decent sized supermarket or outdoor shops before heading farther north. You really are entering remote Scotland so make sure you stock up on essentials.

Before we left we also made sure to be organised. We printed out tickets and  detailed written descriptions of routes for the smaller roads in case of GPS failure. For most of this trip, Google Maps is out of the question due to poor mobile/3G signal (don't expect to rely on phones at all). We also printed out all contacts for our accommodation and any other details we might need. This all came in really handy and I recommend it. 

The road from Ullapool to Tongue, where we were staying next, is amazing. Straight out of Ullapool you'll meet Ardmair and we stopped there for quite a while. 

The view from the beach at Ardmair. The view on all sides is gorgeous here and it's a lovely place to stop. 

The view from the beach at Ardmair. The view on all sides is gorgeous here and it's a lovely place to stop. 

The beach there is an entirely pebble beach. I love the sounds of a pebble beach but also, this beach must be where all the skimming stones in Scotland are kept. Every single stone is perfect for the job and we spent ages doing this. Anyone who has lost an hour to stone skimming knows how utterly addictive it can be in that meditative sort of way.

Although cairns are found worldwide, if you are from Scotland, or have travelled here, you'll definitely be familiar with them. Cairns are markers. Perhaps they mark a summit, perhaps a route, an ancient ceremony or burial site. The cairns that exist on the beach at Ardmair are built by passersby to memorialise their time in a place they loved. There is always something really special about stepping into an area that affected people so much they wanted to leave a little piece of themselves behind. I totally understand why there are so many cairns on this particular spot, it's stunningly beautiful. 

We continued on our way through hills upon hills and we passed Knockan Crag. We were planning to walk the route as we love anything geology related but it started to pour, the mist settled in, the kids started to complain and we were knackered. I highly recommend you do this if you can, especially if you are interested in geology and Scotland has a fascinating geological history! It's also suitable for kids. Another place in the area that we didn't make it to is The Bone Caves and we are really gutted about that. 

We took the route through Altnaharra to get to Tongue and I'm glad we did. I grew up in Caithness and the scenery reminded me so much of my childhood. The rust-reds, greens and yellows of the peat lands and the roads that seem to go on forever. As you get closer to Tongue, Ben Loyal becomes a prominent feature in the landscape. 

We watched Ben Loyal get bigger and bigger and we were all really taken in by its rugged beauty. In the evening light it looked hyper real as it was lit by the sun. Awaiting us at our accommodation in Tongue village was a wonderful surprise, from our back garden we had a clear view of Ben Loyal and the Kyle of Tongue!

View from our cottage in Tongue village. 

View from our cottage in Tongue village. 

A good sleep prepared us for a busy day. We headed towards Balnakeil Craft Village and Faraid Head

The drive there is easily one of the best parts of the North Coast 500. My husband drove on this trip and he told me parts of it were a really fun drive. Here's a video of us enjoying the drive whilst listening to Rush.

 

It's not the easiest drive in parts and it was actually very busy so it was occasionally slow going, but that just gave us the opportunity to take in our incredible surroundings. 

The Kyle of Tongue with views over to Ben Loyal. 

The Kyle of Tongue with views over to Ben Loyal. 

I wish I could find the words to describe how much I love a dry stone wall. There is a big difference between the walls in Sutherland and Caithness as Caithness walls often use flagstone. This wall is in Durness which has absolutely beautiful old settlements. 

I wish I could find the words to describe how much I love a dry stone wall. There is a big difference between the walls in Sutherland and Caithness as Caithness walls often use flagstone. This wall is in Durness which has absolutely beautiful old settlements. 

Loch Eribol with Ard Neackie just in view. 

Loch Eribol with Ard Neackie just in view. 

Loch Eribol, a sea loch, is one of the most distinctive landmarks on this route and if you are anything like us, you will fall in love with the wee island near Heilam and it's amazing abandoned house. Linked to the mainland only by a small causeway, it's called Ard Neackie and was the terminus point for the now gone Heilam ferry. Ideal place to live or what!?

This area is incredibly mountainous, and again, my images are not doing those hills justice at all. They are huge and a powerfully prominent part of the vista.

The Balnakeil craft village is a mishmash of artists and crafters who sell paintings, jewellery, glass crafts, artisan food etc. It's a real mixed bag and well worth a look! As you leave the craft village Faraid head is very close by. I'd heard it was a fantastic hike so we got suited and booted and were surprised to find that we were the only ones headed out over the beach towards the dunes on the other side. We were not prepared at all for how special this place is and I'm surprised more people don't do this walk. It's pretty easy and doable with kids (we had our youngest in the hiking backpack) and it will blow you away. 

The dunes themselves are huge, in parts they towered over us as the path cut between them. I really lost myself in this landscape. Once you get into the middle of the walk you can't see anything but sand, shaped by the rain and wind, and it's incredible! If there is anything more relaxing than the sound and sight of grass moving and rustling on the dunes I am yet to find it. We spent a long time exploring this sandscape, watching the little birds that had made their nests by burrowing into the dunes, listening to the sounds of sea and wind and of course the kids went crazy running up and down. 

The path through the dunes on Faraid Head. 

The path through the dunes on Faraid Head. 

The dunes are the central area of Faraid Head and if you pop down one of the many paths of desire you'll hit a cove or a beach with views out into the ocean. We had glimpsed a remote beach on our way into the dunes so we wound through sand and grass to get to it. A bit of a steep climb down in parts but nothing has ever been more worth the effort. I've included a video I took of the beach so you can geat idea of how incredible it was. It's just my family and I there, no one else in the world...and some cows.

Some roaming cows, spectacularly lit, on Faraid Head. 

Some roaming cows, spectacularly lit, on Faraid Head. 

A remote, white sand beach on Faraid Head with views over Cape Wrath. 

A remote, white sand beach on Faraid Head with views over Cape Wrath. 

We were all knackered after this walk and decided to head back to Tongue for the evening. The weather was incredible so after dinner we asked our host for tips on shorter walks around the village. She suggested heading up to Castle Varrich which we could see from the property high up on a rocky hill with what looked like a 360 degree view of the area.

A quick note on midges. They are everywhere, you will not avoid them, make sure you take precautions. I have a midge allergy and my bites swell hugely and last for weeks and weeks. I've found that nothing helps prevent the biting really but the only thing that I have found to help me in any way is Red Tiger Balm. I applied it on my bites as soon as I noticed them and they didn't swell up and they only lasted 3 or 4 days before healing. This is a major breakthrough for me and my top tip for those who suffer as I do. 

The walk to Castle Varrich is beautiful and the history of the castle is fascinating. If you like a bit of a mystery, you'll love reading about it. It's an easy ish walk, about 30 minutes and on a good path. It's steep nearer the top of the walk and the castle steps themselves are very steep. The walk is stunning and the view is a 360 degree vista of amazingness. I took a short video of the view over the Kyle and to Castle Varrich when we arrived back at our accommodation. It includes an incredibly cute cat. 

View on the walk to Castle Varrich over fields to Ben Loyal. 

View on the walk to Castle Varrich over fields to Ben Loyal. 

One part of the view from Castle Varrich over the Kyle of Tongue.

One part of the view from Castle Varrich over the Kyle of Tongue.

Looking back to Castle Varrich after our walk. 

Looking back to Castle Varrich after our walk. 

Ben Loyal bathed in the beautiful, clear evening light. 

Ben Loyal bathed in the beautiful, clear evening light. 

This day was a real highlight of the trip for me. Sutherland is one of my favourite places in the world and I feel like we really got to see some of the best of it. We went to bed so tired but very happy. 

Caithness was on our list for the next day. I actually grew up there so know it like the back of my hand. We didn't plan to spend much time there, just see friends and show the kids some of my childhood haunts. I actually only took about three photos that day as I was so tired. It's good to give yourself a break from the pressure to document everything. It can become all consuming and a little compulsve to be honest.

The drive into Caithness from Sutherland is gorgeous and the views over to Orkney were stunning, its cliffs looked dazzlingly high highlighted in the afternoon sun. We headed to Dunnet to visit a friend and I would recommend this as a stop for sure. The beach is wonderful, the forest walk is great, Dunnet Head is the most northerly point of the British mainland and they have an excellent gin distillery.

The coastline of Caithness is the most interesting and beautiful part, in my opinion. There are some remote areas inland that are beautiful too and Loch More is a personal favourite of mine. The whole east coast has a really interesting history and is a visual miscellany of endeavours. Crops, cattle, crafts and the sea. It looks like a land that doesn’t give anything up too easily. Just like the sea that meets the interior scruffy, rural patchwork. That coastline is battered by a sea that stretches to Orkney, Shetland, The Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway. It's a raggedly beautiful place.  

We only had a few hours in the county this time around but we are planning to explore the east coast more extensively at some point. Its history alone is worth the trip. 

After staying in Tongue, our final stop was Kinlochbervie. On the way, we drove back along Loch Eribol and headed towards Lotte Glob's Sculpture Croft. You must go here. I didn't take my camera with me but it's stunningly beautiful. Her workshop is great but the outdoor space is full of nooks and crannies filled with amazing sculptures. Lotte's work is wonderful and we treated ourselves to one of her vases which I am completely in love with. Her use of colour and texture and how much she is influenced by the landscape around her is inspirational. She also made her start at Balnakeil Craft Village! 

Our next stop was Smoo Cave. It was easily the busiest place that we visited and I'd recommend going really early or late in the day to avoid the crowds. or maybe everyone has that idea. The walk down is steep but the steps are solid and wide so it's fine for kids. The cave is busy for a reason, it's an incredible space, impressively large and although we didn't manage to get into the interior chamber this time, we really look forward to doing this on our next visit as I hear it's great!

Looking out from the main chamber of Smoo Cave. 

Looking out from the main chamber of Smoo Cave. 

The drive from to Kinlochbervie takes you past Cape Wrath. I'd looked into visiting Cape Wrath and decided against it this time. It's not as simple as driving there as the area of land that makes up the cape is used by the military. You have to cross the Kyle and wait to cross back over. Totally doable of course but not something I wanted to do with our youngest. This is a very remote area and you really feel that when you are there. The landscape is starkly beautiful and so vast. Despite its remoteness the roads are great but were busy so get used to using passing places!  

Near Cape Wrath. 

Near Cape Wrath. 

On the Road from Cape Wrath to Scourie. 

On the Road from Cape Wrath to Scourie. 

A motorcyclist photographs the view near Cape Wrath. I like to pretend this is one half of Daft Punk. 

A motorcyclist photographs the view near Cape Wrath. I like to pretend this is one half of Daft Punk. 

The north west Highlands of Scotland are part of a huge GeoPark. Scotland not only has an amazing history but an amazing geological history. There are many areas of geological interest and all are worth a visit. The GeoPark website (linked above) is very informative and can help you plan trips to take in the sites. Driving towards Kinlochbervie the landscape becomes more and more rocky, reminiscent of Lewis and Harris. It's an expansive and brutal beauty. There are rocks in Scotland that are some of the oldest in the world and looking at these landscapes you really do get a sense of the vast passing of time. 

A beautiful look back on the road just before KInlochbervie. 

A beautiful look back on the road just before KInlochbervie. 

Speaking of geological wonders, very near Kinlochbervie on the road to Scourie you will see how the road is cut into the landscape, where the rock was blasted and shaped to make way. If you're not looking for it, you might miss it but I was an eagle-eyed rock nerd. This is a beautiful example of parts of Scotland's geological history. Layered rocks of different types. I loved seeing this. 

'Pale grey gneisses represent original rock into which once molten sheets of dark basaltic magma were later forced. The streaks of pink granite must be the youngest of the three rock types since they can be seen cutting through both of the older types.'

'Pale grey gneisses represent original rock into which once molten sheets of dark basaltic magma were later forced. The streaks of pink granite must be the youngest of the three rock types since they can be seen cutting through both of the older types.'

We were in fact staying just outside of Kinlochbervie in Shegra. It's about as far as you can go in this part of the world and the drive there is gorgeous. Lots of great beaches in the area and it's particularly charming with its tiny villages nestled in among huge and ancient rocks. Shegra is tiny and our final rental had views over the whole village and the bay. That first night we went for a late walk down to the beach and it was so peaceful. Every time I'm near the sea, no matter how unlikely it is, I have taken to willing the sea to provide by thinking 'Whale breach please', a silent wish to make a dream come true. Unfortunately on this trip, it was not meant to be.  

View up to Shegra from the beach. 

View up to Shegra from the beach. 

View out to sea from the beach at Shegra. 

View out to sea from the beach at Shegra. 

We didn't manage to spend time at the two other amazing beaches that are very near Shegra but by all accounts Oldshoremore and Sandwood Bay (which requires a hike) are beautiful. Sandwood Bay has to be one of the most remote beaches in the UK.

On our last day the weather was the worst we had seen it on the trip. Freezing cold, lashing rain and so much low lying mist. We decided to head out anyway and drive towards Lochinver as we were convinced we could put some distance between us and the weather. We were wrong.

Don't get me wrong, Scotland wears any weather well and it's even more atmospheric and intriguing in the mist and rain. However, we were tired and the going was so slow that we all started getting really grumpy with one another. The scenery we could see was stunning but we missed out on a lot of views due to very poor visibility which made me particularly grumpy. I took very few photographs that day. 

We made a much needed stop in Lochinver and had lunch at Peet's which was lovely and the food was delicious, great for kids too and I highly recommend it. A break from the car and the never ending rain and feeling constantly disappointed was so needed and that plus full bellies stopped us from murdering one another. 

The route we took was packed with things to do and see and we really want to return to do it justice. Assynt really blew us away and it was our first time there. Achmelvich was stunning, there are signs of a meteorite impact at Stoer (and in many other areas!), some of the oldest rocks in the UK at Little Assynt and the thing we would have most liked to do is hike to Eas a' Chual Aluinn Britain's highest (and possibly most remote) waterfall. I think, after reading about it on my return to Edinburgh that this is something we will do without the kids, it's much longer and more steep at the end than I expected. I could go on and on about this area and still feel a pang of disappointment about how little we got done, but that's just motivation to get back there ASAP!

Here are the few pics I took on the day. 

Drumbeg viewpoint was gorgeous but likely even more stunning on a clear day. 

Drumbeg viewpoint was gorgeous but likely even more stunning on a clear day. 

Near Badcall. 

Near Badcall. 

Near Scourie. I love the almost neon colours of the landscape. Looks alien. 

Near Scourie. I love the almost neon colours of the landscape. Looks alien. 

As we drove back to Shegra the mist lifted and the weather was beautiful. Of course. 

We left early the next day and enjoyed stunning weather all the way back to Edinburgh. My heart was heavy knowing we were leaving all of this wild beauty behind and I think I took my favourite image of the whole trip soon after we left Shegra. It was the perfect gift goodbye.  

This trip was one of the best things we've ever done as a family. Something that began as a thing we were quite nervous about doing turned into a transformative experience for us all. I can say that we all returned with much less anxiety than when we left and a much closer family.

City life is wonderful, Edinburgh is wonderful but there is something healing in nature. The Japanese are all over that fact, promoting 'Forest Therapy' as a government endorsed way to heal and de-stress. 

I also think that knowing the country you live in better, connecting with it and appreciating it is good for all sorts of positive attitudes. I mentioned in Part 1 that this trip cost the same as us going to Mexico on an all inclusive holiday. We got so much more out of this than that sort of holiday could ever provide. Not to deride the merits of a relaxing beach holiday, in a beautiful place, and 30 degree heat! However, I am forever sold on the benefits of the 'staycation' and I can't wait to do it again. I am totally and madly in love with Scotland.

Thanks so much for travelling with us! 

You can see more images from our trip, keep up to date with our other trips and my work at the links below!

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The Trip Of A Lifetime - Road tripping in Scotland - Part 1

 

I live with my family in Edinburgh and in the years when we can afford a summer holiday we usually leave Scotland and head towards warmer climes, which is a real shame! This year myself, my husband and our two daughters (aged 2 and 11) took a 16 day road trip around this amazing country, we drove just shy of 2000 miles. We were nervous about the trip, the confines of driving can make things quite intense, our youngest daughter gets car sick and some of the places we chose to go to were pretty remote.

It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

I am so grateful to have spent this time with my family exploring the incredible country that we live in. It wasn't cheap, there were points where we almost murdered each other and in typical Scottish summer fashion, it rained a bunch. It was entirely worth it. I wrote a rough guide to surviving a long road trip with kids. You can read it here

Road Trip Fever setting in. Our youngest uses her sick bowl as a means of entertainment. 

Road Trip Fever setting in. Our youngest uses her sick bowl as a means of entertainment. 

Out first port of call was Glenelg. Not only the sole UK place name to be a palindrome but it's also twinned with Glenelg on Mars. Nerd heaven.

We arrived in the evening after a 5.5 hour drive from Edinburgh (not including breaks). We were all still getting used to the road trip vibes and were quite stressed and very tired. We made the mistake of not having any food with us. The nearest Supermarket to Glenelg is actually on Skye and an hour's drive away. The local stores closed really early (be warned this happens a lot in rural and remote places!) and we finally found a store in Balmacara which was pretty decent and had one of the most extensive health food and 'free from' sections I've ever seen outside of a city!

Armed with a night's worth of snacks we made our way through Ratagan to our cottage which was in the glen. It was misty so visibility was very poor but we made a mental note to drive back this way the next day to take in the views we figured we were missing.

The next day we woke to sun and clear skies and we set out to explore. The area around Glenelg is packed with things to do and see. Personally, I love a good Broch and Glenelg has two in close proximity to one another. The first (and largest) Dun Telve stands 10 metres high and we absolutely loved exploring it plus it's in an incredibly beautiful and lush area. Loads of midges though!

Dun Telve Broch near Glenelg. A smaller broch (Dun Troddan) sits just a mile up the road. It's unusual to have two such large brochs in close proximity. 

Dun Telve Broch near Glenelg. A smaller broch (Dun Troddan) sits just a mile up the road. It's unusual to have two such large brochs in close proximity. 

On the way back from the brochs towards Glenelg village, if you look carefully on your left hand side, you will see or hear a waterfall. It's pretty gorgeous but there is no clear path and we did not come equipped to walk the short but squelchy distance (20 minutes) over the river and fields. You'll need wellies and a hiking backpack for little ones but it would be well worth it. 

In the adorable Glenelg village there is a very cute shop. It's basic but will do for essentials. We were hungry so ate at The Glenelg Inn which was fantastic! Super friendly staff, welcoming to kids, really lovely surroundings and very reasonably priced and delicious food. Highly, highly recommend to all. A wee gem of a place. 

Afterwards we went for a walk along the beach and looked over to Skye, which you could easily mistake for another part of the mainland, it's so close! 

Our youngest daughter enjoys a post dinner stroll at Glenelg Bay. Views over to Skye. 

Our youngest daughter enjoys a post dinner stroll at Glenelg Bay. Views over to Skye. 

Afterwards we drove up towards Ratagan again to see the views and we were not disappointed. There is a viewpoint with loads of parking that looks out over The Five Sisters. Go see it! This image does not do it justice, the scale is almost totally lost here and it is a vast landscape. 

The view over The Five Sisters. 

The view over The Five Sisters. 

On the road between Ratagan and Balmacara. 

On the road between Ratagan and Balmacara. 

We were planning to drive to Skye the next day but we heard about the Kylerhea Ferry that leaves from just outside Glenelg. It takes about 3 minutes to do the crossing. 

Husband and daughter looking over to Skye from the Kylerhea Ferry point. 

Husband and daughter looking over to Skye from the Kylerhea Ferry point. 

Once you're on Skye the road leads uphill immediately. The views from the top are panoramic and the journey into the interior really gives you a sense of what to expect from Skye. I think the Kylerhea Ferry is an amazing way to travel to Skye, especially for first time visitors. Although not cheap at £15 for a car with 4 passengers, it's so convenient and so pretty that I would recommend it to anyone. They also have an amazing ferry dog and who doesn't want to hang out with a legit ferry dog at least once in their life?

We had a few hours on Skye before we caught our ferry to Harris. We have been to Skye before so didn't feel immense pressure to do mad exploring. We took a leisurely drive up to Broadford where there is a Co-op Supermarket that stocks everything you could need. We did a grocery shop there as we were arriving in Harris late and didn't know what the food situation would be. We were already learning the ways of rural life. 

We then headed to The Quiraing which is a must visit if you are in Skye. We stopped there for a picnic lunch as the weather was gorgeous and enjoyed 100% visibility views over the Island. We then walked part of the hiking trail and it was amazing. The toddler hiking backpack had been left in the car so we couldn't complete the trail as it got quite steep. We did manage 2/3 of it no problem with a 2 year old walking alongside us.  

The view from The Quiraing over to the south Skye. 

The view from The Quiraing over to the south Skye. 

You can drive over the Quiraing to Uig in 20 minutes. It's a stunning shortcut and we arrived in plenty of time so we headed to the top of the island to look out over The Outer Hebrides where we were going for the very first time. travelling with your family is great any time but going somewhere for the first time together is really special. 

The ferry crossing was beautiful, we had calm seas and clear views and the hour and a half flew by. It cost £45 for the four of us plus the car which I think is pretty reasonable. 

We arrived in Tarbert in Harris which is a tiny place with a couple of small shops (that were closed) and an amazing distillery. I cannot tell you how delicious Harris Gin is and if there exists a more beautiful bottle, let me know. 

Tarbert in Harris looking positively Icelandic. 

Tarbert in Harris looking positively Icelandic. 

Our Airbnb was in Lewis so we drove the 40 minutes from Tarbert to Achmore. Something that surprised me, probably out of ignorance and a little bit because I grew up dealing with shitty roads, is how good the roads are on the islands. Easy driving if you can handle passing places.

Achmore is the only inland settlement in Harris and Lewis and I wasn't sure what to expect. Lewis is a very rocky place, no trees or greenery to speak of really and it looks quite lunar, certainly otherworldly. The view from our cottage was incredible and changed all the time. The light, the clouds, the mist made it look different from hour to hour. Again, the scale in this image is not representative at all. Those hills are huge and the vista is vast but you can see the lunar-esque attributes of the land. It's completely quiet (hurt your ears quiet) and unbelievably relaxing to stare out over this place. 

The view over Achmore out towards the south of Lewis. You can see the patches of low lying morning mist settled over the land and lochs. 

The view over Achmore out towards the south of Lewis. You can see the patches of low lying morning mist settled over the land and lochs. 

I was photographing a wedding in Harris so we had planned a week on the islands. The first day we were surprised by 20 degree heat and clear blue skies. Achmore is very close to The Callanish Stones so we headed there first. Another famous site that lived up to the hype completely. The history alone is enough to draw you in and the stones themselves are intriguing. They are made of Lewisian Gneiss which is one of the oldest forms of rock in the world (around 3.5 billion years old) and they are huge. We were lucky to be there at a relatively quiet time so got to enjoy these monoliths as they should be. 

The main section of The Callanish Stones. This is also the main set of standing stones although there are two more in very close proximity to this site and you can walk between them easily. 

The main section of The Callanish Stones. This is also the main set of standing stones although there are two more in very close proximity to this site and you can walk between them easily. 

Eldest daughter (front and centre) playing on the rocks near Callanish. 

Eldest daughter (front and centre) playing on the rocks near Callanish. 

After Callanish we headed to find a beach. We had heard about the amazing beaches in the south of Harris (Luskentyre, Scarista) but not so much about the beaches of Lewis. We drove to the island of Great Bernera and to Bosta beach. This whole area is one of my favourite places that we saw on our travels. It's beautiful, pristine and remote. As we approached Bosta we didn't quite know what to expect but when we were greeted by fine white sand, crystalline turquoise water and a sheltered bay we knew we had hit the jackpot. 

My brave husband swimming in the sea at Bosta Bay. The water looks warm but it's not. 

My brave husband swimming in the sea at Bosta Bay. The water looks warm but it's not. 

As if this paradise was not enough of a gift, as soon as we sat down a Golden Eagle flew over us. What a day!

After Bosta, we drove to Stornoway which is the largest town on the islands and has everything you need including a large supermarket. I am glad we stayed near Stornoway. There is a lot of driving required on a trip to the Outer Hebrides so it was nice to be able to get what we needed without it being a mission every time. The transition from the convenience of city living to the challenges of rural life was not complete yet. You know when you're standing in a supermarket saying 'How can they not have ground cloves?' over and over again, that the city has made you soft. 

So far the trip was going really well. Everything had gone smoothly, we were all getting along pretty well and pretty much every day had been sunny and warm. I felt suspicious. 

The next day when we woke to mist, horizontal rain, howling wind and grumpy family members (myself included) my suspicions withdrew. This was the summer holiday in Scotland that I had imagined. We bundled grumpy kids into the car and drove to the far south of Harris hoping we could outrun the rain. Nope. We could barely see in front of us but we enjoyed the vague impression of turquoise water and white sand. 

We all donned our waterproofs and headed out onto the famous Luskentyre Beach. This is one of the most important parts of holidaying in Scotland. Prepare for all weather. Don't let rain (because it's going to rain) make you miss out on things. Get out there anyway. 

For me this was one of my favourite experiences of our holiday. We were basically alone on the huge and beautiful beach. It looked like something from another planet, all sort of one colour, mist shifting over the sand and water. It was slightly hallucinogenic. I imagine the salt plains in Bolivia to look a bit like this. 

Luskentyre looking incredible in the mist and rain. 

Luskentyre looking incredible in the mist and rain. 

We all came back to the car invigorated and we ended that day absolutely knackered but in the best possible way. I wish I felt like that at the end of every day. 

The next day was the wedding I was photographing which was at the absolutely wonderful Scarista House. I couldn't be more in love with a hotel. The location is incredible, the staff are amazing and the food is the best. It's humble when it doesn't need to be. If you are in Harris you must go here! I couldn't have been given a more beautiful setting to photograph a wedding and I enjoyed every minute of working that day. 

The ceremony looks out of Scarista Bay. 

The ceremony looks out of Scarista Bay. 

The drive back home that night was fantastic. Huge and dramatic skies.  That's another thing I'd forgotten. It doesn't get dark overnight this far north during the summer and it's amazing to be out at midnight with the sun still low in the sky. 

Scarista Bay at 10.30pm

Scarista Bay at 10.30pm

On one of our last days in the Outer Hebrides we decided to go to The Uists. We got the ferry from Leverburgh to Lochmaddy It was £30 for us all and the journey was an easy hour and we saw many amazing sea birds and seals. Also, have you ever seen a Puffin fly? If not, remedy that ASAP. 

We had only 5 hours in The Uists and I wish it had been a hundred times that. The history is fascinating and it's absolutely stunning. There is a lot to see and a lot to do and we managed so little of it. Mostly we drove around stopping to look at things and to walk around. The time flew and we were genuinely really sad to travel back to Harris. We will be back Uist!

There are 110 miles of Machair that runs through the Outer Hebrides. Machair is a very rare habitat that exists only in parts of Scotland and Ireland. It's a low lying grassy plain but what makes it stand out is the millions of flowers that grow on it. It's incredibly fertile and important as a habitat for many insects, birds and animals. 

There are 110 miles of Machair that runs through the Outer Hebrides. Machair is a very rare habitat that exists only in parts of Scotland and Ireland. It's a low lying grassy plain but what makes it stand out is the millions of flowers that grow on it. It's incredibly fertile and important as a habitat for many insects, birds and animals. 

In South Uist, a sandy path winds through the Machair which stretches as far as the eye can see. 

In South Uist, a sandy path winds through the Machair which stretches as far as the eye can see. 

The Uists are incredibly flat you can see for miles and miles and then all of a sudden these huge hills appear as if from nowhere. 

The Uists are incredibly flat you can see for miles and miles and then all of a sudden these huge hills appear as if from nowhere. 

North Uist 

North Uist 

The insane Clachan Sands on North Uist and a gang on jubilant sheepdogs. This has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

The insane Clachan Sands on North Uist and a gang on jubilant sheepdogs. This has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

In the far north graveyards almost exclusively overlook the sea or a beach. It's a really lovely thing. This one overlooks Clachan Sands. 

In the far north graveyards almost exclusively overlook the sea or a beach. It's a really lovely thing. This one overlooks Clachan Sands. 

The ferry back to Harris was beautiful as the evening sun changed the landscape. We drove past Luskentrye again on our way to Lewis and we couldn't believe how different it looked. Behind all of that mist had been hills upon hills and crayola turquoise water. We stopped for a couple of hours and we all appreciated how lucky we were to be there in that moment. It's one of the most peaceful feelings I've ever had. I'll never forget it. 

Approaching Luskentyre. 

Approaching Luskentyre. 

Living a dream at Luskentyre. 

Living a dream at Luskentyre. 

On our last day in Lewis we drove to The Butt of Lewis. Cue an hour of butt jokes in the car. By the adults. 

The geology in Lewis is fascinating. My husband and I really enjoy learning about it and we heard the cliffs and stacks at The Butt of Lewis were really special. Lewisian Gneiss is one of the oldest forms of rock, around 3.5 billion years old and Lewis is almost entirely made from this rock type. 

The lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis. 

The lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis. 

My husband and eldest daughter explore the rocks around the lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis. It's hard to see here but the whole of the mainlined was outlined on the horizon from Torridon all the way to Cape Wrath. Scotland even has a gorgeous profile. 

My husband and eldest daughter explore the rocks around the lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis. It's hard to see here but the whole of the mainlined was outlined on the horizon from Torridon all the way to Cape Wrath. Scotland even has a gorgeous profile. 

Nearby at Eoropaidh is the best play park I have ever seen. It's built into the dunes and has everything and for every age, adults included. It smells of the sea and wildflowers (it's surrounded by the machair) and we loved it there. Highly recommend a trip with kids. But 'Please respect the Sabbath' as a sign on the park gate says. 

Penelope enjoying the mini standing stones at the Eoropaidh MegaPark. 

Penelope enjoying the mini standing stones at the Eoropaidh MegaPark. 

The next day we left for the mainland again, heading towards where I grew up!

Read about exploring Sutherland, Caithness and Assynt in Part 2!

2016 Favourites - General

It's been really great to look back over my work from 2016. Doing a job where the work you produce is subjective means that sometimes you get caught up focusing on a nagging wee voice that tells you you're not good enough. Taking a step back and looking at my work from 2016 as a whole, I can say that I'm really proud of myself, that I've worked bloody hard and I'm really excited for this year and all the amazing projects and people I will encounter.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me, I couldn't do it without those who pose for me, collaborate with me, recommend me, hire me or even give me a kick up the arse when I need it!

I am so unbelievably lucky to do something I love so much and to work with such talented people that I admire, I enjoyed every portrait, every wedding, just every single thing I did in 2016 and I can't wait to see who and what 2017 brings my way! I had a really great year with work, so many amazing collaborations and opportunities, some of which I haven't shared yet but will be sharing soon. 

So here are just a few of my 2016 favourites, enjoy!

As Others See Us

I began this project after an incredibly tough year, possibly the most difficult of my life so far. I became a mother for the second time, my appearance changed dramatically and I was trying to balance motherhood, very little sleep with my attempts to earn money and create some semblance of a career for myself. 

I've always been connected to the female experience, not just my female experience but the diversity of the female experience and what connects those experiences.  

Social media has changed a lot for women, we share more and in doing that we choose what we share more and of course that means also choosing what we do not share. I became acutely aware of this after a particularly difficult period and possibly an encounter with some form of post-natal depression. I looked back over my many posts and I realised that what I was putting out there was doing a disservice to women, mothers and therefore of course myself. My kids laughing, being clumsy, silly things they said, us together being highly functional (hill walking, cooking healthy food, having a picnic) as a family. Those things happened of course but what was not represented was the crying (so much crying!) and shouting, the total desperation I felt and expressed on a daily basis, the kids needing more than I could give them (their needs felt overwhelming at points) my marriage taking a beating, my eating habits, my appearance...

The disparity between what I chose to share and what I chose to keep private got me thinking about the numerous (and well discussed) pressures women feel. Pressures from many, many angles and pressures that affect our behaviour often without us even knowing it. It's simple, for me, as a woman, I often feel pressure to perform. I wanted to explore these pressures in a simple way, a way that was accessible in both concept and execution. My thoughts immediately settled on appearance, something I myself feel constant pressure to regulate, as do most women out there.  

So, the concept is simple, no makeup, natural hair and natural light. I feel I should make clear that I am not advocating being makeup free over wearing makeup, I love to wear makeup and take pleasure in the art of applying it. This is not a statement for or against makeup but a simple exploration of 'performance' and the pressures on women to perform. All women. 

Many women have already volunteered their precious time and beautiful faces to be part of this project which I have titled 'As Others See Us' after the Robert Burns quote 'O wad some pow'r the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us'. 

You can see the portraits from this series so far here

If you are in or near Edinburgh and would like to take part in this portrait series, please do get in touch and I love to hear thoughts on this project, good or bad. 

Thank you, 

Kristie 

A week of reveals for Stewart Christie!

Every day this week myself and Stewart Christie have revealed three new images which showcase a new piece from their ladies collection. Shot in the historic Queen Street Gardens in Edinburgh (close to the historic Stewart Christie shop on Queen Street), all naturally lit, these were fun to create and it's been great seeing such a positive reaction to the pieces and the images. You can see all of the images from our week of reveals below and check out the Stewart Christie Instagram for more details on each of the new pieces plus it's also looking really quite gorgeous. Very excited to shoot the next pieces from the new collection next week, bring on beaches, capes and vintage bikes and all with the same amazing team! 

Model// Tabitha Edith Stevens - Hair and Makeup// Mairi Gordon - Styling// Vixy Rae


New work for Stewart Christie - Ladies Collection - Sneak Peek!

Straight after our rather exciting encounter with Mr. Sam Heughan, we went straight back to work photographing the Stewart Christie ladies' collection.  Really wonderful team on this and I love these images! More to come soon. 

'Stewart Christie 'Tabitha's Journal'
~Stewart Christie Ladies Collections~
We start by introducing our Torphin Skirt. Elegantly modelled by Tabitha, this classic all-rounder is a go to skirt that can be dressed for any occasion. With a pleat to the front and back allowing for movement, the Torphin skirt also proves both functional and easy to wear. Available as part of our ladieswear made to measure service in a cloth of your choice, this skirt will take you from the office to a Sunday afternoon country walk - never losing out on style or comfort. We offer our Stewart Christie Cashmere range of twin sets adorned on our model in 19 rich colours to match any fine Scottish tweeds.'

Photographer// Kristie De Garis
Model// Tabitha Stevens
Hair and Makeup// Mairi Gordon
Styling// Vixy Rae


All Garments & Designs by Stewart Christie & Co

It was a verra good day indeed.

Late last week I found myself in the verra fortunate position of photographing Mr. Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser in award winning Starz TV show, Outlander. I've long been a fan of the books and loved the first season of the TV show so it was pretty great to meet one of the main actors in person. The story lines that have been tackled are sometimes very difficult and I'm genuinely impressed with the team behind Outlander for facing them head on and casting actors capable of doing them justice. #bigfan

Sam was being measured for a bespoke suit by Dan Fearn and Vixy Rae (owners and designers at Stewart Christie) that he would wear for future red carpet engagements. Sam is about to embark on a world press tour so we were lucky to grab some time with him before he left for Japan. Vixy will be hand delivering the finished three piece tweed suit to Sam during NYC Tartan Week where Sam has been chosen to be Grand Marshal of the 2016 New York Tartan Day Parade. For info on the parade and events please visit the linked website or the NYC Tartan Week Twitter or facebook. Stewart Christie have an interview with Sam up on their blog right now too. 

My first thought upon meeting Mr. Heughan was 'Do we have a step ladder?' because at 6,3 he is quite a tall laddie. I love that Outlander is partially set around the time that Stewart Christie was established (1720) and seeing 'Jamie Fraser'  walking into this shop was pretty fantastic. Except this time a tshirt, jeans and leather jacket in place of the eight feet of tartan.

Sam was very chatty, easy to talk to and easy to work with. All in all a great day with a lovely guy who was very helpful, very humble and very photogenic. Stewart Christie team were fantastic as always. 

Below are some Images from the day. 



Lucy Campbell Stationery Series

Artist Lucy Campbell has produced a new line of notebooks from her beautiful paintings. I really enjoyed shooting these, Lucy's work is so inspiring and the colours and the strong connection to nature were something I really wanted to capture in my images.  I shot them using the natural light available to me, as well as some lovely natural props that were in the area. The more wintry images were shot in the woods and I enjoyed finding well placed beams of golden evening light to work with.  Altogether this was just a really lovely project to work on.

You can see some of my work for Lucy below. 


Stewart Christie - Scotland's Oldest Bespoke Tailors

I have been working regularly for Stewart Christie, Scotland's oldest bespoke tailors. They have a rich history reaching back to the 1700s and are proud supporters of British designers and British made products. I look forward to our future projects, it's a pleasure to work with such supportive, creative people. 

The website was launched in late 2015 and you can see a lot of my work there. Below you can see some that is not included on the website, including a double page spread recently published in George Goldsmith's annual magazine. 

 


Joanne and Tom's Wedding at Comrie Croft

Comrie Croft is a venue in Perthshire, a place for friends and family to gather in a relaxed woodland setting. 

Joanne and Tom were one of the most laid back couples I've ever worked with. When we arrived at Comrie we found them among friends. Everyone was pitching in, decorating, cooking food for the arriving guests, chatting with old and new friends, it was completely relaxed, friendly and warm which would be the tone for the entire day. 

You can see some photos from their day below. 

(photos by myself and my assistant Greg Abramowicz)

 



Update - Baby + Space

My daughter Penelope was born on the 1st June 2015 after a wonderful homebirth. It's been a hectic 6 weeks (today!) and we're all tired but completely in love with our new addition. Have only found a few moments to work on some images, not new images but edits of old ones. 

I've been using the wonderful Hubble image database to create some digital double exposures, you can see some examples below. 


Recent press cuttings.

Really nice to see my images out and about around the internet, promoting Idlewild's new tour. 

You can find more here, on Idlewild's Instagram, on their pledge music page in The Press and Journal and The Skinny. Below are some screenshots of my work from other websites. Too many to post but not one credit between them. Despite that little detail, I'm still very pleased to see my work being used.