Jim Richardson@jimrichardsonng

NatGeo photographer: Scotland, environment, agriculture, wee places. Nonconformist, island zealot, backroad wanderer. Writer, lecturer, gadfly.


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Now for something different. This week I’m back at Santa Fe Photo Workshops teaching iPhone photography for travel. Great locations like Eaves Movie Ranch where I did this shot in the “saloon” at the last workshop. I’m taking over their Instagram feed if you’d like to follow along. Full class, much fun. @santafeworkshops #santafe #iphone

Eaves Movie Ranch

Should you be lucky in your island travels through the Outer Hebrides you’ll get yourself invited to a ceilidh. (Say “kay-lee” quick with the accent on the “kay” and you’ll be close.) If so the community hall will be the scene of Gaelic music and dancing, some singing, maybe a poem, food, much talk, probably some drink. (This one on Catholic Barra tended towards tea.) It’s a social gathering, not a performance, so do your bit and take part. All ages mingled and swept up together. Memorize a Robert Burns poem before you go and you’ll have something to contribute. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

Castlebay, Eilean Siar, United Kingdom

Rioting wildflowers take over the Outer Hebrides in summer, down near the beaches where the machair lies. In Gaelic it means “fertile plain” but in summer island life it means carpets of flowers like Irish Lady’s tresses and the Hebridean Spotted Orchid, a place for corncrakes, ringed plovers, and great yellow bumblebees, all wanton and promiscuous. Shell sand blowing up from the beach makes the soil alkaline. It’s poor pasture for cattle but rich fodder for botanists, who pretend at scientific rigor when in fact they are just intoxicated like the rest of us. The machair will do that to you. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides


The Outer Hebrides are a place of splendid isolation and therefore much beloved of seabirds — and hence beloved by the people who love seabirds. Anchored here in the bay of the Shiant Isles the air was alive with Puffins, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and the rest that come in multitudes to nest and breed in early summer. In Gaelic the Shiants are called Na h-Eileanan Seunta, the Enchanted Isles. Author Adam Nicoloson has owned them and done much to make the seabirds welcome (the invasive black rats had to be eradicated.) His new book, The Seabird’s Cry, invokes love and care and duty for these wonders. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

Eilean Mhuire

When it comes to weather in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland the best thing you can take with you (besides wellies and serious rain gear) is the right attitude. If you think weather is a free bonus feature of your trip you will be happy. (If not then you should probably go to the Caribbean.) The old saw that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing is accurate in Scotland. I’m one who relishes meteorological moods (like this morning fog rolling across Lewis) And should it pour relentlessly then sitting by a peat fire is in order, where you can discuss the value of Scots words like dreich. (Look it up.) #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

The Isle of Barra’s main (and only) town Castlebay has a castle in the bay, naturally. Kisimul Castle gets its name from the Gaelic cìosamul, which means “castle island.” (Naming things here follows a certain pattern.) The castle is still the ancestral home of Clan MacNeil, but they gave it to Historic Scotland under a thousand year lease. (It’s wise to make plans well in advance.) The island’s nine hole golf course is built on common grazing land so along with sand traps the hazards include grazing cattle and sheep. Flights into Barra land on the beach at low tide so the schedule follows the waxing and waning of the moon. There’s more but you get the drift. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

Castlebay, Eilean Siar, United Kingdom

The wild pony stood in the rain next to me, drenched and sodden, on the road to Skipport on North Uist, that low narrow island that tapers down into South Uist and thence to Barra. Blessedly, the pony was patient, standing there long enough for me to finally see what was in right in front of me, the linking pattern in its mane, swirling Celtic connections in a brooding landscape. Travelers to the Outer Hebrides should find as much contentment in rain as in sunny beaches, because you will get both, and much time can be wasted waiting for the weather (and life) to get better. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides


Travel across the moors of Lewis to the west coast — making Timsgarry your destination — and you’ll come to what might be the most spectacular location for an inn in all of Scotland. Baile na Cille sits close to Uig Beach, which drains completely twice a day making for a pleasant walk to the far dunes where some visiting Vikings lost their chess set, the famed Lewis Chessmen, a thousand years ago. (Ask innkeeper Richard, he knows everything about the area, including the world’s first rocket airmail flights to a nearby island.) #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides


The Isle of Lewis is loaded with megalithic ruins, romantic reminders of all the folk who have been drawn here before you. Dun Carloway is on the way to the west coast, just above Loch an Duin, and juicy with history. It’s a broch, built as they all were about 2,000 years ago, very likely by traveling crews of broch builders who could make your dwelling the most impressive in the island neighborhood. Still formidable in 1601 the cattle thieving Morrisons were hiding out inside when the MacAuleys (who wanted their cattle back) found them. Donald Cam MacAuley is said to have climbed the walls and smoked them out with burning heather. (MacAuleys, Morrisons and cattle still live around here.) Stones were “robbed” from the walls, probably to be found in farm houses down the road a bit. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

Dun Carloway

Going to Scotland? Everyone lists the Isle of Skye high on their list, but I’m here to tell you there are further delights beyond, in the Outer Hebrides, worth a journey on their own. The Isles of Lewis and Harris hold treasures like the incomparable Luskentyre Strand tucked amongst myriad lochs, coves, mountains and beaches blessedly tranquil compared to Skye’s crowded summers. In the next few days I’ll share some of my favorites, collected over the last 25 years, along the the journey and down North and South Uist to Barra. If you savor unique authentic experiences, this is place. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative #lovetheouterhebrides

Luskentyre Beach

Reading The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson has me remembering a fine day amongst the puffins on the Shiant Isles. These small islands off the coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides are stunning breeding grounds which Adam has worked hard to enhance in recent years by eradicating the invasive black rats. His book is a lyrical, heartfelt exploration as well as a plea to protect these birds and their home in the North Atlantic. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative

Shiant Isles

Loch Maree in the Highlands of Scotland was stunning that morning, so I couldn’t resist pulling out my iPhone for a quick shot in between shooting the big pans with the Nikon. Amazing what phone cameras can do and my photography has gotten a big boost of creativity and fun from exploring with my iPhone. Santa Fe Workshops has invited me back to teach travel photography with an iPhone next month, March 11 - 16. We’ve still got space if you’d like to join me in Santa Fe (not a bad place to photograph.) Follow the link to the Santa Fe Photo Workshops site for full info. Hope I see you there. #scotland #traveling_scotland #hiddenscotland @natgeo @natgeotravel @natgeocreative

Loch Maree