One of the best things about owning a remote-control drone is that it allows you to take pictures from on-high. Using this capability, an amateur snapper can get shots which, not so long ago, would have required a Hollywood budget and a hired helicopter. Mounting a camera to the bottom of a drone is fairly straightforward, and the results more than justify the effort, especially if you’re shooting the right location at the right time of year. Many drones even come with the camera pre-attached, making drone photography even simpler.
Fortunately, the UK offers a wide variety of suitable locations for this kind of thing. Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the best. We’ll favour countryside locations over urban ones, since they present less difficulty when it comes to safety and the law — but if we’re being honest, it’s the countryside that often presents the more spectacular opportunities for drone photography. Let’s look at some of the best locations for UK drone photography.
Scots have a little bit of a natural advantage when it comes to landscape photography. The further north you go, the more eye-popping the scenery becomes — to the point that you might find yourself driving through an area that looks like it’s come straight out of Lord of the Rings.
The Isle of Skye is an excellent case in point. It provides more than its share of vast geological marvels. There are huge rocky escarpments, sweeping sections of coastline, and sprawling marshes. In fact, Visit Scotland has used drone footage to sell the place. Just bear in mind that the weather up in the Hebrides can be a little bit unpredictable — make sure you head up during summer.
The Peak District
This chunk of the southern Pennines shares many of the same virtues as the Scottish Highlands, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. You’re likely to spend a lot of time walking across hilltops, and capturing the sunlight crawling across the valley floor below from on-high. You should have a slightly easier time transporting your drone here, as the roads are that little bit more accessible.
Of particular interest is Stanage Edge, which provides views across an enormous expanse of moorland, but which is just a short trip from Sheffield. If you’re local, you can just throw the drone in the back of the car and make an afternoon of it.
For those based a little further south, the Cotswolds represents a more appealing destination. There’s not so much in the way of vertical variety here, with this part of the country being slightly flatter than the other areas we’re discussing. What’s more, most of the appeal to tourists comes from the country houses and quaint little villages, which you might struggle to shoot from a drone. But there are still plenty of outdoor locations where you’ll be able to get some spectacular footage — perhaps of some rolling green hedgerows with little villages in the background, complete with churches.
If you’re looking to spend time outdoors in Wales, then a visit to Snowdonia is almost obligatory. Of course, there’s the mountain to consider; you’ll be able to get a train to the summit during summer, but bear in mind that the crowds around there might interfere with your plans, and that if you’re looking for those golden-hour shots, you’ll be inhibited by the train timetable, which runs from 9am during the season.
This part of the world has more to offer than the main mountain itself, however. There’s Bardsley Island, from where you’ll be able to get great coastal shots, with the lighthouse as the centrepiece.
Before we leave Wales, it’s worth mentioning that other area of spectacular natural scenery in the region: the Brecon Beacons. You’ll need to be careful about where you’re flying around here, as large swathes of the area are actually owned by the Ministry of Defence. Still, if you do your homework, there’s no shortage of incredible flying opportunities to be lapped up in this part of the country — with countless castles ripe for exploration (and overhead surveying).
The Lake District
The Lake District is arguably the most popular area of natural beauty in the country, and a major tourist draw, especially around Windermere. Naturally, if you want shots of lakes, it’s a great place to go. But you’ll also get countless hill-walking opportunities, most notably in the form of Scafell Pike — the highest point in England.
We couldn’t finish this list without at least briefly mentioning the tallest peak in the country. You’ll get spectacular views on all sides, along with bragging rights for having conquered the summit. You can use either the Mountain Track or the more fearsome Carn Mor Dearg Arête to reach the summit. In the latter case you’ll be scrambling across boulders over eleven hours or so, which might be a problem if you’re also carting a cumbersome drone up there. Plan your trip accordingly.
If you get there on a clear day, you can enjoy a drone-flying experience that’s difficult to rival. Bear in mind, however, that it isn’t just Ben Nevis itself with an enormous amount to offer in this part of the country — you might find Aonach Beag, Stob Choire Claurigh or the Mamores just as incredible, and slightly less crowded.
A word on the National Trust
The National Trust, as you might expect, is having to put up with more and more drone-pilots turning up on their properties. Given the difficulty of determining which of these pilots are actually trained and qualified, they’ve decided to impose a blanket ban. These are enforced by bylaws.
Obviously, flying a drone near to a historic building is never advisable if you don’t have the necessary permissions. But this can also apply to areas where bird life is present, as drones can obviously disturb them.
When planning your trip, make sure that you aren’t going to be operating on National Trust land, and that you are on the right side of the law whenever you take to the skies.