It seems like a majority of the country will be planning a stay-cation this year and with so much to choose from where will you go? Rugged mountains, tranquil lakes, vast moorlands or stunning coastline to name just a few of the diverse types of landscapes for you to capture. To make it easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite landscape locations in the UK. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, camera equipment, hand gel and mask!
The view from the Old Man of Storr is probably the best in the UK, in my opinion. These ancient pinnacles situated along the Trotternish ridge overlook the Isle of Skye coastline to the Scottish mainland. It is a must location whenever I do workshops on the Isle of Skye. We would start the hike in the dark to reach the viewpoint before sunrise. The hike is on the steep side especially towards the top and takes about one hour to complete. There is a small car park off the A855, but it’s wise to get there early as it fills up quickly and the trail gets as crowded as the M25. I strongly recommend good outdoor clothing and hiking boots as conditions can change very quickly. One minute it can be clear, and next shrouded in mist, as was the case when I made this image. These two images were made within minutes of each other. I once returned to the car park with my group to be asked by a young woman wearing a sleeveless vest and Uggs which way to the top of the mountain. We recommended that she not go up as we had just hiked through thigh-deep snow at the top and she didn’t have the right clothing for it. She didn’t take any notice. I just hope mountain rescue didn’t have to be called out because of her stupidity.
There are many other fantastic locations nearby such as the Quiraing, Elgol and Neist Point making this a fantastic destination for landscape photography. The best time to go is September to June to avoid getting thrashed by the dreaded midges.
The Lake District is the landscape photographer’s paradise and in particular, the area located in the North Lakes around the Borrowdale Fells provide a wealth of subject matter that will keep your shutter clicking away. My favourite location there is Derwent Water with its numerous jetties, classic wooden boats, tranquil bays with trees and mountains reflecting; the possibilities are endless. Keswick is the perfect place to base yourself as the lake is within walking distance. It is possible to take a nine-mile walk around Derwent Water taking in the quieter and more secluded locations that you can’t reach by car. One of my favourite places is Friar’s Crag situated just a short walk from the Keswick boat landings, and there is a convenient car park next to the Theatre by the Lake. The small bay next to Friar’s Crag is sheltered from any possible winds, so it’s a great location to capture reflections of the Scots Pines. The best time to go is at dawn to catch the first light on the mountains.
Apart from photographing the tranquil waters of Derwent Water, the fells around it are very accessible. A relatively easy climb is Cat Bells that runs the length of Derwent Water or if you are feeling less energetic then drive up to Watendlath Tarn where you can hike across the tops of the fells for breathtaking views into Borrowdale Valley. And for the downright lazy photographer don’t miss Surprise View along the way. The car park is just opposite an incredible view over the lake. The best time to visit the Lake District is any time of the year, except the summer when the crowds are overwhelming. Here’s a bit of trivia for you; how many lakes are there in the Lake District? The answer: just one, as the rest are either meres, waters or tarns. Oh, the only lake is Bassenthwaite Lake.
The Peak District National Park is the first of Britain’s 15 national parks and oddly, there are no mountain peaks here, rather rounded hills with gritstone edges overlooking valleys. The name is thought to derive from the Pecsaetan, an Anglo-Saxon tribe who settled there. It’s often overlooked by landscape photographers looking for the best landscape locations in Britain, so why does it make my list? The endless stunning views from the easily accessible dark gritstone crags, the beautiful, lush green valleys and the heather-covered moorland that bursts into colour in August when I do my annual Peak District photography workshop. My favourite area is the Hope Valley where we base the workshop for 3 nights. Millstone Edge (pictured here) is a great location for late afternoon light and sunset. Park at the Surprise View car park and walk a short distance to Millstone edge. There are numerous other photo locations nearby such as Stanage Edge, Froggat Edge and Mam Tor where photographers assemble for the dawn light in hope of the Hope Valley filling with mist.
The Jurassic Coast in Dorset is a Mecca for landscape photographers; that’s probably why so many live there! Durdle Door is probably the most photographed coastal feature in the country so it’s a challenge to capture something original. Weather conditions and time of year play an important part with autumn and winter being the best time as the sun rises and sets off the coast. You’re more like to have fewer crowds at those times, though if you go in the last 2 weeks of December to capture the sun rising through the arch, you are likely to be sharing the precise spot with other photographers. Parking is either at Lulworth Cove, but I would recommend parking at the holiday camp car park where it’s just a short downhill walk to the steep steps down to the beach. Other good locations nearby are Lulworth Cove, Portland Bill Lighthouse and Pulpit Rock.
There are so many beautiful locations in Cornwall that it was difficult to narrow it down to just one. The usual goto locations are Bedruthan Steps, St. Michael’s Mount and Land’s End to name a few, but I thought I would choose a place that is a bit off the beaten track, the road leading to this bit of coastline is very narrow ending in a small basic car park. This is Porth Nanven, a secluded bay with smooth sculpted boulders that make wonderful detail images with the sea stacks off the coast. It’s especially good at sunset when the golden light illuminates the rocks to bring out the shape and form. There are no facilities at the bay, but the nearest village is St. Just.
It’s not surprising that Scotland features three times in my top ten as it’s always high on my list for photography and it wouldn’t be complete without including Glen Coe. There are so many classic locations in and around Glen Coe such as Lochan na h-Achlaise, Buachaille Etive Mor and Glen Etive where they filmed Skyfall, that you should plan to spend a good amount of time exploring the area. Most locations are either photographed from the road or not far from it, but if you want to find something that’s not overly photographed, there are some fantastic hikes over the mountains for a different viewpoint. The best time of year to visit is autumn, which is when I lead my Scotland photo workshop there, and winter, when snowfall strips away details and transforms the landscape into a dramatic minimalistic scene.
The ancient neolithic site of standing stones at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is such a magical place. It’s situated on a small hill with no obstructions facing west so is ideal for sunsets. You can access the site at any time of the day or night so if you want to photograph the Milky Way over the stones, no problem. There’s a small cafe near the main car park. Plan to spend at least a week exploring the rest of Lewis such as the rugged coastline at Mangersta and don’t forget the gorgeous beaches of Harris to the South.
Giant’s Causeway was formed by cooling lava 50-60 million years ago and has become Northern Ireland’s most visited attraction with over one million visitors in a year. You won’t have to share space with that many people though if you go at sunset or sunrise. It’s located near Bushmills and became Northern Ireland’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. There’s a pay and display car park at the top of the hill next to the information centre, but is free to National Trust members. If you would like to photograph this incredible natural wonder, I’ll be leading a workshop in Northern Ireland as an extension to my Donegal photo workshop in September. Why not come along and I’ll show you techniques on how to capture the stunning landscapes of Ireland.
Wales has some stunning scenery, but it’s also infamous for the amount of rain it receives. Don’t let that stop you from going out with your camera, as the Brecon Beacons has some of the best waterfalls in the UK. Sgwd Gwladus or Lady Falls pictured here is one of four fantastic waterfalls on a 4.5-mile round trip walk in Brecon Beacons National Park near Ystradfellte. Waterfalls are best photographed on an overcast day and even in the rain. Make sure you take welly boots as some of the best angles are from the river. I used a 6-second exposure using a Lee Little Stopper along with a polarising filter to remove the surface reflection on the water.
I couldn’t omit my home county of Norfolk from the list as it has some of the most beautiful stretches of rivers and lakes called the Norfolk Broads. I’ve been photographing this neck of the country for the past 36 years so have covered most of the Broads. My favourite location has to be the River Thurne at the village of Thurne. There’s not one, but two windmills or windpumps as they were used to drain the water from the fields. Thurne Mill is probably the most recognisable of all the mills as it’s the only white one. The other mill is St. Benet’s Mill on the opposite side of the river, which faces west so is perfect for sunsets. The best time of year to visit is in the winter and sprint when the holiday cruisers are stored away in the boatyards leaving the rivers quiet except for the abundance of birdlife. But if you are planning a stay-cation, why not hire a river cruiser to navigate your way through miles of stunning waterways.
I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration for your next trip out with your camera. Lockdown may have been stressful for some, so family optional.
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