It might come as no surprise given the topic of my travel blog that I am a big fan of Scotland and photos from my home country. What might surprise you is that I'm not actually a big fan of spending too much time online and I would rather relax with a cup of coffee on the sofa and flick through a book of photographs of Scotland than flick through my Instagram feed.
So when I got the chance to check out three new photography books by Scottish landscape photographer, Allan Wright, I couldn't wait to fire up the coffee machine, wrap myself in a cosy blanket on the sofa and indulge in one of my favourite past-times.
I'm always in awe of super talented photographers with a portfolio of stunning shots, although I'm fully aware how much time, practice and patience goes into producing the perfect image.
Allan has been taking travel photographs for a long time and this shows in his work. If you want to be inspired by beautiful shots of Scotland then his set of books should be gracing your coffee table in 2018.
This year he has published three books which can be purchased through The Scottish Bookstore and thanks to Allan, two of my lucky readers will also have the chance to WIN a set each (see below).
This is bound to be a popular choice given the sheer love of the Isle of Skye. A mixture of iconic locations and rugged landscapes, fans of Skye and Scotland are sure to fall in love with this book. Although primarily full of images, there are also some personal anecdotes interspersed throughout. There is also a handy map of Skye at the beginning with the locations of each image marked on it which makes it great for some Skye travel inspiration too.
With approximately 100 images printed on high quality glossy paper, I personally think this is a real bargain at £18.00. I've certainly seen similar quality books retail at a much higher price.
Regular readers of my blog will know I'm a huge fan of Galloway which is a really underrated part of Scotland. By coincidence I'm actually off on another trip there tomorrow although I could only dream of capturing images anywhere in the same stratosphere as Allan!
Allan is based in Galloway so it is no surprise that he has dedicated a book to the area. It is printed in the same style as the Skye book and although there are no anecdotes, there are more images (approx 135). Being a local, he is obviously an expert on where to go for the best shots and I will certainly be using this book and the handy location map for some inspiration on my upcoming visit.
Again this is for sale at £18.00 and provides a great snapshot of the diversity of Galloway which is bound to leave you planning your own visit to the region.
The Now Glasgow book is published in a different style to the Skye and Galloway books, with bright and bold images. The photographs are not so much cityscape, but rather a story of the city told through the architecture, recognisable landmarks and the personalities that make Glasgow such a friendly and diverse place. It also features lots of the amazing street art that decorates many of the buildings and walls.
They say 'People make Glasgow' and the images in this book reflect the different backgrounds and characters that make up the population. It also captures the humour, warmth and creativity that makes it such a welcoming city to visit.
Again the book can be purchased for £18 and contains approx 230 images!
I may only just have discovered Allan's work thanks to these books, but I can firmly say I'm now a fan and will no doubt be enjoying his images for many years to come. These are an excellent addition to my growing Scottish travel book library and although I was provided these books for the purposes of a review, I can honestly say I love them and I think you will too.
If like me, you aspire to improving your photographic skills then you might be interested to know that Allan also runs photographic workshops, you can find more details on his website.
WIN A SET OF ALLAN'S BOOKS
COMPETITION NOW CLOSED - WELL DONE TO THE WINNERS
JULIE CAMM & DAVE
To celebrate the launch of his books and since it's almost Christmas - Allan has kindly provided 2 sets of his book for a little competition. Yes, that's right 2 lucky readers will each win a set containing the Skye, Galloway and Now Glasgow books worth £54!
Please note that the competition is open to UK entries only.
Entering is super easy all you have to do is -
Yip, that's all you need to do, told you entering was super easy!
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
About Caol Ruadh
Entering the enchanted grounds of Caol Ruadh Sculpture Park (pronounced 'Col Ru') feels a bit like stumbling out of a rabbit hole into a strange world beyond.
The sculpture park is an outdoor gallery which displays and sells work created in Scotland by established artists. I've visited a few times over recent years and have observed dozens of unique artwork by a variety of designers on each occasion, including pieces by famous Scottish artists Andy Scott (creator of the famous Kelpies) and Rob Mulholland (creator of 'Still' the popular mirror man that until recently stood in Loch Earn).
Around every corner is something mysterious and wonderful, sometimes natural, sometimes man made but always a delightful surprise.
The gardens are a wonder of their own, with stunning views across the Kyles of Bute and access to the scenic shoreline. Rustic summerhouses, a characterful boathouse, walled garden, wildlife pond and tennis court are just some of the architectural jewels.
About the Clydeside Distillery
Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the first visitors at the new Clydeside Single Malt Whisky Distillery which has just opened in Glasgow and offers tours, a shop, a cafe and of course a chance to sample a few drams. It is one of the first malt distilleries to be built in Glasgow for over a century.
Situated on the banks of the River Clyde just along from other popular city attractions including The Riverside Museum and the SSE Hydro, it forms part of an ongoing regeneration of the area. The Clydeside Distillery is housed in the characterful Old Pump House with a contemporary glass extension occupied by two giant copper stills. The building itself is a perfect representation of the old and new connections that tie the location, owners, production methods and Glasgow's whisky heritage together.
The distillery is able to produce up to 500,000 litres of spirit each year although you will have to wait several years until its first lowland malt will be ready for release. If you are in Glasgow and want to find out more about Scotch Whisky then this is a must visit. Whisky aficionados may be more interested in the history of Clydeside along with the growing revival of uisge beatha in the city.
Dating back to 1877, The Pump House with its distinctive clock tower that now houses Clydeside Distillery is situated at the historic Queen's Dock on the River Clyde. It is by no coincidence that this location was chosen as the latest venture in the very impressive Morrison family whisky portfolio,
The distillery chairman, Tim Morrison, is the great grandson of John Morrison who originally built the dock in 1836. John Morrison later partnered with Thomas Mason to form Morrison and Mason, a civil engineering and building firm that was responsible for building some of the most significant and notable structures in the city including Glasgow City Chambers.
The Pump House was originally designed to provide hydraulic power to operate the swing bridge servicing the commercial dock which witnessed the export of whisky with ships destined for all continents of the world.
Glasgow was once significantly involved in the production of whisky in Scotland and home to countless whisky distilleries with associated blending houses, bonded warehouses, bottling plants and cooperages, although very little evidence of this remains.
The history of the production and export of whisky in the city is told through a short film and self guided tour at the Clydeside Distillery.
How to prepare for a winter road-trip in Scotland
As someone who undertakes frequent Scottish road trips at all times of year I have had the misfortune of experiencing more than one winter weather setback. Having been stuck in snow blocked roads, caught behind road accidents and diverted by landslides I've learned a few techniques that have helped make life easier by careful planning to avoid similar situations and helping me survive endless hours in the car after been caught up in unavoidable incidents. As the weather starts to worsen I thought I would share with you some of my tips for planning and surviving a winter road trip in Scotland.
It should go without saying to make sure your car has a winter service each year and before you set off make sure your oil, antifreeze and windscreen wash is topped up. It is better to use winter specific windscreen wash and carry an extra bottle as the salt and grit from the roads generally means you have to clean your windscreen more than normal. Check your tyres, including your spare and ideally take out some road-side assistance.
Here are my five other tips to help you plan ahead and potentially avoid any travel setbacks
1. if you are planning a long trip in a rural area then it is sensible to make sure you have a full tank of fuel as delays or diversions can lead to a longer than planned journey and petrol stations in rural areas can be hard to come by and have limited opening hours. It is useful to make a note of petrol and garage locations along your route in case you do encounter any problems.
2. Check the weather forecast not just for your destination but also your intended route as the conditions in Scotland can be dramatically different even over short distances. Before setting off I always check the Traffic Scotland website for any incidents or road closures and I personally recommend downloading the Traveline App which will keep you up to date with all road and transport information.
3. If you are not familiar with your route and don't have access to a SatNav then printing off a map of the general area you will be travelling to will be helpful if you do have to take a diverted road and need to work out new directions.
4. Let someone know your route and your estimated time of arrival as in rural areas you may not have a phone signal to let them know you are delayed. If you don't turn up when expected it will be easy for them to check for any incidents that may have caused your setback and if you do run into trouble without a phone signal at least someone will know where to look for you!
5. Make sure your mobile phone is charged up and that you have stored any emergency numbers you might need such as your vehicle recovery company or insurance company with your membership numbers.
Most of all allow extra time for your journey so you won't have to rush in difficult driving conditions, pay attention to roadside information boards and try and stick to main roads that will be gritted and clear of snow.
There are a few things that I would recommend keeping in your car throughout the winter as a survival kit if the worst does happen. Hopefully you won't need them but from personal experience being stuck for hours it is best to be prepared! Things I have in my own survival kit include
Thanks to Peter Johnstone for leaving a comment with these additional suggestions
Thanks to Val for also suggesting
Before setting off I also fill up a flask of hot water which can be used for drinks to keep warm with a couple of sachets of hot chocolate.
Camping and glamping in Kintyre
The Kintyre Peninsula is a bit off the usual tourist trail in Scotland, yet as I discovered, it has so much to offer. Its compact size makes it ideal for exploring over a long weekend which is exactly what I did.
There are quite a few accommodation choices in Kintyre, however I opted to stay on the campsite at Machrihanish Holiday Park. This was partly due it's location, partly due to the reasonable cost and more importantly the fact that it is dog friendly. I also decided to leave the tent at home and upgrade from camping to glamping in one of their cosy wigwams. All the wigwams have lovely open views across the fields to the water in the distance. The views from the wigwams are probably some of the best in the holiday park as they don't face onto anything.
The holiday park has several different options including camping, glamping (wigwams and bell tents), lodges and static caravans. There are also touring facilities for motorhomes, caravans and campervans.
Machrihanish Holiday Park Location
Machrihanish is on the southwest coast of the Kintyre Peninsula and makes a great half way point to stop off if you are spending a couple of days exploring the area.
If you plan on eating out, The Old Clubhouse Bar and Restaurant is a short walk from the holiday park or Campbeltown is approx 4 1/2 miles away with a choice of places to eat. If you plan on self-catering then Campbeltown also has numerous local shops and 2 supermarkets.
There is a regular bus service between Campbeltown and the holiday park if you don't want to drive.
The holiday park itself is next to the golf course and a short walk from the beach and as you can imagine it is a pretty and peaceful location. As the west coast of Scotland is famous for its sunsets, in the evening I headed a little further south along the coast from the campsite and found the perfect viewpoint just past the sea bird observatory (approx 5 mins in the car).
Get more ideas for your trip in my guide to Kintyre
Many people have heard of Kintyre thanks to Sir Paul McCartney's iconic song about the mull at the southern end of this Scottish peninsula. However, not so many people visit this part of Scotland as it is a bit off the beaten track. It isn't a place you pass through on your way to somewhere else; you really only go there if it is your destination.
I decided to make this part of the country my home for a weekend and I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of scenery, engaging history and amount of things to do in such a compact area. I would encourage you to discover this underrated part of Scotland for yourself and hopefully my guide to Kintyre will help you with planning your own trip to this pretty Scottish peninsula.
Where is the Kintyre Peninsula?
The Kintyre Peninsula is on the west coast of Scotland in the southern part of Argyll. It is a narrow strip of land which points down towards Northern Ireland. In fact at its nearest point, Kintyre is only about 12 miles from the Antrim Coast which can be seen just across the water on a clear day.
The Kintyre Peninsula runs from the picturesque town of Tarbert in the north to the Mull of Kintyre in the south and as it is only about 40 miles long, its small size makes it an ideal part of Scotland to explore over a long weekend.
So where is the Mull of Kintyre?
Immortalised by Sir Paul McCartney, the Mull of Kintyre is at the very southern tip of the peninsula; 'Mull' translates to rounded headland.
Not only did the former Beatle write a rather famous song about this remote part of Scotland, he also bought a farm in the area where he could escape from the stresses of fame.
The history of Kintyre
The Kintyre Peninsula gained its title 'Scotland's only mainland island' thanks to King Magnus Barefoot in 1098.
A treaty between the Viking Magnus and the Scots stated that if his boat could pass between an island and the mainland, the island would be considered Norwegian - to pass between Kintyre and the mainland, Magnus stood at the helm of his longboat and his followers dragged it across the land. As a result Kintyre became part of Norway until it was returned to the Scots in 1266.
The Viking occupation is just one of the peninsula's many historic chapters. As you travel around the stunning and peaceful scenery it is hard to imagine that this area was the setting of another infamous MacDonald massacre in 1647 when approximately 300 men were murdered by The Covenanters at Dunaverty Castle in Southend.
Standing stones, ruined chapels, castles and prehistoric caves scattered around the landscape are reminders of the many civilizations that have called this place home over the centuries.
Recommended stopping places
I went on a 2 day road-trip around Kintyre, staying at Machrihanish, about three quarters of the way down the west coast. I followed the coast clockwise around the peninsula, heading down the east coast and back up the west. If you decide to do a similar road-trip, here are my recommended stopping places.
Below is a round-up of what there is to do at each place and I've included a map of Kintyre and my recommended stopping points at the bottom of the page.
The Fairy Legends of Puck's Glen
Navigating the well worn and sometimes slippery stone steps that wind through the narrow woodland gorge of Puck's Glen is hazardous enough at times, but they are not the only reason you have to drag your eyes from the bewitching scenery to check your footing from time to time. Poca Ban is the resident spirit that disguises itself as a ball of wool and rolls around the glen looking for unsuspecting victims to trip up all in the name of some warped fairy fun. It seems quite fitting that a glen named after the mischievous sprite in Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' has a playful spirit of its own.
Poca Ban is not the only mystical Scottish fairy that you might encounter on your walk through Puck's Glen, concealed in the trees you might spot a Ghillie Dhu, wearing clothes of leaves and moss or catch a glimpse of the nature sprites that dance in the leafy shade of the ferns.
It's very easy to believe that enchanted creatures are hiding in the shadows of this magical landscape and I mean magical in the truest sense of the word as it really feels like you have crossed an invisible barrier into an otherworldly dimension. Frothy waterfalls, bubbling pools, hanging moss, tumbled stones and tall shady ferns, Puck's Glen is prime real estate for fairy folk.
About Peterhead Prison Museum
Peterhead may not be the first town in Scotland you think of as a tourist destination. It is probably better known as one of the busiest fishing ports in Europe and home to one of the most notorious prisons in the country.
When the Victorian built HMP Peterhead finally closed in 2013 to be replaced by the modern facilities of HMP Grampian, it was a stroke of genius to turn the old jail into a museum and open up Scotland's own version of Alactraz to the public. An institution that put Peterhead on the map for all the wrong reasons is now becoming one of its biggest tourism assets.
Some might call it dark tourism but the history of Peterhead Prison is just as valid and relevant as any Scottish castle or stately home.
For most people that have never spent time in a jail, there is a natural curiosity to find out what goes on behind the barbed-wire fences and the steel barred windows. As a tourist attraction it has to be the most unique place I've visited in Scotland.
Like many people, the images of prison guard, Jackie Stuart, being taken hostage and paraded on the rooftop during an infamous riot in 1987, will always be etched in my mind. As I walked out the reception and entered the grounds, I was immediately confronted with the intimidating prison building and protest banners iconically associated with the riot.
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.