Photographer David McConaghy (@davemaccy) is part of the Shackleton Whisky adventure community. David recently ventured to the Isle of Skye, a small island off of the northwest coast of Scotland, with a group of fellow adventurers. We catch up with him about what the trip had in store.
What drew you to the Isle of Skye?
Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the United Kingdom, and have found a number of places that whatever the season or the weather, I love. The Isle of Skye is one of these special spots — it is vast, unpopulated, and mountainous, with a raw beauty to it that always stops me in my tracks. I call it ‘the land of rainbows’, as they are so spectacular in Skye. Considering its size too, it is perfect for a long weekend of adventuring — you can be climbing mountains in the morning, stumble across a forest by lunch, and finish the day watching the sunset behind the ocean.
Five of you went on the trip to Skye together — how did you all meet?
We all connected initially through Instagram — it is such a brilliant platform to connect with like-minded people as you get a feel for their photography and approach to life. I had met with a couple of the team for this trip on another adventure, but we’ve all been Instagram friends for a long time and admired each-other’s work.
How do you manage new and different personalities on these adventures?
Putting a good team together is the biggest challenge of them all — it takes just one ego to affect the dynamic. But we were all mindful of each other on this trip, and trusted each-others’ judgement, which made for a strong, solid group. Everyone was really friendly (which sounds simple, but really helps!) and we shared the same motivation and curiosity to get out and explore our surroundings, whatever the weather, from first light through to the day’s end. There was one point on the trip where a river had broken its banks, and we needed to cross it — the team came together to help one another over it, and I think this was a testament to all of us not only as individuals, but as a team.
What was your most memorable moment as a group from the trip?
Its hard to cut it down to a single moment, but the very first night when we arrived, we drove down a tiny lane to an opening by the sea, and set up camp. We lit a fire, cooked our dinner over the flames and drank some Shackleton Whisky whilst chatting for hours. When the stars came out, there wasn’t a single light to be seen across the whole landscape — we felt so remote in that moment. The second was when we were at Kilt Rock — Tim was going to abseil down the rock and climb back up it, and as he was doing this, the rain started. Before we knew it, a double rainbow appeared a little way out to sea and we were able to see the entire length of them. Things like this, you just can’t plan.
For aspiring adventurers and nomads out there, how did you get into this line of work? Any top tips?
Follow your passion — believe in yourself and your ability and take inspiration from others, but always find a way to translate it in a way that is yours. I’ve been a freelance photographer now for 18 months and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I didn’t have an extensive portfolio when I quit my day job, but I knew if I worked hard enough on it, seven days a week, and trusted my instincts, it would come good. I also put a lot of effort into building a network of other like-minded people — on Instagram especially. I love how these connections have led to rich, real life experiences that combine adventure to remote places, as well as learning from others that I’ve been lucky enough to have shared these experiences with.
Top 5 Instagram worthy spots in the Isle of Skye:
1. Old Man of Storr — one of the most famed spots on the island, and with good reason. The wild, rugged landscape is stunning, and is dotted with shards of rock that quite literally rise from the earth.
2. Neist Point — a dramatic piece of coast-line on the most westerly tip of Skye, with one of Scotland’s most famous lighthouse's perched a-top it.
3. Kilt Rock — an awe inspiring waterfall that flows right off of the ancient cliff and straight into the sea.
4. Quiraing — the perfect viewpoint over the wild Scottish countryside from the northernmost summit of the Trotternish. Don’t miss the 45 minute trek from here to the Needle rock formation.
5. Sligachan Bridge — an old bridge, now only fit for foot passengers, that has a rushing river flowing beneath it and distant views to the Black Cuillin mountains.