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Issue 23 - Saligo Bay, Isle of Islay

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 23
October 2005


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Saligo Bay, Isle of Islay

Photographer Andy Hall captures the favourite place of former NATO secretary general and Labour minister Lord George Robertson

I visited Islay for the first time in the summer of 2004 in the course of taking photographs for A Sense of Belonging to Scotland: Further Journeys. Saligo Bay is the chosen place of Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen, former NATO secretary general. When I saw it for the first time, I realised that I couldn’t have had a more beautiful introduction to this lovely island.

Saligo Bay lies on the west side of Islay and is a photographer’s dream. An accomplished photographer, Lord George had sent me a very atmospheric shot that he had taken and a description of what lay in store for me when I got there. I was not to be disappointed.

I have photographed many beaches in Scotland but Saligo has everything. The rocks are marbled with a multitude of colours and the sand produced some of the most intricate patterns that I have ever seen on a beach. But the thing that sets it apart is its characteristic clear, luminescent light.

Having spent the whole day on the sand and in amongst the rocks, the lighting conditions in this photograph didn’t make an appearance until 10 in the evening.

Many people pack away their camera when the sun disappears but this is evidence that a wait beyond the sunset will provide some of the most rewarding light you could imagine.

I took lots of shots during a magical 20 minute period but chose this one for the symmetrical reflection in the wet sand. It seems to double the impact. In his accompanying narrative, Lord George writes: “The island of Islay is unique. Its trademark whiskies, nature, scenery, and rich history make it stand out among Scotland’s greatest national places.

But among its greatest strengths is its light. There is a distinctive purity and clearness of the light, in all Islay’s varied weathers, which I have seen in few places.

This is especially so at Saligo Bay on Islay’s North West coast. This photograph captures a hint of what that brilliant, illuminating light does.”