Avoid the crowds and take unique shots by getting off-the-beaten-track with these locations perfect for the landscape photographer
There are hundreds of locations across the British Isles that offer opportunities for superb landscape photography. Some of the best, most accessible national parks and coastline the world offers are in the UK. But with that comes the crowds, and it’s not uncommon for photographers to be battling for space with their tripods in some of the most popular spots, especially during the peak golden hours of sunrise and sunset.
In the age of social media, many locations once a secret shared among photographers have also now become ubiquitous. So if you’re looking for somewhere secluded where you can discover your own special place for stunning shots, here are some lesser-known but equally beautiful locations to consider for your next trip.
1 North Pennines AONB - North East England
Known as ‘England’s last wilderness’, the landscape of the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) straddling Northumberland, Cumbria & County Durham is bleak, haunting, and strikingly empty. Here you can find big skies, far-reaching views, and vast open moorlands; if you come at the height of the heather season in the second half of August, the landscape will be awash in purple.
Among the expansive, windswept landscape, you’ll also find remains of mines and other industrial relics, such as the network of lead-smelting chimneys in the Allen Valleys, which can add an additional layer of interest to your landscape shots and help tell the story of the area.
Bonus: North Pennines Waterfalls
The North Pennines also boasts some impressive waterfalls in remote spots, with Ashgill Force being particularly delightful — if you pay a visit, you’ll likely be the only photographer there.
2 Dumfries and Galloway - Scotland
Often overshadowed by its Highland neighbours, the Scottish Lowlands region of Dumfries and Galloway offers scenery just as wild, with forest, rivers, and mountain peaks ideally suited for landscape photographers.
The area also features some spectacular rugged coastline, and the region has its own South West 300 road-route to rival the North Coast 500. The Mull of Galloway is a particular highlight; it is notable for its dramatic cliffs, views as far as Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, and a spectacular lighthouse. Galloway Forest Park is also a designated ‘dark sky zone’, so you can combine a visit there with some nighttime astrophotography too.
3 Mourne Mountains - County Down, Northern Ireland
The Mourne Mountains, situated in County Down, are the highest mountains in Northern Ireland and unquestionably the most breathtaking. They still remain generally undiscovered outside of the country, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities for stunning mountainous landscapes without the crowds of other photographers.
The range is also home to the Mourne Wall; a 1.5-metre high structure that runs more than 19 miles and passes over 15 of the region’s highest mountains. The wall can be followed along a walking route and makes an excellent leading line for your compositions.
4 Arnside and Silverdale AONB - Lancashire and Cumbria
The area of Arnside and Silverdale is tucked away just south of its much larger and more famous neighbour, the Lake District, but their landscapes are worlds apart. The area has a particularly unique topography for the British Isles that consists of limestone pavements, vast swathes of coastal mudflats, and ancient woodlands that reach right to the shoreline, where the trees grow sideways due to prevailing wind. The expansive west-facing bay also provides a spectacular setting for sunset shots.
Bonus: The Arnside Bore
Arnside is home to an unusual phenomenon popular with spectators known as the Arnside Bore, a tidal bore which occurs roughly several times a year, where the edge of the high tide is forced through the narrow bay, creating a wave that goes against the current of the water.
5 Berwyn Range - Mid Wales
Despite their proximity to Snowdonia National Park, the scenic Berwyn Mountains (Y Berwyn or Mynydd y Berwyn in Welsh) straddling Powys and Denbighshire remain relatively undiscovered. Here you’ll find lush valleys covered with heather and bracken and spectacular mountain vistas from summits that can rival those of Snowdonia. In fact, you’ll see incredible views of both Snowdonia itself and the Brecon Beacons, much further south, on a clear day from the top of the Berwyns. But what you won’t find are crowds of tourists; in fact, you may have the entire place to yourself.
The Berwyn UFO:
Did you know the Berwyn Range was the location of one of the UK’s most prolific UFO sightings? Dubbed the 'Welsh Roswell', on the evening of 23 January 1974, strange lights were observed in the sky falling toward the horizon and hundreds of witnesses experienced unusual noises in the area. Even today, the source of those still remain unknown and many believe the incident has been victim of a cover-up. Bring a touch of this area's eerie history to your images by photographing the Berwyns during the Blue Hour.
6 Forest of Bowland AONB - Lancashire
The Forest of Bowland AONB is a sprawling area of Lancashire wilderness, known for its isolation and grandeur, that keeps a much lower profile compared to its easterly Yorkshire Dales neighbour. Here you’ll be treated to unspoilt landscapes of open moorland, fells, waterfalls, woodlands (like those at Grizedale pictured below) and dramatic dark skies, without a soul in sight.
Bonus: Pendle Hill
The Forest of Bowland is also home to Pendle Hill, a wild and untamed summit famous for the Pendle Witch trials of 1612, an ideal location for spooky and moody landscape shots.
7 Scottish Borders - Scotland
For many, views of the Scottish Borders come from the window of a moving car or train on the way further north, but this often-forgotten region offers so much variety for landscape photographers.
St. Abb's Head and the Berwickshire coastal path boast a sublime coastline that runs the length of the county, with stark rocky cliffs, picturesque fishing villages, crystal clear bays, and thousands of seabirds. And in the interior of the Scottish Borders, there are dramatic mountains, stark, isolated valleys with rivers and ancient woodland running through, and there are castle ruins all-around, such as the photogenic Smailholm Tower – all of which can make epic landscape shots. And perhaps the best thing about the Borders is they still feel like a secret spot among photographers.
8 Durham Heritage Coast - County Durham
The Durham Heritage Coast is less dramatic than its northerly and southerly neighbours of Northumberland and North Yorkshire. Nevertheless, you can find exciting photo opportunities hidden among the cliffs and bays of this short stretch of coastline. These include the curiously named ‘Chemical Beach’, which features some unusual rock formations. If you’re there when the tide recedes, you’ll be able to see industrial relics from the region’s mining heritage scattered on the shore.
9 Upper Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales - North Yorkshire
If you’re looking for a less-visited national park area as a focus for your photography, Upper Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales ticks all the boxes. Wild, remote, and not as easily accessible as other parts of the Dales, you’ll find many stunning waterfalls and stark, empty valleys littered with ruins slowly reclaimed by nature, such as Crackpot Hall near Keld.
Some of the more interesting sites, like those at Gunnerside Gill, require a walk of a few hours from where you can park, and you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself once you get there. Driving to this part of the Yorkshire Dales is also an adventure in itself and can be accessed via the Buttertubs Pass – one of Britain’s most spectacular roads, although not for the faint of heart!
When venturing out into more remote places, always make a plan beforehand, so you know where you’re going and how to get there. Make sure you’ve also told somebody of your plans and when they can expect you back. Carry a torch with you and also a power pack with a charger cable for your phone so that you can recharge should it run out of power when you’re out.
10 Northwest Norfolk coast - East Anglia
The northwest Norfolk coast in East Anglia is a spectacular, striking area of dunes, marshland, and mudflats that also feature a series of striped cliffs that face west (unique in this part of the world). And so far, the area has largely fallen under the radar of many landscape photographers.
This stretch of coastline certainly feels wild and remote, and there are plenty of opportunities to get beautiful landscape shots with expansive views over a lush variety of terrain. The area is also home to an abundance of shipwrecks and other nautical structures that can add an interesting focal point to your shots, such as the wreck of the Steam Trawler Sheraton near Old Hunstanton. However; it’s worth checking the tide times beforehand so you know when any of the wrecks will be visible.
- AuthorPhilip Mowbray
Philip is the Editor of Focus.View all articles