Knoydart

Beyond Compare

Knoydart combines the best of mountains and coastline. Either environment alone would be beautiful. To find them side by side, complementing each other; thousand-metre mountains rising direct from the ocean, is something rather incredible. We are excited to share this with you.

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Through the Photo Journey experience we want to facilitate your exploration of both environments - coast and mountain - adding joy and challenge to our days by creating the conditions for you to be present in the moment, whilst also having the opportunity to capture something of it for the future, via the craft we love: photography.

Whilst you are here, you will have photographic instruction from very experienced professional photographers, plus we are bringing a fabulous guest photographer who will be talking about their experiences. We will be guiding you on landscape, portrait and wildlife photography. There will be some night-shoots and a chance to try new techniques. So, whether you have a little or a lot of photographic or adventure experience, we have it covered. You can be guaranteed to leave with a better understanding of your camera; a better understanding of what makes a successful photograph; and you'll have some amazing experiences with wonderful new friends!

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Location, Access and Travel

Knoydart is a peninsula on the north-west coast of Scotland. It lies between two mighty sea lochs, Loch Hourn to the north and Loch Nevis to the south. It is accessible only by foot or by boat.

In spite of its remote nature, there are a number of transport links.

You will need to get yourself to Mallaig, where you will be met by the Photo Journey Team and we will take a highly scenic 45 minute cruise around to our ‘basecamp’, a collection of cabins situated on the shore of Loch Nevis, just south of the Knoydart peninsula itself.

There are road and rail links to Mallaig, both of which bring you via epic highland scenery. The train from Glasgow is an experience in its own right.

We have planned Photo Journey Knoydart so that even if you live in the south of England, you are able to join us either by car or rail and need not to take more than Monday-Friday off work.

Visiting remote locations necessarily demands an investment in travel and we encourage you to embrace the travel as part of the whole experience. It is not only from an environmental perspective that we encourage you to consider the train: we find it the most restful way to travel and can vouch 100% for the uplifting scenery. We also find it the most conducive mode of travel for concurrent consumption of gin and tonic whilst reading, writing, talking or playing cards.

History and Community

One cannot understand the social or physical landscape of Knoydart without first understanding its history …

Typical of the Highlands, Knoydart operated for centuries under a feudal system whereby peasants, often capable of little more than subsisting in hard conditions, would pay rent to their feudal masters, the lairds, generation after generation, for the right to work the land.

With the industrial revolution of the 1800s this long established dynamic radically shifted. The textile industry boomed and wool became a far more valuable source of income than the meagre rents that the peasants were able to pay.

With apparent disregard for human welfare, the lairds forcibly ejected the people from the land in what became known as The Highland Clearances, an act of brutality often conveniently ignored in British history. Essentially, humans and their means of existence were replaced by sheep for the sake of profit.

In Knoydart the evicted former tenants, driven off the land, existed as best they could on the coast in makeshift shelters, scavenging the seashore for mussels, sea weed and anything else they could eat. Those who could afford it took boats to North America, a journey many did not survive.

Later, as the tides of industry again changed, Knoydart was once again affected. Sheep were replaced by red deer, which exist in unnaturally large number for the amusement of those who enjoy shooting them.

The effect of grazing animals has been to greatly reduce the amount of natural woodland and corresponding habitat and biodiversity, the replacement of which is now part of a lively debate around ‘re-wilding’. You may see deer-fenced areas where a more naturally balanced environment is making a return.

In 1999 the Knoydart Foundation was registered as a charity and successfully bought a significant proportion of Knoydart from private ownership. The community has ever since been managing its own affairs in partnership with the Highland Council.

This history and the rare, energised, social experiment of community ownership, combined with the incredible landscape, make Knoydart unique: a remarkable place to visit on multiple levels.

Weather

The big Scottish question!

Clearly there are certain things we cannot possibly control, the weather being one of them.

What we can do is use our experience and knowledge to take advantage of whatever weather comes our way.

April is one of our favourite times to be in the North West of Scotland.

It can bring some of the best periods of sustained high pressure (thus clear skies and dry). It is a time when the days are becoming long but not too long; a time when the range of conditions is extreme, giving the richest experience and the widest variety of photographic possibilities.

In April we can expect there may be snow on the mountains though generally not so much that it stops those of us that way inclined from climbing them. Over the course of a week we may see the snow line vary significantly, so that a camera pointed in exactly the same direction, from one day to the next, may capture quite radically different images.

Of course, we must not bet on one type of weather or another: the chances are we will experience something of everything. Four seasons in one day is not uncommon. Don’t be put off by this, either from a photographic or a comfort perspective, even if it sounds outside your usual comfort zone:

Changeable weather, notably wind and rain are part of the mix that creates some of the most spectacular conditions and some of the best photographs.

In terms of comfort, there is nothing that is not manageable with the right equipment, knowledge and mind-set – and we are well qualified to guide and educate on this.

An often-overlooked part of being a great photographer is having what it takes to look after yourself and your equipment in the very same testing conditions that yield some of the richest photographic opportunities.

To distil that to a simple mantra:

“You’ve got to be in it to win it”

… and if you are in it and comfortable, in spite of the elements, then you are really winning!