Scotland's landscape is an old and eroded landscape, with some of the oldest rocks in the world found on the west coast. We don't have mountain ranges such as the Alps or the Himalayas so we lack the drama of these 'newer' landscapes. But whilst these high mountain landscapes surely have the 'wow factor', they lack the range and diversity of landscape that we have in Scotland. The changing landscape, as you walk from west to east, is one of the delights of the TGO Challenge and I've tried to show this here.
Strangely, perhaps, the Challenge isn't ideal for landscape photography. Good landscape photography often means taking photographs early in the morning or late in the evening. It means hanging around waiting for the light and going back to places if the weather conditions are not right. You can't really do this on the Challenge. There is an imperative to keep moving so waiting for the light or coming back later is often not an option. After a day of walking, I certainly need sleep so I'm not inclined to get up a 3 in the morning in May to catch the sunrise.
This is the Brocket family memorial, Knoydart, which you see shortly after leaving Inverie village. Lord Brocket was a nasty piece of work, a Nazi sympathiser, who owned Knoydart from 1930 until about 1950. He treated it as his fiefdom and famously prosecuted locals who had served during the 2nd World War and who returned and 'grabbed land' to set up their own crofts. This is remembered in a Scottish folk song 'The Seven Men of Knoydart' written by poet Hamish Henderson. I took this photo of Brockets's family memorial at the start of my first Challenge and was a wee bit nervous about how I would get on. It started to rain shortly after taking this and it didn't stop for the next 12 hours. With a baptism like that, everything was easy from then on.
The landscape in the west is one of peat bogs and hills, gloomy and atmospheric in the rain but magnificent when the weather clears and the sun comes out. Also taken on my first Challenge, these are some of the Knoydart hills when the rain finally stopped and the clouds started to roll away.
Rannoch Moor from the Road to the Isles. Perhaps the best known moor in Scotland, Rannoch Moor is an expanse of peat bogs covering about 50 square miles. It's a bleak and desolate place and at some times of the year, it's probably easier to cross by canoe than on foot. Here, as a foreground for the distant Glencoe hills, it epitomises the landscape that you come across as you move east away from the western hills.
A classic example of erosion in the Monadliath Mountains, looking west to the highland hills. Until I did the Challenge, I thought there really wasn't much to the Monadliaths. They had always struck me as boring rounded hills - I'd done a couple of them with Munro-bagging pals but had never any real desire to go back to them. But they are a barrier to be crossed on the Challenge and the couple of days I spent crossing these hills really opened my eyes to their charms. Sadly, they have become a focus for wind farm development and this, along with estate roads for 'sport' (killing defenceless birds) is destroying the remoteness of these hills.
I don't think that the Lairig Ghru is picturesque in the conventional sense but it has a harsh, bleak beauty that I have tried to capture in this image. I converted to monochrome and increased the contrast from what was a dull day image to try and reflect the harshness and the lack of colour in the spring landscape.
The Eastern Highlands are low, peaty hills and I thought this image captured both the peat and the form of the landscape. Sadly, the area is dominated by grouse shooting estates and this has led to its despoilation by new tracks bulldozed everywhere so that expensive paying clients can be transported to the grouse butts without stretching their legs. There is an argument that grouse shooting brings employment to these areas but I do wonder if it is really the only way to do this.
The undulating heather moors mean that it's quite difficult to get a strong foreground for landscape photos in the part of Scotland and I was lucky here to come across this peat 'mushroom' that contrasted with the rounded hills in the background.