Our top recommended locations for your next landscape photography trip
Many British photographers flock to Europe and beyond in search of exotic locations to capture, forgetting that the UK contains some of the most beautiful, dramatic and varied landscapes in the world. From tidal islands and craggy coastlines to rolling hills and waterfalls, there’s a lifetime of landscapes to discover and photograph in the UK.
Here are some of our top destinations to get you started…
1 Elan Valley, Powys, Wales
This chain of reservoirs in mid-Wales is a feast for photographers after a playground all to themselves. There are four dramatic dams here, all harbouring reservoirs that serve Birmingham; Craig Goch, Pen y Garreg, Garreg Ddu, and Caban Coch. Each is radically different and worth treating entirely differently. For example, Craig Goch has an island within it while Garreg-ddu is all about its Victorian pump house. Within its 45,000-acres you’ll find chocolate box bridges, a deserted church and red kites galore.
Come in winter close to a New Moon and you’ll see raging torrents of fast-flowing water and, buy night, some of Britain’s darkest night skies. Elan Valley is a gold-rated International Dark Sky Park.
2 Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England
While the southwest corner of the UK gets swamped by tourists each year, the lesser known Scilly Isles get a mere 125,000 visitors annually. About 30 miles off Cornwall, this archipelago of five main islands – St. Mary’s, Tresco, St. Martin's, Bryher and St. Agnes – bask in warm waters and higher temperatures than the rest of the UK. Cue a tropical climate, unique flora and fauna, and incredible coastal landscapes.
The car-less 297 hectares of Tresco Island, a 30 minute boat transfer from the airport, is incredibly photogenic; think rugged heathland and dramatic seascapes, quaint cottages and idyllic village life. Oh, and red squirrels…
3 St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England
If you’re holidaying in Cornwall and you want a photography project there are few better subjects than the iconic St Michael’s Mount. Home to the St Aubyn family, this rocky outcrop can be reached via a causeway at low tide, but it’s from Marazion, close to Penzance, that you’ll likely get the best shot. Aim to shoot around sunrises and sunsets, and during storms, to capture more dramatic and colourful skies.
Although the island itself is architecturally spectacular, one of the best ideas is to photograph the exposed stone causeway, using it as a leading line in your composition. In summer the Milky Way streams behind it after dark.
4 Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England
England’s Jurassic Coast is stunning. Stretching almost 100 miles of the coastline in Devon and Dorset on the south coast, its cliffs contain the fossils of dinosaurs.
The most famous place to photograph this striking coastline is from the lookout opposite Durdle Door, an arch-shaped limestone rock formation. Just to the east is the equally beautiful Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, a rock arch above a tidal pool. The walk linking the two sites is breathtaking, but get here early to avoid problems with car parking.
Since Durdle Door needs to be photographed from the coastline looking south it’s begging to be imaged with the Milky Way flowing behind it. You can only do that in summer, with our galaxy’s arc visible from about May through September.
5 Forest of Dean and Wye Valley, Gloucestershire, England
This region around the River Wye where Wales and England join has some wonderful photography locations. The most impressive has to be the cliff top at Symonds Yat Rock, a viewpoint from where it’s possible to photograph a mighty bend in the river. Another possibility is winter mist hovering over it down by The Sarecen’s Head at Symonds Yat, where a hand-pulled ferry still operates.
Nearby in Monmouthshire, Wales you’ll find Tintern Abbey on the Welsh side of the River Wye. Dating from 1131 and now a dramatic roofless ruin, it can be photographed close-up or at a distance – including the River Wye – from the circular five-mile Devil’s Pulpit hike above it.
6 Glencoe, Lochaber, Scotland
If you ever come across a landscape photography workshop in the Scottish Highlands the itinerary will always include Glencoe. A relatively compact and accessible area close to Fort William, it’s one of the most dramatic and spectacular locations for landscape photography in the whole of the UK. You can expect to spend hours crafting epic shots of mountains, bridges, cottages, rivers, waterfalls and lochs, all of them draped in delicate and dynamic quality of light.
For something far lesser known try the Old Boat of Caol – also known as the Corpach Shipwreck – close to the village of Corpach, four miles northeast of Fort William. An old fishing vessel, it was wrecked in 2011 during a storm. It can look stunning around sunrise and sunset.
7 Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire, England
An area of rolling hills, abandoned cottages and ancient ruins, dramatic rock formations, waterfalls and open heather moorland, the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a place to slap on the waterproof trousers and head off into the wilderness.
You can capture a snow-capped Whernside as well as a shot of it with the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct. Another one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Ingleborough hosts the Norber Erratics, Britain’s finest collection of glacial erratic boulders that haven’t moved since the last Ice Age.
Just outside the southeastern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is also the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a region of incredible moorlands and river valleys.
8 Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Pembrokeshire, Wales
The South West Coast Path in England might get all the attention, but coastal photographers who haven’t been to Pembrokeshire National Park are missing out. Its 186-miles of craggy coastline – the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – hides bays, beaches and myriad photographic opportunities, with just some of the highlights including the Green Bridge of Wales natural rock arch and rock pillars, the 13th century St Govan’s Chapel carved into the limestone cliffs, and the Coetan Arthur burial chamber at Whitesands Bay.
A mile off the Pembrokeshire coast are the islands of Skomer and Skokholm, home to a puffin colony of 10,000 breeding pairs. You can visit Skomer on a day trip from Martin’s Haven to photograph them up close, though you will need to book a long way in advance.
9 Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland
Here’s another tidal island that’s accessible via a causeway only at low-tide, but since the picturesque Holy Island is so popular the savvy photographer can dodge the crowds by staying put when the tide comes in. Sure, you’ll be marooned (there are a few of B&Bs on the island), but you’ll also be alone with the Holy Island’s sights; the medieval Lindisfarne Abbey, a dramatic 16th-century crag-top castle, and detritus from the fishing industry.
Always check safe crossing times before visiting Holy Island, as it becomes separated from the rest of the world and completely inaccessible twice a day.
Just a short drive south of Lindisfarne is the equally impressive Bamburgh Castle - a favourite photo spot for dramatic seascapes
10 Isle of Skye, Scotland
Northwest Scotland’s other photography playground is the Isle of Skye. In just a few days you can capture everything from castles and lighthouses to mountains, lochs, waterfalls and weird rock formations.
It’s most famous for the ‘Old Man of Storr’ (pictured), a huge pinnacle on the Trotternish peninsula, but equally as incredible for landscape photographers is The Quiraing, where another challenging hike will get you views of crags and pinnacles including The Prison, The Needle and The Table. Other highlights in Skye include Talisker Bay, Loch Nan Eilean, Elgol and Neist Point.
Although the incredibly popular ‘Old Man of Storr’ hike is busy all day – despite being quite challenging – you’ll get the best images at sunrise. That’s not only because you’ll beat the crowds but because that’s when the light cast upon it is best. Be prepared for a tough hour-long pre-dawn hike!
- AuthorJamie Carter
Jamie Carter is a journalist and author focusing on stargazing and astronomy, astrophotography, and travel for Forbes Science, BBC Sky At Night magazine, Sky & Telescope, Travel+Leisure, and The Telegraph.View all articles