Scotland's secret military ranges revealed in new photo series

The vast, secret spaces of Scotland’s military training ranges have been revealed in a new photo collection.

Wrecks of Cold War era Centurion tanks are among finds made in Scotland's secret militarised landscape by photographer Alex Boyd. PIC: Alex Boyd.

Photographer Alex Boyd has travelled hundreds of miles, from the remote bombing ranges of Cape Wrath to the site of a village in Dumfries and Galloway evacuated during World War Two to make way for training soldiers, to record these militarised stretches of countryside.

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

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He said as he crossed the land – often concealed behind red warning flags – he came across relics from a century of conflict from World War One through to the Cold War, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and 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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Rusting 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, one often hidden behind red warning flags, one that has long interested me.

“Our military landscapes are fascinating environments, where alongside the bullets, the scars of bombing and the machines of warfare, we also have some of the most unspoilt landscapes in Europe."

A fake village used in military training at 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 largest preserved dune systems in the UK.

Boyd said: “They don’t always get it right however. In the south of Scotland I’ve seen an iron age hillfort turned into a Cold War tank firing position, the remains of Abbey Burn Foot ,a village cleared of its inhabitants during wartime, and signs warning about the dangers of contamination from depleted uranium.” he said.

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

As as he stood on the peak - with sandbags at his feet from an improvised sniper position – the silhouette of Ben Loyal rose to the east, the lighthouse of Cape Wrath to the west and the hills towards Sandwood Bay to the south.

Photographer Alex Boyd found evidence of military training stretching 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 the twisted shrapnel and unexploded shells was life – countless red deer sheltering alongside the remains of charred armoured vehicles."

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

The photographer worked with the MoD to gain access to a number of sites, with the exhibition using still and drone photography to reveal “the complex and largely unknown” militarised landscapes of Scotland.

The show also features the work of invited artist Mhairi Killin RSA, who will show work from her series 'Fata Morgana', which explores drone warfare testing in the Outer Hebrides.

The gunnery target of Sgribhis Bheinn in Cape Wrath. PIC: Alex Boyd.

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

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