Scotland’s secret military shooting ranges revealed in new photo series

By on September 9, 2021 0


Cold War Centurion tank wrecks are among the finds made in Scotland’s secret militarized landscape by photographer Alex Boyd. PIC: Alex Boyd.

Photographer Alex Boyd has traveled hundreds of miles from the remote bombardment areas of Cape Wrath to the site of a village in Dumfries and Galloway evacuated during WWII to make way for the training of soldiers, to record these expanses of militarized countryside.

Boyd ventured deep into the sites owned by Military of Defense, one of Scotland’s largest landowners, to illuminate the sites.

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He said as he crossed the country – often hidden behind red warning flags – he encountered relics of a century of conflict, from World War I to the Cold War, in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and to the recent failed campaign in Afghanistan.

Traces of recent conflict training at Tain Air Weapons Range with these dummy insurgents found lying in a ditch. PIC: Alex Boyd.

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Rusted tanks, spent bullets, fake villages and dummies of insurgents were among the traces of a country training for war.

Boyd said: “There is another Scotland, often hidden behind red warning flags, one that I have been interested in for a long time.

“Our military landscapes are fascinating environments, where, alongside bullets, scars from bombing and war machines, we also have some of the most unspoiled landscapes in Europe.”

A fake village used for military training in Tain Air Weapons Rage. PIC: Alex Boyd.

He said the military presence protected the landscapes from further development, with the sites becoming places of conservation, as well as destruction. The Tain Air Weapons Range contains one of the UK’s largest preserved dune systems.

Boyd said, “However, they’re not always right. In southern Scotland, I saw an Iron Age fort turned into a Cold War tank firing station, the remains of Abbey Burn Foot, a wartime village emptied of its inhabitants , and signs warning of the dangers of depleted uranium contamination. ” he said.

The photographer, who has worked extensively on St Kilda, Lewis and Harris, said the view from the summit of Sgribhis-bheinn in Cape Wrath, a hill that has been bombed and bombarded continuously for decades, was the one he “would never forget”.

As he stood at the top – with sandbags at his feet from a makeshift sniper position – the silhouette of Ben Loyal soared to the east, Cape Wrath Lighthouse to the west, and the hills towards Sandwood Bay to the south.

Photographer Alex Boyd has found evidence of military training spanning over 100 years. PIC: Alex Boyd.

He added: “However, below me was a lunar landscape – a site of utter devastation – thousands of shell craters made by warships, bombers and mortars. Yet even here among twisted shrapnel and unexploded shrapnel, there was life – countless red deer sheltering alongside the remains of charred armored vehicles. “

The images now form Boyd’s latest exhibition, Tir an Airm (Land of the Military), which premieres in Edinburgh later this month.

The photographer worked with the Department of Defense to gain access to a number of locations, with the exhibit using still photographs and drones to reveal Scotland’s “complex and largely unknown militarized landscapes”.

The show also features the work of guest artist Mhairi Killin RSA, who will feature work from his series “Fata Morgana”, which explores drone warfare tests in the Outer Hebrides.

Sgribhis Bheinn’s artillery target at Cape Wrath. PIC: Alex Boyd.

Tir an Airm will open at the Stills Gallery, Cockburn Street, Edinburgh on September 30.

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Aerial target on Moor near Fashven, near Durness., Sutherland. PIC: Alex Boyd.


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