‘Through the lenses of inspired photographers, meticulous in their craft and immersed in their subjects, we may see the Scottish islands afresh: their rare beauty, atmosphere and essence.’
If there is one guide you can count on to inspire you to get out and discover (or rediscover) all that Scotland has to offer, it is Peter Irvine’s Scotland The Best series. Irvine’s newest edition, in collaboration with several photographers, is Scotland The Best – The Islands.
This is both a guide and coffee table book capturing the distinct and unparalleled beauty of the Scottish islands and highlighting the best – it’s in the name – attractions to be found in each location.
Some of the features and locations chosen are iconic and renowned internationally, like the preternatural-seeming Fingal’s Cave with its basalt columns on the Isle of Staff a’s coast, or the fiery Norse-inspired Up Helly Aa festival that takes place in Shetland each year.
However, mixed in with the awe-inspiring classics are some lesser-known gems that stand out just the same. The Italian Chapel in Lamb Holm, Orkney, is an outlier, standing proudly against the rugged island landscape, its altar piece photographed beautifully by Douglas Corrance.
The ornate chapel was converted from Nissen huts by Italian WWII prisoners of war, its domed vaulted ceilings and effigies painted by Domenico Chiocchetti.
It’s not only the big islands that are covered. Wee isles like Easdale (which once supplied the world its slate) appears to maintain a precarious truce with the sea, judging from the epic drone picture by Iain Masterton.
Handa Island in the northwest is captured looking outwards from the cliffs by Vincent Lowe and is the perfect place to spot sea birds and even the occasional whale.
For those who prefer more civilised entertainment, Philip Lovel has captured the magnificent beauty of Mount Stuart on Bute. The grand house is a masterpiece in itself, designed with astrology and mythology in mind, and worth a visit for the interior as well as its sprawling gardens.
Most sections are done by island and bookended by Irvine’s legendary knowledge of history combined with the best places to go.
Scotland The Best – The Islands, by Peter Irvine, published by HarperCollins, £15.99.