What a Way to Earn a Living—Whisky, Castles and Scottish Islands

For one of the most breathtaking experiences in the Scottish Highlands, take the A87 highway from Fort William to the Isle of Skye and descend into Glen Shiel to Loch Duich. A few miles farther along the lakeshore, you’ll suddenly come across the iconic sight of Eilean Donan Castle sitting on an island at the point where three of the great Scottish sea lochs meet.

This photograph was taken on the very last day of a recent trip I took to the region, during a two-hour photo shoot of the castle and the surrounding landscape.

As my last visit there was some years back, I had hoped to take some more photos this time around. The light was quite interesting that day so we decided to explore the shore around the castle and the nearby hills for good view points. The view chosen for this photograph is one of the classic views of this famous castle. This perspective shows best how the castle sits on its island in the Loch and places the building in a good context with the surrounding hills the dramatic clouds above.

Images of famous sights and views like this one are easy to sell if they are of a good quality. What I like to photograph most are landscapes or images of wildlife and nature. A lot of my published work appears in brochures, magazines or on websites, with the occasional use in books.

I was visiting the highlands and islands of Scotland with two photographer friends of mine. We had stayed in the famous Glencoe for a few days where we meant to go hiking in the hills, but the weather turned very wet, as it often does in that part of Scotland. So, after a short visit to Glen Nevis we went to Fort William for some shopping and then onward to the Isle of Skye.

Skye has some of the most beautiful landscapes of the highlands, and even with the frequent rain it is a photographer’s dream. We stayed there for a week: hiking, taking photos, playing traditional music and tasting the local whisky. We even saw some Golden Eagles and White Tailed Sea Eagles on our last day.

The food and drink of Skye has developed an international reputation and you’ll find famous restaurants here, such as the Three Chimneys, housed in a 100-year-old cottage overlooking the sea on the shores of Loch Dunvegan in northwestern Skye. If you’re thirsty, there’s the Isle of Skye Brewery, which you can also tour. If you prefer a more traditional taste of Scotland, you can check out the Talisker Distillery.

When we were leaving, the return drive for the ferry brought us past Eilean Donan Castle—and that’s when I got my chance to take what turned out to be the best photograph I took that whole trip.

Although the little island it sits on has been inhabited since the 6th century, when an Irish saint lived here, the first fortified castle wasn’t built until 1220 when the Scottish king, Alexander II, had it constructed as a defense against the Vikings.

By the late 13th century, Eilean Donan had become a stronghold of the Mackenzies of Kintail. (Nowadays it is the home turf of the MacRae clan.) In April 1719 the castle was occupied by Spanish troops as part of a Jacobite uprising. The castle was captured and bombarded by three Royal Navy frigates to ensure it would never pose a threat again. For the following two centuries, it lay in ruins until it was restored between 1919 and 1932 by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap.

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