stargazing scotland

5 Stunning Images Of Stargazing In Scotland

Here at Worldly Nomads HQ we’re very excited to share something completely new on the blog, our first ever guest photography feature! We are lucky to call Scotland our home, a beautiful country with an abundance of incredible natural landscapes.

Capturing the night sky is a challenge, but thanks to our talented friend Stuart McIntyre, the man behind boundbystarlight.com, we’re delighted to share some beautiful images of the milky way and aurora borealis, set against Scotland’s dramatic landscape. So sit back, and enjoy this adventure through Scotland’s night sky, in Stuart’s own words.

5 Stunning Images Of Stargazing In Scotland

1 – The Crawick Multiverse & The Andromeda Galaxy

stargazing scotland
The Crawick Multiverse, near Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway (October, 2016)

First up in our top 5 is this spectacular and very cleverly composed image of the Crawick Multiverse. This standing stone circle, recently transformed from a former open cast coal mine into an amazing land art project in Dumfries & Galloway, is a representation of the Andromeda Galaxy. This spectacular image, cleverly composed by Stuart, also reveals the real Andromeda Galaxy in the same frame, revealed by Scotland’s beautiful dark night sky. We love it!

When did you start and what inspired you to photograph Scotland’s night sky?

“For me, it was a fusion of all my interests. I grew up on a farm in Aberdeenshire and had seen the dark skies many times and the beauty often obscured by light pollution. I also have a passion for imaging and trying to use new techniques to capture the best possible images so taking dark sky photographs was a natural progression for me. Once I started Bound by Starlight and found myself alone with only the stars for company, I discovered how truly amazing it is to go out and explore Scotland in the dark! It has a very different feeling, and it has all taken off from there.”

2 – The Aurora Borealis In The Loch!

stargazing scotland
The Aurora Borealis near Glengarry, The Scottish Highlands

It’s images like these that make us want to explore our own lovely country MORE! This incredible shot, capturing the absolutely magical beauty of the illusive Aurora Borealis, comes with a great story. Taken on a cold October evening, deep in the hills of Glengarry in the Scottish Highlands, this image involved Stuart wading through reeds and getting knee deep in cold Loch water! Not only did it involve having to withstand the cold temperatures, Stuart also had to force himself to remain as perfectly still as physically possible in order to capture this stunning loch reflection. Hats off to him for his patience and determination, it certainly paid off!

When is the best time to photograph Scotland’s night sky?

“It really depends on what you want to photograph. Generally speaking you should try to go out during a ‘new moon’ as there is no light reflected from the moon to contend with, so this is when the most stars are visible. Winter nights are also obviously easier due to the extra darkness. My personal favourite is to photograph the Milky Way, which is more vibrant in the summer months. The lighter nights make it very difficult to observe, but this only makes it more rewarding once I am able to find the right conditions to view it, and even more so to capture it. The spectacular Northern Lights are very popular, and these tend to be more active during the winter months.”

3 – The Milky Way At Glengarry, Scottish Highlands

stargazing scotland
Glengarry, Scottish Highlands

It was during a night of the strongest Northern Light activity Stuart has ever witnessed (and he has spent many a night chasing the Northern Lights!) that he stopped to capture this incredible shot of the Milky Way over the hills of Glengarry in the Scottish Highlands. As explained by Stuart himself, one of the joys of exploring the night sky is that the longer you stop to look, the more that is revealed to you. This is a perfect example.

What are your top tips for aspiring night photographers?

“Find darkness…manmade light pollution is a massive problem and makes viewing the stars incredibly difficult. The darker the location, the more rewarding the photographs will be. Also watch out not to use too slow shutter speeds or you will start to see star trailing rather than improved image quality.”

4 – The Glenfinnan Viaduct Under The Stars

stargazing scotland
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, Inverness-shire, Scotland

It was during a night of uncertain weather that Stuart’s patience once again paid off for this spectacular shot. It wasn’t until 2.30am that a window of clear sky opened up allowing him to capture the amazing railway viaduct facing south west. What makes this image even more interesting is what happened afterwards however. It was after around 2 hours of patient photography that Stuart finally returned to the warmth and comfort of his car around 4.30am to cook up an early breakfast, only to find his car being approached a few moments later by a beautiful young stag, presumably lured by the smell of his breakfast! Amazing!

Which image was the most difficult to capture and why?

“Oh that is a difficult question, I suppose it’s cheating to say the image I have not captured yet? At the moment I am climbing hills at night with the hope of having the stars above me but the clouds beneath me. I haven’t been too successful so far, instead mostly emerging in the middle of ‘cloud sandwiches’.  Also I find that clouds move like waves, engulfing me in fog that sometimes never lifts. Leaving me in the cold, surrounded by darkness and getting wet. I only have the stamina to stay on the peak for a couple of hours before I need to think of my safety and return. Other than that, I am trying to create as accurate as possible 360-degree interactive image spheres. I hope that by March I am able to consistently produce spheres that are completely accurate, but it is the most complex and frustrating project I have undertaken so far. However I believe the results will be worth it as I think these spheres will give people a more immersive and encompassing feeling of what the night sky is like. Some of the traditional images can cram vast amounts of sky into a small photo, making it hard to identify the stars or appreciate the shear scale of what is out there.”

5 – The Milky Way Over The Argyll Peninsula

stargazing scotland
The Milky Way Over the Argyll Peninsula

Last but not least is this beautiful shot of the Milky Way over the stunning Argyll Peninsula near Scotland’s dramatic west coast. Taken late in the evening without much traffic around, Stuart was able to capture a strong contrast between the bright and vibrant night sky, and the dark and peaceful earth below.

What camera equipment to use?

“Currently I am using two Nikon D4S cameras and either a 14-24mm f/2.8 or 24mm f/1.4 depending on what I want to achieve.  I use a Gigapan panoramic tripod head and some really cheap tripod legs that weigh a ton and I want to replace! I don’t think this is the kit I would recommend to a beginner. You just need a camera where you are happy with the image quality around 4000 ISO a shutter speed that goes up to 30 seconds (the longer the better) and a good quality f2l8 lens.”

So that’s it! Our top 5 favourite images from Stuart’s stunning 2016 collection. If you love them as much as we do, then hop on over to Stuart’s page here to place your 2017 calendar order!

Looking for more Scotland inspiration? Check out 10 Dramatic Images From An Epic Scotland Road Trip To Skye.


10 Dramatic Images From An Epic Scotland Road Trip To Skye

Like all good things in your own backyard, you tend to take them for granted.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but at the ripe age of 30 and after several years of ‘wanderlusting’ around the globe, I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to my own beautiful country and unbelievably, this was my first ever trip to the Isle of Skye!

It might sound a little cheesy, but this road trip will forever stay in my memory as the first time I discovered my own piece of the real Scotland. And wow. What an incredibly dramatic place it is.

So, after lots of deliberation, we’ve picked our 10 favourite images from the trip. We hope you enjoy them and feel inspired to take a similar adventure, if you haven’t already! (Note: You can see our exact route via Google Maps in our info section at the bottom so go straight there if you wish to get going NOW!)

First up on our ‘must stop’ list is the desolate and intriguing Rannoch Moor. Consisting of a huge expanse of around 50 square miles of boggy moorland composed of blanket bog, lochans, rivers, and rocky outcrops, this really is dramatic Scottish landscape at its best! You’ll find this particularly beautiful spot to the west of Loch Rannoch and conveniently, we drove right by it en route north on the A82 near the Bridge of Orchy. We couldn’t believe we were only a couple of hours into our journey from Glasgow. It’s safe to say it totally blew us away!

scotland road trip
Rannoch Moor

If you’re lucky you might also see a grouse or red deer near here! Unfortunately we didn’t but there’s always next time…

Close after Rannoch Moor you’ll quickly reach one of the most dramatic and scenic vistas of the journey so far. Ok I know what you’re thinking…I’m probably going to use the word ‘dramatic’ a lot, sorry but it’s true!

This truly wild open space is completely surrounded by green hills and snowcapped peaks. And if that’s not exciting enough, it’s made all the more special by spotting one of the small 2-carriage trains skirting the hills in the distance on its merry way to Mallaig on the ‘West Highland line‘. We were lucky to see one and took great joy in watching it make its dramatic (oops there’s that word again) loop around the hills overlooking Loch Tully where the train line practically hugs the hillside. Can you spot the train in the picture below?

scotland road trip
The Mallaig train line, Bridge of Orchy

Despite taking the trip in early April, the weather was on our side. That’s just the thing with Scottish weather though, you never really know what you’re going to get, but at least it’s a pleasant surprise when it works out!

Another image we captured nearby to the Bridge of Orchy and just before arriving to Loch Tulla was this view towards the beautifully striking munro Beinn Dorain, a gaelic name meaning ‘hill of the otter’ or ‘hill of the streamlet’.

Scotland Road Trip
View towards Beinn Dorain, near the Bridge of Orchy

Less than half an hour further along the A82 will bring you to the famous Glencoe area where there are so many stunning viewpoints, it’s impossible not to make a few stops and even a walk if you have time. You’ll find this rugged and rather moody landscape near Ballachulish. We recommend taking a short walk around this beautiful area and there’s plenty space for parking which is handy.

scotland road trip
Ballachulish, Glencoe

Approximately one hour’s drive from Glencoe, and just after turning off the A82 onto the A87 near Invergarry, we got our first westerly view and boy was it worth the wait! By this time (around 5pm) the light was starting to change providing warmer tones so we couldn’t resist stopping to enjoy this beautiful view of the distant mountains of Knoydart overlooking Loch Garry.

scotland road trip
View over Loch Garry, near Invergarry

No road trip to the Isle of Skye would be complete without the iconic Eilean Donan Castle shot, so we just had to include it in our ‘top 10’. This was the moment we saw it for the first time and it was easy to understand its popularity! Beautifully positioned on a small tidal island, where three lochs meet (Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh) for hundreds of years, with just a footbridge connecting the island to the mainland. It’s a very ‘bonnie’ sight indeed!

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh

So after MANY photo stops and the necessary coffee break, we finally made it to the Isle of Skye! It was a mere 10 miles along the road from the Castle to the bridge connecting the mainland to Skye. By this time, we noticed the sun starting to dip so we forced ourselves to reduce our stops and keep going in order to make it to a couple of special view points on the island in time for the golden sunset hour.

Luckily it was only a half an hour drive from landing on the island to reach this iconic view at Stone Bridge, near Sligachan and we made it in time…

scotland road trip
Stone Bridge near Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Never before has the term ‘rugged’ been so appropriate. We’d heard Skye described as wild but beautiful before, and we could see why!

scotland road trip
Carbost, Isle of Skye

Further along the road towards Dunvegan that same evening, our luck continued when we got to witness this beautiful mountain view shrouded in low misty clouds above the white croft cottages of Roag, nestled by Loch Vatten. What a sight!

Isle of Skye Image
Near Roag, Isle of Skye

And we couldn’t resist this final shot taken on the last stretch of our epic Scotland road trip, just before the light finally faded to dark. What an amazing end to an incredible day!

Isle of Skye image
Isle of Skye, Scotland

It’s safe to say that Scotland has some pretty epic scenery, much of which we’ve still to discover, but in one single day we felt like we’d made an amazing start! We’ll never forget this road trip and can’t wait to explore more of our beautiful home country, so watch this space for more to come on the blog.

In the meantime, we had a busy but amazing couple of days on the Isle of Skye where Barry filmed his first ever ‘elopement’ wedding. To see the highlights, hop on over to Barry’s wedding video site here.

Our Route

Looking For Accommodation In Scotland?

If you’re looking for some accommodation options in Scotland, we recommend you check out Agoda.com. Whenever we’re making plans for a new destination, we always research the accommodation options first to check what’s available. That’s just our travel style. If you want to get some accommodation ideas on Skye, or anywhere else in Scotland, click here.

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you choose to book somewhere though our link, we receive a small commission. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything more, and most importantly, we only recommend companies that we use ourselves so you can trust our recommendations!