From the Castle Walls

Sterling Castle is one of the most impressive landmarks in Scotland and one that i’d passed for quite a few years without stopping for a closer look.  Fortunately i managed to get that closer look last weekend and both the castle and the views were fantastic.

Sterling sits in the central Scotland and has played a key role in shaping the country over the years. It’s strategic position, combined with the near impregnability of the castle, has caused invading armies many problems over the years. Often they would bypass it rather than try and take it.

The visibility was fantastic on the Sunday i visited. The cold November air was beautifully clear enabling visitors to see the mountains, located 30 or 40 miles away near Tyndrum, at the edge of Stirlingshire. A sprinkle of snow could be seen on the peaks.

One thing that did surprise me during my castle visit was the number of tourists, though i suppose that the tourism season never really stops now. I’ve always loved the reactions and behaviour of those on holiday. We all do it, but in the social media age we seem to need to prove, more than ever, that we have visited a location. The selfie stick must be the ultimate symbol of that desire. The postcard, at one time a critical part of  communicating holiday news, has been dying over the years due to social media, to the point that Salmon postcards,  who  have been publishing postcards and calendars since 1880, are to close after over 100 years of trading.

Coach tours are my favourite tourism activity to watch though. The large scale and yet fleeting visits they make are popular, seem to only give a tantalising taste of the location.  People seem to love the convenience though, even though there doesn’t appear to be the time to stand and soak in the place. Two coach tours pulled up below the castle and i took the image below. While the castle appears to be the main focus of attention, the field also contained Highland cattle that also got their photo taken. Highland cows do love having their picture though 🙂 Note the photographers who have climbed over a gate to get a clearer view.

The image of the Wallace Monument has to be my favourite from the visit. The tower stands on the Abbey Craig from which William Wallace was said to have watched the gathering of the army of King Edward I of England, just before the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. The tower also has a great view looking back at Sterling Castle, so the next visit will probably include a climb up the Wallace Monument to see the view.

The Autumnal colours are an added bonus along with the clear visibility. The light in the summer can be wonderful but it can also bring some atmospheric conditions that can hamper the photographer . The colder air, combined with the late autumn light, really helped capture  the magnificent views from the castle walls.

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Rain over Beinn Achaladair

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Rain over Beinn Achaladair and Glas Bheinn mountains, near Bridge of Orchy in the Scottish Highlands.

Probably my favourite shot from last year, this image sums up the fabulous experience of being in the Highlands. The contrasts of light and darkness really come together to add some drama, even menace, to the mountains. It could almost be a reflection of the history of Scotland as well as the geography. The rain swept across slowly, so slowly in fact that i could take photos and do a short timelapse video on the iPhone.

Rain over the mountains

A post shared by Richard Flint (@richardflintphoto) on

 
Stopping to take the photographs hasn’t been easy. The viewpoint area offers a stunning panorama of the mountains and is always a popular stop with tourists in buses, car, bikes etc.  On several previous occasions (the first there was a lone piper playing – mountains+pipes=perfection) there was literally no room to park a bike, let alone the car, so i had to pass by. Last year i managed to get there earlier at around mid morning, just before the traffic started to build, park up and finally get some shots. You can get a good cup of tea there too!

As a mountain photograph goes, this is the one i have to beat. I have a large print on the wall of this photo, and i’ve also used it as one of the new header images on this blog.  Rain, mist and highland mountains… it just captures it perfectly. Hopefully next time i’m passing, the piper will be playing!

The Path to the Old Man of Storr

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This was one of my favourite images from last year’s trip to Skye and the great day I had climbing up to the Old Man of Storr – even though I did carry my camera kit up too!

The path in the photo winds its way up to the real start of the climb not that far past the gate, the place where people usually make the decision to continue or turn back. A series of daunting looking steps starts the climb after that point. It’s well worth the effort but you have to be properly prepared for the steep climb.

One thing you can’t fail to miss as you walk up is the apocalyptic landscape around you where the trees have been harvested. Hopefully when I return later this year, a new set of trees will have been planted that can be harvested again in around 20 or 30 years.

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When i was looking at the photo on screen I noticed that the man in the centre of the photo is turning around and looking back. Did he sense someone was taking the photo? It’s probably more likely that he is just taking one last look at the Storr before heading back to the car.