Glen Etive, Scotland

Along the A82: From Bridge of Orchy to Glen Etive and Glen Coe

Continuing with my travelogue abut the Scottish Highlands.

On the same day we tried (and failed) to photograph a glorious sunrise at Kilchurn Castle, we drove a long circle around the Western Highlands: from Kilchurn to Tyndrum, then up the A82 to Glen Coe and then back down along the coast of Loch Linnhe, towards Oban. We also took a couple detours: first from Bridge of Orchy to Loch Tulla, and then along the whole length of Glen Etive to the eponymous loch.

Luckily, the weather was much more magnanimous then at Kilchurn Castle, especially during the first part of the day. For the most part, we had blue skies with puffy, white clouds. It was only when descending from the pass at Altnafeadh down Glen Coe that we had overcast skies and a bit of rain. As a consequence, I don’t have any good photos from that stretch. That’s reason enough to go back to Scotland!

Loch Tulla

To reach Loch Tulla, you must leave the A82 at Bridge of Orchy and turn right immediately after cross the bridge. Driving for a couple kilometers along a single-lane road takes you to the southern shore of Loch Tulla.

It is not recommended to park where the road gets closer to the lake shore. The only spots where you can park are passing places used to let vehicles coming in opposite directions pass each other. Parking on those is very bad manners.

You have to drive a few hundred meters to just before the Inveroran Hotel, where there is ample parking space by the side of the road and then walk back.

The lake is beautiful, with the small tree-covered island close to the shore. On a day with no wind and a gorgeous sky, the reflections are crystalline and in the fall, the contrast between the blue sky and the yellow- and rust-colored grass is picture-perfect.

Loch Tulla, Scotland
Loch Tulla
Loch Tulla, Scotland

Take your wellies, if you go there. The ground is impossibly boggy.

Buachaille Etive Mòr

Back on the A82, we drive up to where the side road to Glencoe Mountain Resort departs on the left. This is one of my favorite spots, as it makes for great compositions, with the River Etive leading the eye towards the Buachaille Etive Mòr.

You can shoot from either the banks of the river or from the bridge crossing it.

River Etive and Buachaille Etive Mòr, Scotland
River Etive and Buachaille Etive Mòr

Etive Mòr Waterfall

To reach this little waterfall, leave the A82 and take the road that goes down Glen Etive. It’s only a short walk from a car park near the bridge to the waterfall.

This is a very popular spot; there were at least ten other photographers when we got there. It’s also a location that is best photographed in the morning, with the sun behind your back. If you shoot it in the afternoon, like we did, the Buachaille Etive Mòr will be backlit. It’s still a great spot.

Etive Mòr Waterfall, Scotland
Etive Mòr Waterfall

When photographing a waterfall, it is normal to use a long shutter speed to blur the water. Here I used 0.4s, which is slow enough to blur the water, but not so slow that all texture is gone.

Unfortunately, it was also very windy, so the trees were shaking and the leaves are blurry too. I only realized later that I should have taken one slow exposure for the water and a fast one for the trees and combine them in post-production.

Lesson learned, and another reason to go back to Scotland as soon as possible!

Glen Etive

The landscape on both sides of the road that winds down Glen Etive is beautiful, but there aren’t really any spectacular spots along it. Still, some locations are not that shabby.

Glen Etive
Glen Etive
Glen Etive, Scotland
Glen Etive

At one point, there was an isolated, little tree with red leaves on the banks of the river. Red leaves are quite rare in this part of the world, actually, so this particular tree stood out very well and just asked to be photographed.

Glen Etive, Scotland
Glen Etive

The best location we found was a small lochan at the bottom of the valley. Whereas we had strong winds up at the waterfalls, here there was none, so the reflection of the sky and of the mountains in the surface of the lake was perfect.

Glen Etive, Scotland
Glen Etive

On the way down to the shore, we got up close and personal with a trusting deer.

Deer, Glen Etive
Deer, Glen Etive

After our deer encounter, we drove down to the mouth of Loch Etive. As soon as we got there, a storm started approaching from the sea, the wind started blowing hard and the rain followed shortly afterwards.

We didn’t get any good pictures of the loch, but as it often happens in Scotland, the weather changed abruptly and we saw a bright rainbow appear just in front of us. Time to stop the car and snap a quick shot, before it disappears.

Rainbow, Glen Etive, Scotland
Rainbow, Glen Etive

As I wrote above, the weather turned ugly again when going down Glen Coe. We stopped briefly at one of the viewpoints, but all we got was a lousy picture of a couple that was doing an engagement shooting. Better luck next time!

Glen Coe
Glen Coe

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