View Full Version : Scotland, early May

21-Jan-2015, 02:01
Hi Folks,

I know this probably sounds such a general question but I'll go ahead anyway and ask.

I've been to several locations in Scotland (Wester Ross/Glencoe/Trossachs/Moray coast/Glen Affric/Sutherland) but always in October-March, with the exception of the north coast of Sutherland in mid-summer, when to me the landscape looks "very Scottish". You know, snow-capped or full-on snow covered mountains, red-russet grasses, draich/moist conditions and cracking light. Because of other commitments, me and the better half are planning a week away early May this year. To me it's too late to expect snow covered peaks and I guess most of the snow-melt giving gushing rivers will be gone.

So, to all those with better knowledge of Scotland where would you say comes alive in Scotland photographically in early May? We were considering Arran (very climeable peaks, easy access to both coastlines for sunrise/sunset, possibility of very early coastal wildflowers?) or Glencoe (mountains much more walkable for average Joe compared to Oct-Mar, rivers in full flow?). Welcome ideas.



21-Jan-2015, 02:42
In Scotland, you obviously have to have a bit of luck with the weather. By sheer coincidence, I visited the isle of Arran with a friend in the first week of May 2010. There are many photos I took on that trip on my site (http://koraks.nl/index.php?page=&menuparent=2&module=3&parent=196). We had tremendous luck with the weather (i.e. no rain!) - which was just as well, since we hiked the island for a couple of days, living from our backpacks (I brought a Canon 20d with a 50/1.8). Depending on your level of activity and your interests, a full week on Arran may be on the long side as it's a small island after all. However, if you plan to do a lot of LF shooting, a week may just as well be on the short side...either way, I can heartily recommend Arran, as it isn't too touristy in May and the diversity in landscapes is astounding for such a relatively small island.

At the risk of coming across as intrusive, I'll post a few pics of our 3-day hike for your inspiration.




If you have any questions, feel free to send me a pm.

21-Jan-2015, 04:50
Hello Koraks

Thanks for your response and photos!

It was good to see what sort of colours might be around at that time of year - gorse and fresh greens. A week on the island wont be too much time I'm sure. We're quite into slow day hikes and the wife loves beaches, so we could always end up at a beach at the end of a day after a walk. I quite like having small area's to photograph and not rush from place to place, so I'm sure a week won't be too long.



21-Jan-2015, 05:12
Hi Graham,

Good to hear that the photos have given you an impression of the kind of colors you can expect; goal achieved! What my photos don't really convey is the impression of vastness that this landscape provides, particularly the northern half of the island (but you know Scotland; Arran is no different in that respect). Having visited other parts of Scotland in autumn a few times, I can only say that I definitely prefer spring in this landscape. The quality of the light and the colors are really astounding and vibrant. Granted, we did quite a bit of thorough hiking in the days my friend and myself visited Arran, so we basically managed to get a glimpse of all the island has to offer in just three days. Given a bit more time and a slower pace, it is certainly possible to savor the landscape in twice as much time. In terms of beaches, we found the east coast of the northern half of the island very picturesque. Sannox bay is nice, as is Brodick bay, particularly the spot where the Glenrosa Water flows into the bay. There's an actual beach there as well and it's a spot that should make for pretty pictures in the morning. The area surrounding Goat Fell is absolutely dramatic and is a must-see. It's a few hours' hike from Brodick and although the last bit can be a bit strenuous if you're carrying a 40lb backpack, we've seen many an old-timer hop upwards like a mountain goat (while us, the young'uns, were laboring up that hill as if we were the 60-somethings...) We found the woods on the southern half of the island slightly disappointing in comparison with the dramatic north. This is partly because much of the woods have actually been logged or burned, although a lot of it remains and there are some very pretty chapels and farmsteads in that area as well. Overall, it's an insanely pretty place and I wouldn't mind visiting the island again. It's one of those trips that has left a lasting impression, which is largely due to the varied, dramatic and at times stunning landscape (looking from Goat Fell into the valley of Glenrose Water is a sight I'll never forget!)

I won't pressure you into anything, obviously...but do visit Arran at some point.


Dave Tolcher
3-Mar-2015, 09:15
Hi there, May will still have snowy peaks if the last few years are typical. You can still get snow to low levels in May - I did when I walked the West Highland Way in 2011. Trees at low levels will be starting to green, birch trees will be lovely and fresh. If you play the %age game, the first 2 weeks of May are a good bet for dry weather but dont hold me to that !! Glencoe and the surrounding glens of Orchy, Etive and Leven are just over an hour from Gasgow and would more than keep you happy.

Struan Gray
6-Apr-2015, 12:24
May usually has some fantastic atmospherics. The air is so much cleaner than in summer an autumn, which makes for truly wondrous skies. The white sand beaches of the far Northwest and the Outer Isles can be surreal.

I have spent a fair bit of time climbing in Scotland in May, and don't see the terrain as particularly photogenic at that point. There can be snow, and even a little late ice, but everything looks tired and wet compared to deep winter, which can make for interesting photographs, but not conventionally beautiful ones.

The places I really love in late April and early May are the marginal lands, particularly on the West Coast. All the patterns of shelter, drainage, soil chemistry and land use show up clearly as plants in slightly better situations sprout earlier. This can make for lovely patterns along watercourses and where improved farmland and pasture is mixed with moorland. Machair adopts subtle variations of colour according to how much salt it was drenched with over the winter.

So I would head for somewhere on the West Coast that meets your other needs in terms of access and spousal acceptance.

Or, just as a wild card, go to the Borders. The Berwickshire coast (and Northumbria) are pretty wonderful in May too.

Martin Dake
6-Apr-2015, 14:51
The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Scotland.
I visited in June many years ago and it was very cold, sleeting on Glencoe and very chilly on Skye.
So, take some warm clothes; the mrs and I had to buy some sweaters.

Otherwise, Scotland is a wonderful place to visit and photograph.