Alastair Scott

I set off to travel the world in 1989 with a case of cameras and lenses and a backpack of camping gear donated by Vango which, incidentally, is an anagram of Govan where the business started. The whole shebang weighed an absurd 72lbs (32.5kg) of which the photographic elements comprised a quarter. I soon slimmed down my luggage but not the cameras as I was bent on becoming a travel photographer.

For most of the journey I wore a kilt. It worked a treat for hitchhiking 3160 lifts, attracting my best encounters but also a few of the worst. I had to stop regularly and get what work I could to pay for each subsequent stage and so the journey lasted five years and I covered 194,000 miles.

On my return I started a picture library and wrote a trilogy of books about my adventures, and then cycled 5000 miles behind the Iron Curtain to celebrate freedom from a typewriter (remember them?).

Then to Alaska where I acquired a bunch of reject dogs and a sled and together we travelled across the state to the Bering Sea. I wrote about this in my book Tracks Across Alaska – how I grew to love those dogs. When the journey was over, leaving them behind with new owners was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

All these travels left me feeling that I knew more about distant lands than I did about my homeland so I spent nine months cycling around it. Again, I wrote about it, this time in Native Stranger - A Journey in Familiar and Foreign Scotland.

Then I fancied a sea voyage. It took time to learn the necessary skills but after acquiring a boat and successfully setting (and, most importantly, recovering) its anchor a few times, I made a solo circumnavigation of Ireland.

Currently I’m cycling from Norway’s North Cape to Cape Town (with Vango’s support once more) in stages, managing a leg or two each year until this one, the Year Of Our Coronavirus. My bicycle lies abandoned in Thessiloniki, Greece, chained to a tree in a hostel courtyard. Often I wonder if I’ll ever see it again.

We’re all locked in and like many people I began looking through old photos, some of the 5000 that have survived periodic purges. "Send us five favourite images from Scotland and five from around the world," suggested The Herald.

This, of course, begs the question, what makes a picture a favourite? Is it the image itself, or the circumstances in which it was taken or the story behind it? Must it be perfect, must it be brilliant, can it be mundane, clichéd even?

I decided that it can be any or none of the above. It must simply be an image that speaks to me, that once again evokes the feeling in me that made me want to release the shutter. Here are some of those favourites.

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OK, I accept that a jazzed-up Indian pheasant may not traditionally be considered Scottish but I shot this peacock near Moffat so I think it counts. They’re reasonably common around the country and in 2012 a thuggish troupe of wild peafowl marauded gardens in Gargunnock. I look at this plumage and always wonder whether random evolution and the magic of genetics really can explain such artistry or am I being forced to admit the hand of God?


Our weather can, of course, be miserable but sometimes the grudging release of light by clouds can produce unexpected effects. The day had been unpromising but suddenly the Pap of Glencoe seemed to glow from within along its ridge as I cycled over the Ballachulish Bridge late one summer evening.


Skye was my home for 23 years so inevitably its scenery has long enthralled me. Many of you will recognise the famous Needle: 120 feet high and one of the most memorable features in the other-worldliness of the Quiraing. With an upper layer of heavy volcanic rock balancing on weaker sedimentary strata, the Quiraing is constantly in a slow motion slip. Below the Needle you hold your breath.


I love our Highland Games, our tartans, our myths, the truths we’ve forged out of fabrications, the breath-taking diversity of our history and the sheer exuberance of our culture. Up Helly Aa does not go back to Viking times. It's a late Victorian invention to replace an unpleasant Shetland custom of annually setting fire to the doors of unpopular traders. Let none of this detract from what it’s become – Britain’s largest fire festival elevated to a sacred ritual by proud locals and executed to a lavish degree. I was told it cost £12,000 to build this seaworthy boat, only for it to be burned. But what flames, what spirit!


In Shetland those clumps of wool that drift around gazings and catch on fences are called hentilaggeds. They were already a part of the landscape when I came across this well-dressed ewe in Unst in 1992, the sole example of haute couture among her kind in my experience. I tracked down her owner. ‘Well, she wis losin’ ha fleece so ah jist sewn her up i an old sweeter. It’s whit we allus did, an she’s nae sheddin’ the hentilaggeds noo.’

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