Skye 2019: Part Four
21 June 2019
These two locations are just SO beautiful, but boy, what a roller coaster day!
My first stop today was at the Fairy Glen. Other than the many photos I had seen of the spirals that can be seen here, and Castle Ewan, the very picture worthy rocky outcrop, I didn’t really know much else about this place. I had a list ready for today, thinking that I would take some pictures here quickly, and move on, but I left thinking of the many different shots I wanted, and fully regretted giving myself such a short window. My advice would be for everyone to allow time to explore! Next time I come here, I will tour the whole area, and take the time to photograph everything!
I parked in the first spot I found, which happened to be right near the road, and just at the start of the Glen, then picked up my kit, and went for a hike. The second I rounded the first hill I fell in love. The area was covered in gentle mounds looking like a mini mountain range for fairies. They were big enough to give me some exercise climbing up them, but small enough that you can be up them in minutes. Unbelievably, I didn’t stop to take a single photo in my rush to get to the main attraction. A decision I sorely regret.
As I closed in on Castle Ewan. I realised that not only was it over the other side of the road, but I could have parked much closer. Where I had arrived first thing in the morning, there had been only one other car in my spot, so assumed that was the parking spot. There appear to be several lay-bys though, so the area can accommodate around 10 cars in all, that I saw.
The weather was still fairly grim looking, but far out on the horizon I could see that there was nicer weather coming. By the road at the foot of Castle Ewan, there is a pond, and after a quick wander I finally got my camera out. The scene looked awesome, with some really moody cloud behind. At one point the wind dropped slightly, the water stilled, and I managed to get one of my favourite photos of the trip. Seconds later I heard a splash, and I realised River had jumped right on in. Her timing couldn’t have been any better really! This water was much safer than the waterfall on the River Rha, so I let her enjoy the swim.
As we sat here, the tourists started arriving fairly quickly. It was 9 by now, so my advice would be to get here for sunrise or 7ish to have a better chance for people free photos. From here on in, I battled growing crowds that arrived, literally, by the bus load. Because of this, I decided to photograph Ewan first, to avoid any further crowds being too great an issue, and hiked up to the top. As I started up the narrow path, I saw a shot I liked, with the path up being an interesting leading line in, and set up in readiness for the people at the top, to come back down. While doing so, I had a group of people behind me also waiting patiently. Realising I was holding them up, I told them to go on up, to which they replied…’no, its OK…get your photo first’. I was so pleasantly surprised at this reaction but so extremely grateful for it! I grabbed several shots as soon as I could, then let them through with lots of individual thanks you’s. I followed them up and clambered up to a lovely point at the top, in line with the rocky peak. River and I waited here a fair while at this point for all the people to pass, and we just chilled at the top for ages. The views from here were well worth just sitting and looking at. Mind you, not having a great head for heights, and this particular spot being pretty narrow, was really scary for me, with drops to either site of the spot I sat in – having this chance to find the calm I needed was an additional benefit to the wait however!!
Once clear of people, I took some shots at the top, then wandered down, around the still evident spiral, and up one of the mounds next to castle Ewan. I was a little disappointed that there were no stones in the spirals when I went, as they really do heighten the magical feel of the photos of this place. I believe its a tourist thing though, and the locals come along and move them, because they aren’t natural to the area. There’s even a sign asking people to not move the stones because ‘the fairies don’t like it’. I understand the thought process of continually removing the stones, and trying to encourage people to just enjoy the area for its natural beauty, but in my mind, I can see the removal of them having a very different effect. With no stones, the spirals get walked around, thus wearing down the grass. With the stones getting removed, tourists then go to find more stones to put them back, and in doing so, may destroy another area….and what’s actually wrong with having a stone spiral? Many stone circles are not natural, but add a greater interest to a location, and some even enhance the area. I personally think they do here, since I think my photos looked pretty flat and bland from this angle, with just a big bit of worn green grass to the front of the castle. The spiral adds some additional interest, especially if you can capture it with the stones’ shadows. As it goes, my shots were full of people anyway, so were anything but magical. This location is most definitely an early or late one, as its very popular, and I think a capture with stones may be very hit and miss. Thankfully Photoshop exists…and people can be tastefully removed…
My next stop was Brides Veil Falls, not too far from Old Man of Stor. I had been looking forward to this one, as photos of it showed a really picturesque waterfall, and, from a different angle, a nice viewpoint taking in the Stor rock formation in the background. It wasn’t signposted from the road, and the only real reason I spotted it was because a big bus of tourists was parked in the small car parking spot. I waited for a few minutes before they finished loading all the passengers, and parked up as soon as the bus pulled away and a space became available. There is space for about 3-4 cars, but if another bus came in, I wouldn’t have been able to park anywhere.
I could see the area was boggy, so changed into my wellington boots, a very wise choice in hindsight, as I ended up having to cross the waterfall river for both views that I ended up liking the most. The weather was a bit hit and miss – like this morning at the fairy glen, it was grey above me, but to my right I could see growing patches of blue, so hoped they would be with me by the time I got to the top. The route up was steep, muddy and very slippery, but I scrabbled on up with the dog beside me undeterred, and driven in purpose by the promise of a beautiful shot. As I got to the base of the waterfall, I realised that the best position would be either straight on, or on the other side of the river and that I was currently in the wrong place completely.
As luck would have it, there was a large flat stone that would be perfect to set up on, facing the waterfall, so I looked at crossing the water hopefully using some sturdy stones to get over. It took a minute of careful looking but I eventually found what I hoped to be a good route and started across. The first three stones were good and solid, but stone 4 wasn’t in the slightest. As my weight was fully on it, it slipped away from under me, and my left leg plunged into the cold water right up to my knee, cracking my shin really hard against the rock I was aiming for. I scrabbled onto the rock, screaming in my head. I grabbing the leg in agony and just sat there for a moment to allow the initial searing pain to pass and settle into a groaning ache. That’s when heard my poor dog crying on the other side of the water. Thinking she had followed me I suddenly remembered her, and struggled back up to my feet to try and find her a route over. After a fair bit of encouragement, she managed to find the good route I was pointing at, half jumping and half swimming across the water. She came round to the big rock, and just sat under the tripod as I set everything up, focussed, and got ready to shoot.
That’s when the heavens opened. I grabbed the old Niagara rain mac that I had in my bag, threw it over the whole set up (and dog), and simply huddled down into my own coat to wait it out. There wasn’t much else I could do. I consoled myself and the dog, rubbed my sore shin gingerly and just sat there. Then, to my right, I saw a big group of tourists just staring me. A totally mad woman sitting in the middle of the river, with her dog and camera under a pathetic flimsy raincoat, in the pouring rain. I wasn’t sure if their looks were of complete disbelief or total amusement at the sight. I could do no more than put a big happy (currently fake) smile on my face, and give them a joyful thumbs up signal. They just stared a moment longer, turned, and started to make their way back down. Please God may they have not taken a photo of their own…
The rain eventually stopped, so I reframed the shot and went to take the photo…when I realised another photographer had worked his way into the top of my shot with a partner. Cussing quietly at my ongoing bad luck, I just gave him a courteous little nod, and waited some more for him to finish his shot. I don’t mind this sort of wait too much, as I know the love for the shot they may be getting, and I know at some point, either past or future, I will undoubtedly be that photographer that someone else has to wait for. It seemed to take an age for him to take his photos, he was certainly in no hurry himself, but eventually he did start packing up (still in no apparent hurry) and I readied myself for my shot at last. Then the heavens opened again. I waited this one out, then as it finished I grabbed several shots before it might have come down a third time!
I was really pleased with the images at the back of the camera, so after I had my fill taking those shots, I packed the kit up and hobbled up to the rough area that the other photographer had been standing. This was the second shot I was aiming for, with the Stor in the background, and I was really pleased to see that in that direction, the sky had turned really blue. Hopefully that had been the last of the rain for today…it was certainly beginning to try and break through the clouds. In the viewfinder the shot looked like a typically beautiful postcard image. I sorted myself out slowly, as best as my leg would let me, and River dog had a good explore of the area. It felt safe here for her, so I let her wander a little wider, sniffing sheep poop, ferns and everything a dog finds exciting. it was absolute bliss…. for a few minutes anyway. I snapped about 4 shots of the beautiful view, then turned to get something out of my bag for the briefest of seconds. Just at that point, a sudden gust of wind came from nowhere, grabbed the camera and threw it to the ground. It was absolutely one of those horrific slow motion moments when you yell that long ‘NOOOOooooooo!!!!’ in your head, and you see your arm thrown out in the vain hope that you can grab the camera, but you miss… then all timey wimey reality comes back in an instant short sharp snap, at the horrifying, gut wrenching sound, of smashing glass.
I raced over to see the camera had hit a rock, that my expensive Lee Big stopper filter was in pieces, and the holder was dented. Dreading the worst, I carefully lifted the camera, choking back fearful tears, terrified of what other damage there was…OMG.. the lens? The Camera??? The £££’s started mounting in my head and I was beside myself when I finally pulled the filter holder off to examine everything, and turn the camera on. It was fine. I couldn’t believe it. I checked again, and again – The lee filter had saved my lens, and the camera fired up without issue. No scratches, no dents..only the filter was gone. Although I was unbelievably relieved, I was gutted and despondent by now too. This spot had been little more than a big group of bad events that just seemed to torture me endlessly. I really couldn’t face any more. I carefully picked up every part of the filter I could find, reforming it in the tin until it was clear that I had picked up all the pieces of glass, packed the rest of the kit away, then feeling completely and utterly deflated, I slowly hobbled my way back down the hill.
I got back to the camper, put the kettle on, and took the boots off to examine my leg at least. There was nothing there. The chronic bruise I expected was absent, despite it still feeling terribly painful to the touch…and in fact..it took over 5 days before my lower leg suddenly turned a yellow colour as the last of the bruising finally made its way out. Still sore for weeks after, I read up that I had likely suffered a bruised bone…which, apparently, is as close as you can get to a broken bone as it gets without having an actual fracture. Leg inspected, I had a cup of tea, and looked at the photos of the day… the last picture was lovely. Just the shot I had hoped for. So..after all that, it had been a successful day after all!! My tip here is to simply remember…A good cuppa makes everything in the world great again!