Stac PollaidhScottish Highlands
Stac Pollaidh, although far from the highest peak in the Scottish Highlands at 612m or 2008 feet, still provides a great photographic subject. It stands in isolation with its rugged, weathered cap of Torridon sandstone.
It's name although Scottish Gaelic, originates from the Norse and translates as "The Pinnacle of the pool river".
It is affectionately known as Stack Polly.
A conveniently placed car park sits at the start of the steep path leading upwards. In a short distance the path divides. It matters not which direction you take as the path loops around the back of Stac Pollaidh to arrive back at this junction. We take the right fork and continue climbing up, legs burning from the early morning work out, at least mine are.
Eventually the incline eases a little and we find ourselves on the eastern shoulder, we've climbed about 300 meters.
View from Stac PollaidhThe view towards Suilven, Canisp, and Cul More from the east shoulder of Stac Pollaidh
Behind us to the south, and now well below, is Loch Lurgainn. To the north and east, an empty wilderness, dotted with lochs and streams flanked by snow capped mountains, the "Inverpolly Nature Reserve". The visibility is good and the clarity of the air is excellent, the view is stupendous.
The low sun casts the shadow of Cul Beag across the landscape below, lochs shine bright from the reflected sky and mountain snow.
The landscape is a tapestry of colour. In the distance it looks a uniform brown but up close it is a mixture of dark green heathers, bleached grasses and reddish tussock.
It is a truly wild place.
View towards Cul MorCul more from Stac Pollaidh
After spending some time taking in the view and trying to do it justice in an image, we continue climbing on our anticlockwise circuit until be reach a barren windswept plateau on the northern side.
Windswept is probably an understatement, it looks wind blasted. What little vegetation there is grows barely more than a few centimetres high above the flat expanse of rock. We're now in the shade of the sandstone cap above and up to the snow line, it is cold and bleak here.
Around the edge clear of snow are rocks with subtle colours of blue gray and pink. They make for an interesting foreground. The sky is getting more interesting now, high cirrus clouds being blown in ahead of the next Atlantic weather front snake down towards the top of Cul Mor. The sun is now veiled by the high cloud and the dark shadows of earlier are now gone, the landscape is now bathed in a softer more even light.
Further to the north, the distinctive shape of Suilven rises above the surrounding Inverpolly landscape. It, like Stac Pollaidh, stands in isolation but is larger and higher at 731 meters (2398 feet). Also like Stac Pollaidh, it has a cap of Torridon sandstone sitting on top of a layer of Lewisian Gneiss although it's summit is less eroded. The Scots Gaelic name is Sula Bheinn which derives from the Old Norse for "The Pillar" and, although the mountain forms a long ridge, when viewed from the north west looks like a steeply rising cone of rock. The landscape is many millions of years old, water and ice have eroded surrounding rocks leaving Suilven standing alone over the surrounding moorland and lochs.
Eventually we continue around and descend back down to the road for a welcome warm cup of tea and sandwich. The winter days are short so we make our way to another location for some evening photographs looking back towards Stac Pollaidh. The clouds are thickening but still clear of the mountain tops. We all hope for that glorious sunset but the colours are fleeting and muted. But as the sun sets the breeze diminishes as do the ripples on the loch. An end to another great day photographing the landscape in the Scottish Highlands.
These photograph from Scotland were taken on a photographic course organised and run by Garry Brannigan of River to Ridge. A link to Garry's website and course details can be found by clicking the orange hyperlink below.
Garry Brannigan of River to Ridge