Northern Scotland: A Visual Exploration of the North Highlands and Orkney

September 5 – 14, 2024

Scotland’s north is home to rugged mountains and coastlines, pale green seas and deep blue lochs, storied villages and fabled castles, and a people rooted as much in ancient lore and tradition as they are in modern customs. Gathered together, this blend of culture, history, architecture and unparalleled scenery create the perfect backdrop for a one-of-a-kind photography adventure.

We’ll enjoy 8 days and 9 nights exploring the magical, mysterious and romantic Highlands, Orkney and part of the North Coast 500. We’ll visit everything from Neolithic sites to Bronze Age cairns, Pictish stone art, castles, forts, fantastic seascapes and even some WWII relics.

Every day will be filled with photographic and creative opportunities with Alan at your side providing photographic know-how, experience and a light-hearted approach to honing your photographic voice. Alan’s wife, Julie, will be along to help make the experience both memorable and stress-free.

Partners/spouses are absolutely welcome on the trip and typically join the group on all the adventures. Our itinerary is designed to be not only visually of interest, but also culturally and historically interesting, and spouses have enjoyed our locations as much as the photographers.

If your preferred medium is more along the lines of paper and pencil, charcoals, or pastels rather than film or pixels, you are also welcome on this adventure. We’ve had several sketch artists join us and while the itinerary doesn’t allow for an entire day at one location, it does allow for anywhere from an hour to several hours, which has proven to be ample time for an artist to capture the essence of the location.

The group will gather on Thursday afternoon/evening, September 5th, at the exquisite Coul House Hotel in Contin, about 30 minutes from Inverness. We’ll enjoy a pre-adventure dinner to get to know each other and talk about the days to come.

Beginning Friday, we’ll venture out on day trips to surrounding sites, including Beauly and it’s marvelous ruined priory, the quaint village of Cromarty, the Clava Cairns, Rogie Falls and perhaps Culloden and Fort George. Our itinerary is subject to change, but will always be planned for the best photographic opportunities.

After three nights in the Inverness area, our group will head north to Sutherland County…a historic cross roads for Gaels, Picts and Vikings. Our home base for two nights will be the Tongue Hotel, while our group enjoys excursions to locations like Strathy Beach, Loch Eriboll, Smoo Cave, Forsinard flows, the Bettyhill Pictish Stone  and Balnakiel Church and Beach.

From Tongue, we’ll make our way by ferry to the Orkney Islands. Here, we’ll enjoy the hospitality and warmth of the Kirkwall Hotel, located right on the waterfront in Kirkwall. During our three nights here, we’ll explore some of the best historic sites Scotland has to offer, including the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness, the 5,000-year-old neolithic village at Skara Brae, Scapa Flow, the Italian Chapel and the Churchill Barriers. We’ll also have some free time in Kirkwall for you to explore on your own or venture out on an optional visit to the Scapa Flow Museum and the Broch of Gurness.

We’ll then make our way back to the mainland and our final stop of Inverness. Enroute, we’ll take a peek at the Castle of Mey, Dunrobin Castle and perhaps a loch or two. Our final night together will be September 13th at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness, located right on the River Ness. We’ll enjoy a last dinner together and relive some of our experiences before the group heads for home on the 14th.

Our travel partner for this adventure is the exceptional Scottish Clans and Castles, a small travel firm specializing in custom tours based on an insiders’ knowledge to create one-of-a-kind and off-the-beaten-path experiences.

Due to the small nature of most lodging in the Highlands and Orkney, our group is limited to 12. Pricing is based on having a mix of solo travelers and couples or partners/friends sharing a room. 

Price is $6,200 per person single occupancy, $5,750 per person for double occupancy, and includes the following:

  • Nine nights lodging in charming country house hotels and inns. All rooms with private baths. Please note that many of these hotels do not have elevators, so you may need to take a stairway or two to your room, but there is always someone to help with luggage.
  • 8 full days of photographic adventure, instruction and support
  • All location and entrance fees
  • All breakfasts and two dinners
  • Ground transportation in comfortable 8-passenger mini-vans
  • Ferries
  • Local, knowledgeable and fun guides/drivers

Not Included:

  • Transportation to/from Inverness airport and first and last hotel.
  • Passport
  • Airfare and related taxes or fees
  • Meals not mentioned above
  • Bottled water and all alcoholic beverages
  • Gratuities for guides and hotel staff
  • Personal expenses, services or purchases
  • Travel/cancellation insurance (highly recommended)

A deposit of $1,250 per person is required to hold your spot. The balance is due no later than July 1, 2024 and may be made in multiple payments. If you need to cancel before July 1, $625 will be refunded. Because of the advance planning and deposits required, if the cancellation is within 60 days or less of the start of the trip, we will not be able to fund any of the workshop fee.

Checks are greatly appreciated, but payment can also be made through the website with either Shopify or PayPal. 

On the unlikely chance that we need to cancel the workshop or any reason, you will be refunded the full workshop fee.

Other Information:

Our arrival and departure airport is Inverness. It is served by British Airways, Easy Jet, and KLM. Taxis to the Coul House Hotel and from the Glen Mhor can be pre-booked through Inverness Premier Taxi.

Bring layers of clothing and comfortable walking shoes. The weather in the Highlands and on Orkney is unpredictable, even in September. The chance of rain is always there, so waterproof gear for you and your camera is recommended.

Any camera is welcome…from large format to DSLR to mirrorless to iPhone. If you want help with post processing or other image review, a laptop is recommended but not essential.

We select a mix of locations as photo and visual opportunities while keeping open ad hoc options as they arise. To make the most of Scotland’s dramatic scenery and historic sites, some of these involve short 5 – 10-minute walks. We endeavor to make sure none of this is arduous, and guests always have the option of staying with the vans (and our drivers can sometimes make alternative excursions). Please let us know if you have mobility issues or restrictions so that we can take them into account.

A month before departure, you’ll receive additional information to help you prepare for our adventure. From camera gear advice to packing suggestions, you’ll get lots of guidance to ensure your trip is one of learning and image making instead of problems and hassles.

Sláinte and see you in Scotland.

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