As well as being one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands, it is regularly described as one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland.

A recognised Scottish icon, the image of Eilean Donan Castle appears on more shortbread tins, fridge magnets and calendars than any other.

And yet while thousands head to Localsh to visit the castle each year, only a few have ever been lucky enough to capture an image of the stunning fortress with the Northern Lights illuminating the skies above it. 

One visitor who was lucky enough to do just that was Irish fine art photographer Kristin Gray while on a recent campervan trip around Scotland with her partner and their dog. 

The Irish fine art photographer, from Co Wexford, had only intended to spend a few hours taking some sunset and ‘blue hour’ (twilight) photography at Eilean Donan prior to a visit to Skye. 

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Little did she know she would soon be in for “one of the nights we dream of as photographers” as her camera began to pick up a vivid aurora borealis display above the illuminated castle.

She told The Herald: “I have been to Scotland many times over the past decade. As a photographer it constantly draws me back. We had spent a number of days in Glencoe and then on the beautiful Isle of Mull. Skye is a must for photographers and even though I had been there many times, I felt the pull to go back. However, this time I really wanted to stop at Eilean Donan for more than just the whistle-stop visit and shoot some sunset and 'blue hour' photography, instead of just high-tailing it straight out to Skye.  

The Herald: Aurora over Eilean Donan CastleAurora over Eilean Donan Castle (Image: Kristin Gray)

“I had seen a number of notifications pop up my phone from both Irish Aurora Chasers and Aurora Research Scotland that there was a possibility of strong Aurora being produced from a G4-5 Geo Magnetic Storm. I wasn't holding out too much hope as there was cloud and there was moon, but still, I dared to dream. 

“I was getting some beautiful blue hour shots of the castle, waiting for the water to settle so I could get some nice reflections, when, while I was looking at the sky, I thought I saw something like a pillar, and sure enough, when I let the camera expose for a few seconds, the aurora was clearly visible on the screen. I couldn't believe it. This was a treat, but the real treat was yet to come. It didn’t take long for me to not only faintly, but really clearly see the aurora, not only to the north, but to the the west and amazingly at these latitudes it was visible overhead.

“To say I was excited was an understatement, I was like a kid at Christmas.  I managed to drag myself away to call my partner and our dog out to have a look.  Once the eyes adjusted, I could even see a certain amount of colour with the naked eye which was just an unbelievable experience, and it lasted and lasted. I drove over to Skye Bridge around midnight to get some images from there, but by the time I got there, it was clouded over and barely visible. So I drove back to Eilean Donan, by now the lights of the castle had been turned off, the sky was partially cloudy and I shot some more aurora for another half an hour or so before it appeared to wane and was lost to the clouds. It was absolutely a night to remember.”

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Ms Gray ended up spending more than six hours in total taking photographs at Eilean Donan, with the ‘money shot’ captured around 10pm that evening using her Nikon D750 camera.

The photo has since wracked up thousands of likes and shares online after she posted it on a Facebook group which showcases some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer.

The photographer added: “I still can't believe my luck to have captured the aurora so vividly over Eilean Donan.  I am so pleased also to see so many people enjoying it.  

“As photographers we can shoot so many photographs, but one or two from each shoot will stay with you always and become your 'pets'.

"The aurora shot is one, as is another one I took on my trip called 'Reflections on Loch Achtriochtan' which was published by a prestigious online photo gallery.”

The image is available on Kristin Gray's website here