Amazing Images Explore Scotland's Great Wilderness

Photographer Alex Nail pays homage to Britain's wildest region in a years-long project to capture the moods of Scotland's Northwest Highlands

By Simon Ingram
photographs by Alex Nail
Assynt Coigach 3
"The river Kirkaig flows out of Fionn Loch, beneath Suilven. The only way to reach this point is via an off trail walk over open hillsides, or otherwise by fording the river. On this rather bleak January day the walk seemed more appealing!"
Photograph by Alex Nail

High in the rafters of Scotland is an ancient landscape unique in the world.

Geographically comprising the Northwest Highlands, it divided into a number of smaller local regions – and many would say each has its own character. These include Coigach, Assynt, Torridon, Coulin and an area called The Fisherfield Forest which – due to its size and relative isolation – is sometimes given the nickname of Scotland's Great Wilderness.   

Here the sandstone mountains are weathered by time and the elements into strange and ragged shapes, on foundations made of some of the most ancient exposed rock in the world. So geologically important is this area that UNESCO chose to name it as one of its global geoparks. Close to the sea and exposed to the weather systems of the north Atlantic, Scotland's west coast is a tempestuous and striking environment, where the weather doesn't seem to stay the same for more than a few minutes. This makes it the area particularly visually striking. 

Photographer Alex Nail has been photographically recording the area for his new photographic book, Northwest. "The proximity of the mountains to the west coast brings endlessly changing weather and spectacular moments of light," he explains. "Combined with spectacular scenery and a real sense of remoteness proved irresistible to me as a mountain photographer."

"Photographing this area extensively has been the work of several years and in the course of the project I have camped on top of the vast majority of the peaks in the region. Lugging a rucksack of camping and camera kit up a Scottish mountain is hard work, but it’s also immensely rewarding," says Nail. "Although I’ve experienced a few sleepless nights camped in storms I’ve had many more positive experiences – sometimes waking up to a perfect sunrise above a cloud inversion. This is truly a world class mountain landscape."


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