A gap between jobs recently gave me the chance to do that most self indulgent thing for landscape photographers – heading out on a little road trip to take some landscape photographs in a location of my choosing.
For me that was always going to be Scotland somewhere, and so began the dilemma of deciding whether to recce somewhere new, or try and refine an already familiar location.
For those that don’t know, most of the work on this website has been accomplished by travelling round on public transport – but now I have my own steam and I’m getting a bit giddy steaming around everywhere.
That mountain was to be Bla Bheinn.
I’d seen it before from two sides – from the bus to Elgol where it suddenly looms as an impressive and slightly fearsome looking citadel of rock above Loch Slapin, and also from the deep end of Glen Sligachan where it towers as an impenetrable wall above Loch na Creitheach.
From what I’d seen, perching atop that wall would give me a fantastic view down over Glen Sligachan to the entire Black Cuillin ridge, as well as over Marsco and the Red Cuillin to Glamaig. Most of which would catch the first light of day.
Now, I’m happy walking up mountains in the dark with just a headtorch for guidance, but not daft enough to climb a mountain I’ve never climbed before in such conditions. So, setting out from my overnight not so wild camp in Glen Etive where I’d arrived the night before, I made a leisurely drive to Skye and Loch Slapin (not scenery to be rushed).
The plan was to familiarise myself with the route up Bla Bheinn in daylight, before climbing it again the next morning to sit around in the dark waiting for the world to wake up. Normally of course I’d sleep up there, but from the evident rockiness of the terrain I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to find a suitable pitch.
As with many of my favourite Scottish hill walks, the path maintains the company of a cascading stream for the early part of the route, giving ideal photographic opportunities in less than pleasant walking weather, should that ever occur.
I was to find lingering patches of the forecast overnight snow higher up, the area around these waterfalls was just tweaking the dial to autumn, and yet I descended to something akin to summer under breathless blue the next morning. That’s three seasons even in nice weather, I’m sure Scotland has at least seven interchangeable ones.
Though the climb is steep and loose underfoot, particularly when beginning to ascend out of Coire Uaigneich, it’s not as bad as it looks from afar. Easily within the reach of fit hillwalkers, though you might need your hands to help you clamber over a final rocky section before the summit, particularly if your legs are as short as mine.
And my, you stumble upon that view.
This is another of those many tremendous Scottish hills that saves its best rewards for the final few steps, as you burst onto a summit with a precipitous drop at your feet and a sudden impossible amount of space in front of you.
Getting your head around that space is difficult at first attempt, particularly if you’re working quickly to try and capture the best of the light, but I was happy with my efforts.
In terms of experience of Scotland’s mountains I’m still just beginning to scuff my pristine boots, but if I was into lists Bla Bheinn would be high up on my favourites.
More from the Isle of Skye here.