British Isles in May

Discussion in 'Nature' started by hkass, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. Hello all,

    I'll be attending a conference in Edinburgh for 4 days in Early May. My wife and I will have ~10 days to travel afterwards and are looking for suggestions for what to see, do . . . and photograph, of course.

    We both love nature photography, but also do our share of non-nature travel photography, as well. We are leaning toward spending that time in Ireland, but are open to suggestions otherwise. Museums are okay, but we'd rather spend our time seeing nature, as well as the local culture.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.


  2. david_henderson


    May is often a good time to photograph in the north of the UK and Ireland, though I'd check sunrise/sunset times for I fear you'll be in for some early mornings and late nights if you want to photograph at sunrise/sunset. I'm assuming you'll rent a car and indeed I would not attempt to follow any of these suggestions unless you do.
    Given where you're starting off my instinct would be to drive to Glencoe/ Rannoch Moor and spend ten days driving as far round the west/north coast of Scotland as you can get, sticking as close to the coast as you can. You can choose from Glencoe, Isle of Skye, Arisaig, Torridon, Inverpolly ( near Ullapool) Lochinver, and Durness /Tongue as locations to stay and photograph, and given decent weather it really is a delightful coast, before heading south on faster roads back to Edinburgh in a day.
    Ireland certainly is an alternative though obviously there's a bit of time and money lost just getting there. As with Scotland, I'm a big fan of the west coast and whilst a lot of inland Ireland is very green, its not all richly photogenic . But the coast is and any slice you pick from Kerry /Dingle in the south -west to Donegal in the north west has great beach walks and good photo potential.
    And I do put my money where my mouth is here. I have two weeks in North-west Scotland in your time period, and that's the third time we'll have made that drive, whereas last year in May saw us on the west coast of Ireland, again for the third time. Whichever, get you accommodation reserved right away. I booked my hotels in January and I still had to juggle the trip to get the places I wanted.
  3. David's idea for the NW of Scotland is excellent. It's a superb combination of beautiful scenery, both coast and mountain (not many trees though) and places to stay. Also in May you're before the annual assault by midge, which can make photography uncomfortable. If the weather forecast is poor, head for the Cairngorms in the east where rainfall is much lower than on the west coast. The further N and W you go, the wilder and more open everything is. (Yes, like David, this is where I'm going too!). Personally, and this may just be me, I find Ireland disappointing as a result of both unclear laws about access, and too much uncontrolled development.
  4. Good suggestions from David and John.

    For a bit of wildlife photography, specifically birds, I suggest the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumbria. These have mostly huge amounts of seabirds and some seals. In May you should also be able to land on one of the islands where you can get really close to the birds (wear a hat!) but you should check that. Boats leave from Seahouses harbour. Northumbria has a very beautiful coastline too dotted with several castles dating from the period when England and Scotland were at war. Alnwick Castle is probably the most complete but there are others.

    Another stunning bird reserve is RSPB Bempton Cliffs a bit down the east coast in Yorkshire. Here there is a huge colony of gannets plus a number of other birds. You can walk along the cliffs and see the birds landing, taking off and roosting within a few feet of you. Boat trips are also available.

    A favourite bird trip for me though a bit out of the way is the trip from the Scottish island of Mull to the Treshnish Isles and Staffa. Here the puffin colony is the main attraction. You can land on Lunga island and walk up to the clifftops where the puffins are roosting. They are happy to see you as humans keep off predators like ravens and skuas so you can get within a few feet of them. Staffa island is one for geologists and/or classical music fans. The island consists of columnar basalt and Fingal's cave inspired Mendelsosohn's Hebrides Overture. I went from Fionnphort. Mull has many wildlife trips and tours as do the other islands like Skye.

    These are just a few of the wildlife trips and visits that I have enjoyed. So I suggest you type your interests into your search engine and see what comes up.
  5. My wife and I did a trip a few years back much like what you plan. Our secret was the local Tourist Information Bureaus. virtually every little town has them. They are staffed by local volunteers who know pretty much everything there is to know about local travel and accommodations. If you plan to hire a car and drive around be sure to make use of this resource when you stop for lunch in beautiful quaint little villages. We found them much more reliable than internet search engines or local cell service in remote locations. They can be found by looking for a sign with a script "i".
  6. Thanks for all the great responses.
    Since it appears that a lot of our itinerary will depend on local conditions & weather, how easy or difficult is it to find accommodations on the fly? Or, should we plan on booking accommodations and adjust our itinerary to meet those bookings?
    Also, how easy or difficult is it to find food along the way? How easy or difficult is it to accommodate diet restrictions (vegetarian and/or gluten-free)?
  7. A few years ago a vegetarian in Scotland may have emerged......rather thinner. But we're veggies and have no problems. Gluten? Scotland is the home of oatcakes - the good ones are superb. May is out of school holidays and so accommodation should be OK with a bit of phoning ahead - and Michael is right, the Tourist Information places can be very helpful.
  8. The way I would approach this is to first identify the what and where of the trip then book accommodation making sure the dietary needs etc are catered for. I think if you lef it to the time to book you would run the risk of not being able to choose the better quality/ better value places and almost certainly not be able to satisfy your dietary requirements. Have a good time!
  9. A thought about British weather: In May you can reasonably expect to get some good weather but the weather here is very changeable. I find the best principle to act on is to just try to make the best of whatever weather comes along. Cloudy and rainy weather can quite often make for excellent skies, interesting moods and unusual light.
  10. david_henderson


    As I indicated above, there was a place or two I tried to book for may in January that I couldn't get for my dates. You need to reserve and if you don't its likely that if you don't you'll become distracted from your trip by the need to find somewhere to stay and eat. Its pretty unlikely that you can organise to commit yourself only at the last minute without a lot of angst finding and securing places. Be aware that some forms of accommodation will not serve meals and that you might need (depending on your choices) to make separate arrangements.
    In any case as Colin says the weather in much of Scotland is characterised by changeability and the forecasts are not accurate to the hour. Even if you could beat a retreat without financial penalty, you'll spend the entire trip in the realms of "shall we, shan't we" and for one I find that destructive. On top of which most of my better photographs in this sort of climate (Scotland, west Wales, Western Ireland, Iceland, Faroes, Newfoundland etc ) are taken round the edge of bad weather or even in bad weather. You won't get the best of the scenery under clear blue skies. On this sort of trip you won't be photographing every minute of the day, but you do stand a chance of getting unusually good photographs if you're patient.
    Your question on dietary needs can't be answered in general; only by asking as you reserve. That said, twenty or thirty years ago Scotland was pretty much a culinary desert and it certainly isn't today. I'd expect a veggie and /or fish option in many of the better places- albeit it may be one or two dishes rather than a full blown alternative menu. Gluten-free will be less common, I'd guess, and I imagine that's the case in the USA too.

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