5 places to visit on a timeless tour of Scotland

I’ve grown up in Scotland and yet there is still so much of the country that is unknown to me, so many places that are still on my ‘must visit’ list.

Stereocard depicting the Colonel's Bed, Glen Ey, Braemar, by George Washington Wilson & Co., Aberdeen, 1863. From the Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland.
Stereocard depicting the Colonel’s Bed, Glen Ey, Braemar, by George Washington Wilson & Co., Aberdeen, 1863. From the Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland.

As a child my parents ensured we regularly made it up many hills, mountains and a number of munros. After a little encouragement, we were all soon happy to be outside and anywhere that had a loch or a waterfall was always a favourite.

Now I love seeing friends’ photographs from weekends spent exploring and holidays hopping over Scottish islands. It always hits me how beautiful the natural landscape of the country we live in is and reminds me of these early family days spent in the outdoors.

Last year, when the Photography:  A Victorian Sensation exhibition was showing at the National Museum of Scotland, I flicked through many of the stereocard photographs  and there were a few stunning places that caught my eye.  In fact, I regularly take some virtual adventures north via Instagram and as I look again at these stereographs, it’s interesting how this early photography format resembles Instagram’s original square formatting.

1. The Island of Staffa

Stereocard depicting two men and a boat outside Clamshell Cave, Staffa, by George Washington Wilson & Co., Aberdeen Clamshell Cave, Staffa
Stereocard depicting two men and a boat outside Clamshell Cave, Staffa, by George Washington Wilson & Co., Aberdeen Clamshell Cave, Staffa

The jutting nature of these rocks are just incredible: they look like something from another world, or the place where lots of pieces of earth have collided in a mighty clash. This photograph from c.1860 -1870 shows two men and a boat outside Clamshell Cave on the east coast of the island of Staffa. This uninhabited volcanic island lies about six miles west of the Island of Mull and is home to hundreds of seabirds. I like how this photograph captures the people in landscapes photographs, as I think it gives a scene a sense of time and place.

2. Fingal’s Cave, Staffa

This one may be linked to the number one spot as it is on the same island, but this magical and musical cave is worthy of its own mention. These two stereocards show the exterior and interior of Fingal’s caves. It is the tiny figure depicted in the first photograph that I think gives a real sense of the sheer scale of the hexagonal basalt columns that surround and create this cave. These dramatic caves have inspired many artists and this wonderful concert overture by Felix Mendelssohn in 1830 was inspired by Mendelssohn’s visit to Fingal’s Cave.
This famous Scottish glen, with dramatic mountains and waterfalls, has been formed by millions of years of geological processes. This photograph was taken c. 1860 – 1870 and I’d like to see if many of the details have changed in this beautiful mountain view.

 4. The Old man of Storr, Skye

The Storr is a rocky hill on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and this large pinnacle of a rock stands high in the surrounding landscape. One thing that struck me as I looked at all of these Scottish landscape photographs taken over 100 years ago is how timeless some of them are. Most of them are devoid of people, and the powerful rocks jutting into the landscape have a powerful sense of almost everlasting time.

5. The Clett, Thurso

Stereocard depicting The ‘Clett’, Holborn Head, Thurso by an unknown photographer, 1870s. From the Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland
Stereocard depicting The ‘Clett’, Holborn Head, Thurso by an unknown photographer, 1870s. From the Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland

This solitary sea stack on the northern shore of Scotland looks incredibly impressive in this moody stereocard from the 1870s. It’s stunning in its both natural and strange architectural footprint that it stamps firmly into the sea.


Photography: A Victorian Sensation finished last year, but there is an opportunity at the start of August 2016 to delve into the stereocards once more as Christine McLean, our Community Engagement Manager, leads a free online course. Find out more and sign up to Stereoscopy: an Introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography here. 

Online resources for our Victorian Photography collection can be found in our Explore section.

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