We swore we would never battle the harsh Scottish climate again. A promise that flew us to the Canary Islands this February to shoot our 2015 campaign video - a project that required sun, beaches, sun… and more sun! It seems odd then that we would follow up by filming in a somewhat less sunny location — what were we thinking?
Growing up in Scotland, we have naturally adopted an undeniable enthusiasm. An endless need to make the very best of every situation - no matter what life - or the Scottish weather - can throw at us. Tens was born through optimism and seeing things differently, and this summer we embarked on an adventure back where it all began.
We attempted to chase the Scottish summer - something we’ve been doing for years. We arranged a crew of friends for the road trip, and organised all the kit we would need to pull off a Tens first - 360º video!
What we needed…
- 8x Friends, 2x Cars, 3 Tents, 2x Drones, 6x GoPro’s + a 360 Cage we bought the day before we left…
To experience on mobile, watch via YouTube app: http://tens.co/360 (Latest version of YouTube app required to view. Please ensure that your device is up to date). If you’re viewing on desktop, click & drag on this video! (Or use arrow keys)!
Before heading north, we obsessively checked the forecast and put together a rough hit list of key locations. As we left Glasgow on the Sunday morning and hit the road towards Glencoe, it was soon evident that where we ended up this week was not going to be up to us. As ever in Scotland, the unpredictable weather directed our road trip. As we ascended above sea level through the Glencoe valley - the clouds began to descend.
We grabbed supplies and continued north to Glenfinnan to catch the passing of the famous Jacobite train — more famously known as the Hogwarts Express! We were full of coffee & raw enthusiasm, and had all the film equipment organised ready to go. Despite the coming bad weather, we were super excited to get the drone in the air and start filming!
There was only one suitable time for us to see the train pass on this gloomy Sunday, and this had to be worked out from the time it left Mallaig further up the coast. We hiked towards the viaduct (which is MUCH bigger close up) and up a ridiculously muddy / mossy hill to get to the best vantage point. This was a struggle whilst carrying all sorts of heavy (and expensive) equipment! In addition to this, not having a free hand to itch your midge bites is a Scot’s worst nightmare. Luckily it was still dry at this point, so we immediately got set up for flight. A few of us hadn‘t seen the drone in action before, so we were just as excited to see it in the air as we were getting the shots.
The test flight went well, but then then it got wet. The S900 drone is a tough piece of kit. With its carbon fibre skeleton, strong propellers and a very competent pilot - very little could go wrong in fair conditions. However, to minimise weight, the drone‘s electronics are completely exposed — any liquid making its way into the circuit boards or in the rotors could prove fatal.
We must have been about half an hour ahead of schedule. We wanted to make sure that if we saw the train‘s steam edge around the hill, that we would be ready to fly IMMEDIATELY. Tourists began to form on both sides of the bridge - annoyingly on our side as well - fluorescent jackets in a pretty landscape shot = disaster. However, the arrival of people was a good sign as it meant that we hadn’t missed the train! We experienced truly terrifying hints of rain - especially as by this point the conditions had been relatively pleasant.
Things then got stressful.
We ran back for more jackets and blankets to cover the drone as the rain picked up, and just as it got worse - we see the train... The Jacobite was rolling around the mountain, and we simply could not fly. We threw every jacket, blanket we had over the propellers and unfolded the arms and rushed for the handheld FS7 so we could at least capture the train rolling over the bridge.
After the train passed, we loaded up and drove back down the road towards Fort William and came to Corpach — a small town just a few minutes outside. We were staying at a small bunkhouse there which slept 5 of us - Sam & Brian camped in the van in the car park for free! After a few too many whiskies (the only acceptable quantity) and a shot of the jukebox in the local pub, we got some rest in preparation for our early start the next morning.
We left the bunkhouse for Mallaig at 7am to catch the ferry to Skye. It was super wet. Most definitely the darkest, greyest Monday morning of this summer. Would we turn back? Absolutely not!
Seeing the black and white Caledonian MacBrayne lift its nose to allow the cars on board brought back fond memories of holidays to the western isles as kids. We headed straight to the top for coffees and prep. Despite the wet grey skies, the sail over to the Isle of Skye was a beautifully refreshing experience — eradicating both sleepiness and any hints of a hangover we had accumulated. The sounds of seagulls, the crashing waves and pretty much every single car alarm going off sub-level in the choppy waters of the northwest seas… instant nostalgia.
After filling our respective cars / vans to the brim with fuel, we twisted through the rain towards the north-west of Skye — hoping for a break in the clouds. The first hit on our Skye-list was the Neist Point Lighthouse. We parked up, took the gear through the mossy trickling bogs and found a point looking out to sea in hope of getting the drone in the air. The relentless battering of the harsh coastal wind rendered it an impossible task. Disaster. As enthusiastic as we were, we found it difficult to believe that the sun would show its face here in Skye that Monday - but we carried on down the windy roads to chase it anyway. If we believed it, it would have to appear!
We shot what we could and re-packed the cars. With a MetOffice report refreshed on GPRS signal, it was not looking great. We simply had to leave Skye today. We were chasing Scottish summer, and we were not going to find it here. Time to point towards the mainland.
On the way towards the bridge back towards Kyle on the mainland, we came across a promising lay-by. The rain had stopped and the clouds began to part. By this point we had not yet been able to get the larger S1000 drone in the air. This was the ‘heavy lifter’ that could carry our 6x GoPro housing. We stopped at this open patch of heather in between the road and the sea, climbed through nettles, leaped over barbed wire fences with the equipment and got up in the air to film. We were chuffed that we got something filmed in Skye - so not quite a wasted day.
Typical Scotland. As soon as we came off the Skye bridge and hit the mainland the skies opened up and the sun burst through the clouds. We had reached our next landmark, Eilean Donan castle. We came off at an earlier turnoff and utilised the whole team to get the drones ready to fly ASAP. We met a few dogs, and watched as tourists stared in disbelief at the size of the drones we were trying to get into the air. We took off by the water, and got the 360º drone setup in the sky for that epic castle shot in the sunshine.
Finally, blue skies ☀️
We were in full-on super-production mode. As the skies got brighter and the colours of the landscape saturated - our excitement to shoot increased exponentially. We drove inland through the creases of the green valleys and managed to get up in the air again! The roads around here were stunning. Ever-twisting and continuously dramatic - the Scotland we know and love. We then found the most perfect, peaceful lay-by next to this swooping road. Smooth curves and biblical rays of light hitting the valley. This was a wonderful spot for getting some signature shots with the Penny skateboard - hot roadside coffees courtesy of Brian’s van.
We continued inland after a couple of scenic spots, and reached the small town of Fort Augustus to set up camp - our ONLY night in tents! Tom set up a makeshift office by Brian’s van to dump footage on-site. We doused hot sauce on our portably-barbecued sausages and finished the night with more Scotch in tin camping mugs - it’s the done thing!
The next morning we made our way towards our hometown of Beauly. As we had been camping off-the-grid in for the night, we needed somewhere to charge the drones and the cameras. We really did want to camp every night, but it was simply impossible with the plethora of batteries we had to charge. So we went to Marty‘s for tea and plug sockets.
That afternoon was activity time! Our pal / trusty drone pilot Sam stays up on a farm near Beauly, with plenty of motocross bikes and ATVs to play with.
After a quick blast on the bikes and a check of the forecast, we decided to head east towards Morayshire. First on the list was Dulsie bridge - a favourite jumping spot of ours.
At 260 years old, the Dulsie Bridge was dreamlike. The most perfect ancient arc bridge above smooth rocks and a still plungepool by the waterfall. Kris and Tom were straight in the water. With the sun fully out, we managed to get both drones in the air.
Just down from where we parked the cars was a lovely steep decline onto the bridge - which, despite the loose gravel, was a dream to skate down. We were on the lookout for oncoming traffic as Marty flew down and made it over the bridge. Kris shortly followed, picked up speed wobble early on and flew off his board. He slid onto his side and skidded roughly 4m to a halt. There was a lot of blood and the fall tragically claimed a £2 Primark tee. His Tens on the other hand were completely unharmed! We captured what we needed underneath the bridge, packed up the cars and followed the sun.
We stayed at an apartment in Inverness for the third night and rewarded our efforts thus far with warm cans of Stella.
The next morning we headed south down the A9 towards Aviemore. The skies were grey but it had stayed dry! First stop was Loch Morlich. We hired 3 canoes with the 360º GoPro rig strapped to the middle of one - and battled the wind and strong current towards a secluded river. The conditions calmed as we found ourselves in a still tributary. We dodged and ducked every hanging branch - forgetting we had a very tall and very expensive piece of kit on board filming us from above. Once we reached the shore, we glamorously tossed a frisbee around in the sand, got back in the cars to head up the mountain.
Day 4 and we hadn‘t flown either of the drones - it was already nearing 3pm and the weather was definitely not improving. We drove straight up to the Cairngorm mountain car park, and got the 360º rig up in the air for possibly one of the most dramatic shots of the trip! The valley opened up and it was just bright enough to capture that Scottish summer glow that we all know and love.
For the final day, we brought it back home. After a night under our own roofs, we drove out towards Glen Cannich. Firstly we flew up and down a river. Sam was even gallus enough to dunk the rig into the water, however sadly this didn‘t make the cut!
Just as the skies opened up, we hit the perfect spot.
Glen Cannich is like a postcard. Deep blue waters and incredible green hills - still with patches of snow (in August!) from our previously harsh winter. At this point in the trip we were able to park up, lay out all the equipment and be in the air in minutes. We managed to get both the 360º tour of the lake, and the still shots for our behind-the-scenes edit. We made one last stop at a quiet forest spot to take the drone high above the trees - and then we wrapped!
We attempted what we’ve been doing for years - chase the Scottish summer — and we found it!
Check out our behind-the-scenes edit of our adventure up north below!