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This is why the Highlands are Incredible

Posted on Jun 08, 2016 by David Russell

Adventure consultant and wilderness photographer David has been enjoying the amazing early summer weather going camping in the North West Highlands. Read about him experiencing a stunning Highland sunrise.

“It was 3.30am on a wild beach in a remote corner of the Highlands, and wonderful things were about to happen.”

I unzipped the tent and shoved my head beneath the outer sheet to check the sky. One glance confirmed that I was about to fulfil the reason I came here. I am a wilderness photographer, and my business is witnessing nature’s most extraordinary moments. I was there for dawn.

Why the Highlands are Incredible

Even at 3.30am there was plenty of light to see by. In June night never really arrives in the northern Highlands. On a clear night such as this you can watch the red glow of the sun simply dip below the horizon for a few hours, to reappear less than 90 degrees from the place it set.

The horizon glowed pink with deep blue above. Strung along the edge of view were the silhouettes of mountains waiting quietly for another day to start. Mountains as familiar in outline to me as my own shadow. Quinag; Suilven; Stac Pollaidh; Cul Mor. In front of them lay the humped Summer Isles, and before my feet the sea and sands of the wet beach.

I took no convincing to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag, and before long I was on the sand with the spectacle before me. There was hardly any wind to carry away the sounds of the waves slowly inhaling and exhaling – hushing on the sand. A pair of Oyster Catchers wheeled and shrieked above me. Nature does not lie in.

Why the Highlands are Incredible

As I considered this my eye was caught by a round shape among the waves. A Grey Seal popped up, staring back at me from the opposite side of the gulf of curiosity. Backdropped by the mountains and rising dawn, it’s a sight that roots me in this moment. Yet it feels timeless – the past and present living in the same space.

I spent a while wandering the length of the beach and back. Meanwhile the world keeps turning and the sun builds behind the mountains. I spot a heron standing sentinel – waiting for the sun to take flight.

Why the Highlands are Incredible

When it comes the sun seems to suddenly leap into the sky – as in all mountain sunrises. A bucket of golden light is thrown across the scene and I marvel at the change this sows in the world. The mountains start to fade in the light. Colours become enriched. The sea begins to sparkle.

Why the Highlands are Incredible

Further along the where the shore becomes rockier I find colonies of Thrift – Sea Pink – growing in clumps. Their rich pink colour is startling in the morning sun and I cannot pass them by. I sit there quietly for an unmeasured time and just watch the scene unfold. Such moments never last long before the world remembers how busy it is, so I intend to enjoy it. My eyes drift along the horizon visiting mountain tops, some in memory and others in imagination. Then my gaze drops to the Summer Isles and I recall the sensation of paddling strongly through the waves, before my mind is drawn back again to the here and now.

Why the Highlands are Incredible

It is a face that breaks the spell. A tiny brown face with large ears and a white chest beneath pops up suddenly in my sight. It’s a Stoat! I’ve never seen one so close before and I quietly add it to the morning’s tally. Sitting quietly it takes no notice of me – more interested in the sheep that roam the beach. With a sudden bound it is off on its morning quest, and I have to be content with the brief glimpse of another life.

Eventually the light becomes strong and I can say that dawn is over. The day has begun. Thoughts turn toward breakfast and the plans for the day, but then I realise with surprise that the time is not yet 5.30am! A warm tent and sleeping bag are calling me back, but I’ve already seen more today then some will see in a lifetime.

Be blown away by more of David’s photography with 6 Reasons to Go Winter Walking in Scotland and get some great landscape photography tips in The Real Secrets Behind the Lens.

About the author

David Russell

I discovered the magic of the outdoors while studying Physics at the University of St Andrews. After graduating I decided to follow my dreams of freedom in the hills and rivers, and trained as an outdoor instructor. After several years of guiding with Wilderness Scotland I moved into the role of Adventure Consultant, but I still get out when I can to share my special places with adventurers from all walks of life.

Read more articles by David | View David's Profile

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