Photographing Argyll – Too Much of a Good Thing?

Scotland’s Argyll offers mountains, seascapes, castles, steam trains, and oh yes, whiskey too!
By Mikey McManus – subscribe to Mikey’s YouTube channel

Your Argyll, Scotland Photography Overview

The Argyll region was made for photographers, filmmakers and drone pilots. Professional drone pilot Mikey McManus lists some of the region’s top attractions:

  • Spectacular mountains, hills and valleys
  • Over 3,000 miles of dramatic heavily indented coastline on the mainland and islands
  • Twenty-three inhabited islands and hundreds of smaller islands
  • Seven National Nature Reserves and many more parks, gardens and wild spaces
  • Many towns and villages with visible history dating back to the 9th century
  • Castles by the dozen – some inhabited, others a ruined skeleton of their former glory
  • Miles of hiking trails – bring your boots, layers of clothes and rain gear
  • Birds and wildlife including eagles, kites, ospreys, puffins, deer, otters, red squirrels, sharks, orcas, whales and dolphins
  • The world’s finest single malt whiskeys as a reward for your hiking and picture taking
Whether you stay in the valleys, or hike the mountains, there’s plenty to fill your frame

My Top Locations to Photograph in Argyll

As a drone pilot, I’m showing you Argyll from above. But as you’ll see when you get there, it’s just as dramatic at eye level.

Glencoe – There are so many locations around Glencoe, you could easily spend days just here. Aside from the “standard locations” you’ll find on Instagram, I suggest you go along the road of the A82 and specifically Loch Ba. Mountains, watery landscapes, reeds and wildlife.

Imagine being the owner of Castle Stalker, ruler of your little island

Castle Stalker – This is a privately owned castle on an island, quite close to shore, and an ideal subject. If you walk along the road to Port Appin, you can get a ferry to the Island of Lismore. Along the way and on the island, you’ll find many subjects to fill your memory cards.

Glen Creran – Dozens of compositions here – mountainous landscape, trees, wildlife, rivers and streams. It’s a very scenic loop walk around the head of the Loch.

Kilmartin – Make sure you have plenty of battery life. Here you’ll find standing stones, ancient churches, castles and a valley surrounded by nature. You’re also not far from Crinan where you’ll find a canal that allows boats to pass through the west coast.

Loch Morar and Morar Sands – a beautiful beach, a peaceful loch and the nearby sea for stunning seascapes.

So many lochs and waterways give you plenty of opportunities for reflections
If you’re taking the train to the west from Glasgow, I highly recommend getting off at Rannoch Moor and walking to Corrour. This will tick all the boxes for photographers, videographers, history buffs etc. An epic tea room to start your journey and a lovely meal to end it – both in train stations.
Loch Etive, showing its colours in the sun.
Go to the island of Mull and rather than follow the crowds to Iona or up to Tobermory (well, actually you should do that too but be prepared for busy roads) head off to the community-owned island of Ulva for spectacular views and jaw-dropping landscapes. It’s not accessible by car, so be prepared to walk. You can count on the friendly folk to guide you to the scenic spots and where to find a hearty meal.
Even when it snows, temperatures are usually comfortable for hiking.

The Main Towns in Argyll

Aside from the many villages, it’s worth visiting and photographing the towns of Campbelltown, Rothsay, Oban, Lochgilphead, Fort William, Mallaig, Dunoon and Inveraray.

Best Time to Visit Argyll

Temperatures in Argyll generally fall within a very narrow range. The average high for July is just 12 C while in January it’s 2 C.

Both autumn and winter can be sweet times to visit Argyll. No midges (mosquitos), fewer tourists, reasonable weather and crystal clear light.

If you’re coming in the summer, I’d suggest you spend more time in the towns and villages. In the hinterlands, you’ll be eaten alive by midges.

Make the most of long exposures at sunrise or sunset

Bring Rain Gear

The tourism folks don’t like talking about this, but Argyll is one of the wettest areas in the U.K. It can be very wet, even when it’s warm. However, that doesn’t mean it’s pouring all day. Often, we get maybe an hour of rain, and the rest of the day is perfectly wonderful, but it still counts as a rain day.

There are also days of light mist and drizzle. With the right clothing, and some protection for your camera and gear, it can be quite enjoyable.

Looking for moody shots? Argyll delivers the big clouds drifting through the mountains for you.

Dramatic landscapes matched by mountainous clouds

Make Sure You Have Comfortable Hiking Boots

Argyll is a walker’s paradise. Here you can really ramble on paths, old roads and beaches. So, count on doing a lot of hiking as you photograph, and for that, you’ll want broken-in boots to keep you comfortable.

Transportation to Argyll

The nearest major airport is Glasgow. From there you have your choice of trains, buses or car rentals.

Regarding car rentals, you’re best off renting in the major towns and cities. Don’t count on car rental services in the small Argyll villages. If you fly into Glasgow, there are numerous rental agencies within the airport.

With so many islands, you’ll likely be using the many ferry services. Get started with an overview of the ferry services here.

For information about Scotland’s transportation systems including trains, buses, ferries and the Glasgow subway, go to this Visit Scotland transportation page.

Travel Argyll By Train

The region has very good train service, even to smaller towns and villages. It’s a relaxing and easy way to see Argyll. Learn more about the train service, get schedules and tickets here.

It’s no wonder that Glencoe is a magnet for landscape photographers

In the Summer, Take the “Harry Potter” Steam Train

For all you wizards, you can ride the Hogwarts Express, aka The Jacobite, the steam train featured in the Harry Potter stories. It’s on the scenic West Highland line, the one with the series of beautiful viaducts, including the oft-photographed Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Here’s a great blog post about photographing the famous viaducts on this route from the ground or inside the train. Another detailed blog post on photographing the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

A loch, a river, bridges and mountains… all subjects for your lens

You may require a wee dram of whiskey after a hike along Loch Etive

Mikey McManus

Mikey is a resident of Dunfermline in the Kingdom of Fife. He has been a photographer for over 20 years, in the Army and as an Underwater Inspection Diver.

Today, Mikey is a cameraman, commercial drone pilot, and a producer/director in the TV and film industry. He also provides creative direction for various projects and interests on a freelance basis.

He considers himself to be “the illegitimate love-child of strategy and creativity”.

Mikey McManus

Mikey is a resident of Dunfermline in the Kingdom of Fife. He has been a photographer for over 20 years, in the Army and as an Underwater Inspection Diver.

Today, Mikey is a cameraman, commercial drone pilot, and a producer/director in the TV and film industry. He also provides creative direction for various projects and interests on a freelance basis.

He considers himself to be “the illegitimate love-child of strategy and creativity”.

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