We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Gordon Cook (@gord.cook) shows us around Europe with his moody but gorgeous photography.
Italy is undoubtedly my favourite country to visit. It has such a wonderful range of weather, landscapes, cities, and, yes, food, that every trip can be unique. There’s always one more rugged region to explore.
That said, I have completely fallen in love with the Amalfi Coast and have visited three times already — there’s nothing quite like the painted, pastel homes of its villages scattered precariously down knife edge mountain slopes toward the azure sea. And no visit is complete without taking the boat to Capri. The island rises almost vertically from the water with tiny white homes clinging impossibly to limestone ledges and, once you escape the bustle of Capri town, winding paths shaded by the verdant canopy of trees and plants lead to silent overlooks, between lemon groves, and to gardens on the shoreline. While many people just stop over for the day, my tip is to squeeze at least one overnight into your itinerary so you can enjoy the island at its best — in the quiet morning light, or on a leisurely evening stroll to your dinner destination of choice.
I was born, and still live, in Scotland so it may seem surprising that I’ve only really taken the time to photograph it over the last two years or so. I bought a DSLR some time ago, mainly to chronicle overseas travels but, as I became more interested in photography, I started to appreciate just what an opportunity my own backyard presents.
Thanks to blustery island weather, the light is always challenging and changing. The relatively mild winters mean that autumn colors often last until spring, painting the scenery with beautiful hues under the glow of a low sun. Despite its small size, Scotland is gifted with a diverse array of landscapes. The tried and tested areas for landscape tourism are Glencoe and the Isle of Skye, but I spent a week in the northwest Highlands in March, in an area called Torridon, and it was unforgettable — scenic Scotland in a nutshell, and all the better for being out of season. Mountains, moors, sea lochs, untouched beaches, tiny fishing villages, curious deer, meandering flocks of sheep, and single lane roads lead to viewpoints you have all to yourself. Perfection.
When it comes to holidays, I tend to gravitate toward sunny coastal destinations, with a big, historic city or two in the mix, and the promise of solid culinary options. Spain, Italy, or Portugal, thank you. But something about Iceland piqued my interest and, against my better judgment, I booked a trip last June. I shouldn’t have had any doubts — it’s a dreamscape.
During the summer months, the days are almost endless and the Golden Hour before sunset lasts the whole evening before a brief purple twilight segues into the next day’s dawn. It’s perfect for a haphazardly planned road trip. The world there is in a constant state of flux and, despite the small size of the nation itself, everything feels BIG. The waterfalls thunder during the summer thaw, serrated mountains loom over roadways, and in the northern part of the country you can drive for at least an hour in the evening without encountering another car. The entire island has become something of a hotbed for large tour groups and instagrammers, so when I visited for the second time, I avoided some of the busier locations — you can do worse than to spend some time in the Westfjords and Snaesfellsnes Peninsula, or hop on a ferry to the Westman Islands.
English Lake District
I live in southern Scotland, and it recently occurred to me that I am as close to the Lake District in England as I am the Highlands of Scotland. With that in mind, I took several trips to the lakes in autumn and spring of last year and fell in love.
The area is somewhat of a juxtaposition to Scotland — instead of moorland, ruined crofts, and stark, chilly valleys below the peaks, there are rolling fields, inviting inns, and small townships hugging the shorelines of cobalt waters. Between the lakes and hills, the land is a patchwork of farms, fields, trees, and ponds. There is nothing better than finding a high vantage point to look down and capture the scale and intricacy of these patterns. I won’t lie — lucking out with a misty, autumnal morning helps, too.
After a short break in Dubrovnik a few years ago, I was eager to revisit Croatia and explore some of its many islands rather than be confined to one — admittedly beautiful — city. When it comes to the isles, there are countless options, all with their own admirers. After some deliberation I settled on Hvar (lovely, but bustling) and for something a little less known in the island of Vis.
If you are visiting Croatia then I have one word for you: Vis, Vis, Vis. It’s one of the furthest islands from the mainland, adding to its more languid pace and solitude, but it is easily accessible by boat from Split. Free of crowds, it houses countless coves and beaches, two Venetian-influenced, gorgeous seaside towns, and miles upon miles of mostly empty roads alternating between hugging the coast and cutting through the hilly farmland of the interior And yes, there is both delicious seafood and wine. The perfect island getaway).