Best landscape photography locations in the UK (part two)
September 10, 2020
Recently we ran part one of our guide to the finest landscape photography locations in the British Isles. As you can imagine, it was not an easy job coming up with a shortlist, but our expert professional guides have done a great job. Read on to discover the most photogenic locations in South/Southwest England and Northern Ireland.
South and Southwest England
Your guide: Guy Edwardes
Based in his home county of Dorset, Guy has been a landscape and nature photographer for over 25 years. His work has been widely published and he runs a series of popular photographic workshops all over the world. See here for more.
Colmer’s Hill, Bridport, Dorset
The conical tree-clad Colmer’s Hill is an iconic landmark in West Dorset and a ‘must visit’ location if you’re in the area. Sunrise is undoubtedly the best time to photograph it and misty conditions are an added bonus. Parking is extremely limited beside the A35, so arrive early or be prepared for a long walk! There are good vantage points from both Quarr Hill and Eype Down, with footpaths providing easy access. In good conditions there can be many different compositions to try, mainly based on using Colmer’s Hill as a focal point within the wider landscape, or floating in a sea of mist!
Portland Bill, Dorset
The Isle of Portland offers much photographic potential, but the red and white lighthouse at Portland Bill is the highlight. It can be shot from either side with crashing waves in the foreground and at both sunrise and sunset. This is also one of the best locations along the south coast for astro-landscape photography, with very little light pollution when looking south towards the Milky Way. Just below the lighthouse lies Pulpit rock, another useful focal point for shots along the shoreline, particularly at sunset. Portland can be a great place for long exposures, so take your 10-stop ND filter. Dramatic scenes can be captured in stormy conditions, but take care as the waves can be large and powerful!
Rockford Common, New Forest National Park, Hampshire
Rockford Common lies above a shallow valley on the western side of the New Forest. The classic viewpoint with a path leading through a colourful purple expanse of heather-clad heathland has become a popular spot, and rightly so. The valley is particularly prone to morning mists throughout the year, so sunrise tends to offer the best opportunities, although late afternoon also works well if the heather is in bloom. Don’t restrict yourself to the one honeypot location though, because all of the surrounding heaths offer much potential and tend to be less busy into the bargain. There is scope for expansive wideangle shots as well as for landscape details, layers and isolated trees.
Glastonbury Tor, Somerset
The familiar outline of Glastonbury Tor can be seen from many places throughout the flat landscape of the Somerset Levels and from the surrounding hills. It can be used as a distant focal point, but there are also great shots to be had from the summit of the Tor itself. One of the best spots from which to photograph The Tor surrounded by mist or set against the rising sun is Walton Hill just south of Street. From here a telephoto lens of 300 to 600mm is required. There is a convenient car park right at the best vantage point on the summit. To get the sun rising directly behind the Tor you’ll need to visit in mid-summer. Use an app such as TPE or PhotoPills to ensure you pick the best day!
Other locations worth visiting
Corton Denham is a classic rural village scene in south Somerset best viewed from Corton Hill. The lighting is best late in the afternoon between May and July.
Knowlton Church is a ruined Norman church set within a Neolithic henge earthwork. Great at sunrise and sunset or for spooky night photography, as this is one of Dorset’s most haunted locations!
Swyre Head, Worth Matravers in Dorset is one of the most impressive viewpoints along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Beautiful at any time but especially good at sunset.
Bolderwood Ornamental Drive in the New Forest National Park, Hampshire, is an impressive mixture of trees, which makes this a great location for capturing autumn foliage.
South and Southwest England (continued)
Your guide: Ross Hoddinott
One of the UK’s top landscape photographers, Ross is the author of several best-selling photography books. He co-runs Dawn 2 Dusk Photography, who specialise in landscape photography workshops. See here for more.
St Michael’s Mount, West Cornwall
Just a short drive from Penzance is one of Cornwall’s most recognisable and picturesque landmarks. St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island, which at low tide links to the parish of Marazion by a man-made cobbled causeway. A tide in the region of 2-3m is often a good height, revealing the causeway, which provides an obvious and attractive lead-in line toward the Mount in wideangle compositions. This is a location that can work well throughout the day, but at sunrise, the beach is quieter, cleaner and golden early morning sunlight will bathe the bay and island. At higher tides, much of the beach is submerged, but there are slipways and rock pools that provide foreground interest. Be prepared to regularly change viewpoint as the tide either rises or falls. Wear wellies to avoid getting wet feet! A good range of lenses will be useful, but a wideangle zoom – in the region of 16-35mm – is often a good choice, producing dynamic results with depth and interest. This can be a popular location, so arrive and set-up early.
Hartland Quay, North Devon
This stretch of north Devon coastline is among the most dramatic and spectacular you will find anywhere in South West England. Hartland Quay is on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean – it is a remote, wild and windswept place. From Clovelly Cross, take the B3248 to Hartland and continue to Stoke and past St Nectan’s church toward the coast. Drive down the narrow track toward the beach – there is plenty of parking near the Hartland Quay Hotel. At high tide, explore the views from the cliff tops – in spring they are carpeted with sea pinks that add colour and interest to wideangle vistas. You can walk to Speke’s Mill Mouth, which is also photogenic. At low water, explore the rocky beach, which is home to photogenic ledges and rockpools. This is a good location for evening light and sunset. It’s worth carring a versatile range of focal lengths. A good sturdy tripod will be essential, particularly in windy, stormy conditions. The hotel is a great spot to shelter and have a pint after an evening’s shoot.
Great Staple Tor, Dartmoor, Devon
Dartmoor National Park is home to some extraordinary scenery. The landscape is wild, rugged and punctuated with large, imposing granite outcrops – or tors. This is not a landscape you want to shoot on a clear, sunny day. Instead you want drama. Autumn and winter are ideal times of year. During autumn, the bracken becomes golden and the light and skies tend to be more suited to landscapes. This can be an unforgiving place, so wear water and windproof clothing. Great Staple Tor is one of many great tors to visit. It’s home to a couple of large granite pillars and there is no shortage of compositions to be found. There is a large car park at Pork Hill on the B3357, between Tavistock and Merrivale. Walk north up the slopes of Little Staple Tor and carry on to Greater Staple. The climb will take you about 30 minutes, but this is often a quiet location and well suited to morning or evening light.
Trebarwith Strand, Cornwall
Located about 2 miles south of Tintagel – home to the myth and legend of King Arthur – Trebarwith is a golden, sandy beach, popular with tourists and surfers. It can be busy in the summer months, so visit out of the holiday season and on a weekday to avoid the crowds and messy footprints. You can achieve good shots at either high or low water, but a mid-tide can prove more challenging. At high tide, the beach is completely submerged, and you can stand on the Strand and shoot out towards the sea with incoming waves rushing in either side of you. But be wary of spring tides and big waves. For safety, always consult a good tide app, like AyeTides, before you visit. This is a great sunset location and Gull Rock on the horizon provides an obvious focal point. Take wideangle lenses, ND filters and grads and also a lens cloth and wipes – sea spray can be a real issue here if there is an onshore wind.
Other locations worth visiting
The Crowns Engine houses at Botallack in west Cornwall, perched above the sea, create an iconic shot. The ruined tin mines make a great long exposure subject.
Bedruthan Steps are arguably Cornwall’s most impressive stretch of coast, home to large granite stacks – or steps. In spring, wildflowers carpet the cliff tops.
The lighthouse at Trevose Head provides a great focal point in wideangle shots. Padstow Lifeboat Station is within walking distance and worth shooting too.
Valley of Rocks, just north of Lynton in Devon, is an impressive dry valley and boasts incredible views and geology. It is one of Exmoor’s most scenic locations.
Located on the south-western edge of Dartmoor, Shaugh Prior is home to boulder-strewn rivers, oak-woods and riverside walks. Best shot in spring or autumn after a little rainfall. There is a small National car park nearby.
Your guide: Gary McParland
Gary McParland is an award-winning photographer based in Co Armagh in Northern Ireland. His photography has graced publications all around the world including a National Geographic Book. See more of his work here.
Dunluce Castle, Co Antrim
Approximately 20 minutes by car further along the coast from Ballintoy you’ll find Dunluce Castle. This location was used in Game of Thrones and is an impressive ruined castle that sits precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. You can shoot the castle from various angles, but the most dramatic images can be captured down below near the sea. Here you can use the waves and rocks as foreground interest with the castle looming above. It’s a bit of a steep scramble down and as always the sea must be treated with respect at this location.
I always try to capture the sun setting out to sea or going down just behind the castle as I have done here. As the castle sits so high in the frame, once you meter for the lighter areas, the castle will end up in silhouette, even if you’re using graduated filters. This might be what you want to achieve but for this image I shot three bracketed exposures and blended them later, which meant that I was able to keep detail in the shadow areas.
The Hares Gap, Mournes, County Down
In County Down you’ll find the Mourne Mountains. If you love hiking and don’t mind an early start there are numerous dramatic images to be captured here on various peaks. This particular spot is called The Hares Gap and is a gentle hike compared to other spots in the Mournes. Starting near Tollymore Forest Park you walk up through the Valley along the Trassey River. Keep right along the hillside until you make it to the famous Mourne Wall. If you time it right you can capture some stunning images back down the valley as the sun sets. Here I used the wall and stile as the main focal point with some wonderful light from the setting sun in the valley beyond and the river snaking off towards the horizon. I bracketed my exposures and blended them later. I also had some issues with flare so a small umbrella held just above the top of the lens was enough to eliminate it.
Ballintoy Harbour, County Antrim
Ballintoy Harbour was made famous by Game Of Thrones. They shot many scenes here and it’s easy to understand why. There are multiple points of interest in a very small area and it’s great for both sunrise and sunset shots. There is the harbour itself and various sea stacks, sea arches and beach coves; while a short walk will bring you to Elephant Rock, a lovely beach with a huge sea stack in the shape of an elephant complete with trunk. Ballintoy can boast some dramatic waves, so be cautious when venturing near the edge of the rocks. For this scene I used a Big Stopper to produce a long exposure to smooth out the sea and clouds. This created the mood I was after and accentuated the shape and texture of the rocks.
Other locations worth visiting
The Dark Hedges in Co Antrim is a beautiful avenue of beech trees. It’s best to get there early to avoid the tourists though as it is a very popular spot.
Murlough Bay in Co Antrim
is a bit off the beaten track but a wonderful view that’s best captured at sunrise in the summer.
Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim is a world-famous location. Again, an early start helps avoid the tourists.
Tollymore Forest Park, Co Down, is a beautiful wood with rivers running through and looks spectacular in autumn.
Ring Of Gullion in Co Armagh is an area with forests, lakes and ancient stones – certainly lots to explore.