sunset photography in the west highlands argyll

Scotland boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. But it is especially magical on a clear night, when the sun is disappearing below the horizon against silhouettes of island coastlines, castles, and is reflected on the surface of local lochs.

The west coast of Scotland, and Argyll in particular, is famous for its sensational sunset skies and provides many wonderful viewpoints to watch them from. In this article, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our favourite photography spots in the West Scottish Highlands:

  • Top photography spots for capturing Argyll sunsets
  • The art of sunset photography in the West Scottish Highlands: Tips and techniques for beginners
  • Golden Hour: What time to capture sunset moments in Argyll

Top photography spots for capturing Argyll sunsets

It’s not difficult to catch a fantastic sunset in Argyll. But for the best views, you should seek out somewhere a little more unique…

Bellanoch Viewpoint

On a clear night, meander up to the Bellanoch Viewpoint; it not only offers amazing views of the Crinan Canal and Moine Mhor nature reserve, but is an unforgettable spot in which to bask in the evening sunset. Just after the car park is a gate that leads walkers up a trail, past information boards and up to the point. It’s worth noting that the higher points of this walk can become a little overgrown at certain times of the year. If you are heading up at sundown, we recommend you wear sturdy shoes and take a torch for safety.

McCaig’s Tower & Battery Hill

One of the most prominent landmarks in Oban and well worth the climb from the town centre. While we don’t deny it’s a bit of a steep walk, the pavements and paths up the hill are very accessible. It offers a picturesque location in which to watch the sun go down across Oban Bay to the Atlantic Islands, so much so that we noted it in our guide: A weekend in Oban – Things to see and do. Adding to its evening charm, the tower is lit up at night by a looping mix of red, blue, green and white floodlights. The shadows and carousels of light make for an extra photography bonus.

The grounds around Taynish House

Taynish House is a more unique site to quietly experience a wonderful sunset. Built in the 17th century, make sure you head up in daylight to bask in the history and enjoy views of Linne Mhuirich and New Ulva before the sun goes down. This area sits beautifully at the end of a peninsula between two sea lochs and Taynish National Nature Reserve is one of the largest original oak woods remaining in Britain. See Taynish House from the sky.

Beach sunsets on Eilean Garhb

Wanting a true off-the-beaten path sunset? Garbh Eilean is a tidal island on Kilvickeon Beach, connected by a sand bar which makes for a unique capture a low-tide. The track down here is a little bumpy (and you should note that there is no vehicular access). Due to free-roaming livestock, there is a ‘No dogs allowed’ policy on this beach.

Arduaine Point

After a satisfying evening meal by the windows of Loch Melfort Hotel Restaurant, a short stroll down our garden path, along the beach, and towards the Arduaine Point is a peaceful way to end your day and take advantage of the magnificent views of several islands. As the sun dips in a sea of orange and reds to the west, its common to see the sky light up in a hue of pinks, purples, and blues across the Highland hilltops.

oban sunset viewpoint from above the city

The art of sunset photography in the West Scottish Highlands: Tips and techniques for beginners

Capturing the perfect sunset photograph, whether for digital posting or print, takes some planning. Researching the optimum location and time will ensure you will have photographs to treasure for years to come.

Get the apps to help with your sunset photography!

Be prepared with a great camera with good dynamic range and high image resolution. If using a smartphone, there are many apps available for amateur photographers to help capture stunning shots. Here’s a couple to get you started:

Golden Hour (Free): Timing is crucial in sunset photography, and the Golden Hour app helps you make the most of it. This app provides information about the golden hour, blue hour, and twilight times for your location. We like that it helps you plan your shoot by notifying you when these ideal lighting conditions are about to occur, and it also has a visual aide to show the direction of the sunset from any specific location – a dream when you’re racing to get to a spot!

Snapseed (Free): An oldie, but a goodie! Developed by Google, this photo editing app has a user-friendly interface and offers lots of great features including selective adjustments, healing tools, and precise control over brightness and saturation. While a lot of smart phones have great pre-built photo-editing tools, Snapseed sometimes helps us enhance the rich colors of sunset photos.

Keep your camera sturdy

You don’t want to go through all this effort, only to produce a shaky photograph. Newer smart phones (in particular) come with incredible night-time modes, but the clarity of these images is still heavily affected by even the steadiest of hands. Consider a tripod or find a safe spot to keep your camera steady to ensure a clear end result.

Note your surroundings

Pay attention to silhouettes in the foreground to add interest to your photograph. This could be anything from people to pets, local wildlife, or castle ruins. We recommend plotting in additional time for after the sun dips below the horizon. While it may feel like the main event is over, hanging around to wait for a second colour explosion will often pay off – this is especially true if there are a few clouds in the sky near the skyline. If it’s safe to do so, wait until it’s completely dark until you pack up your equipment for the night.

Golden Hour: What time to capture sunset moments in Argyll

The golden hour is that magical time of day shortly before the sun sets where the landscape is defined by beautiful natural light. It is well known that this is a photographer’s best time of day capture sunset moments, and a must when looking to enjoy the romantic ambience when the landscape is bathed in a warm, soft light. This short period of time is usually one hour before the sun sets, but is dependent on the location, season, and weather so be sure to plan ahead!

Scotland’s sunset times vary quite dramatically depending on the time of year, especially in the Highlands where the summer nights are long, and the winter nights begin in the afternoon! We’ve provided a rough guide to get you started below:

Spring sunset times in the Highlands

As spring emerges and the days grow longer, the golden hour extends its embrace. From March to May, photographers can expect the golden light from around 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM.

Summer sunset times in the Highlands

From June to August, the sun doesn’t set until much later, offering an extended period of captivating light. The golden hour can start around 9:30 PM and linger until 10:30 PM. As the longest days of the year creep around, the sun can stay up in Argyll until around 11 PM! Go further north, and it may only dip for half an hour or so before re-appearing for a new sunrise.
Photographers should also note that this is peak midge season. These little biting flies might ruin your experience if you plan on a longer photography sitting. Bring spray and consider a full cover up to keep them at bay.

Autumn sunset times in the Highlands

From September to October, the sun bathes the landscape in its warm embrace from around 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, casting a breathtaking play of light and shadow. Golden hour times across this season can be similar to those in spring.

Winter sunset times in the Highlands

During the winter months, the golden hour arrives earlier in the afternoon, an unusual sight for those that hail from locations closer to the equator. From November to February, the golden hour typically begins around 3:30 PM and lasts until approximately 4:30 PM. Photographers might want to note that evenings in Scotland during this period can get particularly cold – so wrap up warm if your planning to wait it out for that magic shot!

Incorporate an Argyll sunset into your travels with a stop at Loch Melfort Hotel

With 17 acres of gardens and beach that looks across Asknish Bay, the Scotland’s Inner Hebridean Islands, and neighbouring Arduaine Gardens, the decking and grounds of Loch Melfort Hotel are widely recognised as one of the best spots to watch (and capture) the sunset in Argyll.

And, for those who’d prefer to capture their images with minimal effort, all our Sea-View Lodge and Suite rooms (that come with balconies) face out towards the waters, meaning you can even enjoy the view from the comfort of your own space!

pink skies at loch melfort hotel