An Autumn Island

Image © Lewis Mackenzie 

It’s autumn, the clocks are about to change and here in the Isle of Harris the new season has been heralded in many different ways.

Like much of the Outer Hebrides, our landscape is often bereft of trees, their trunks and tall branches long since lost to the strong winds which sweep in from the Atlantic.

So, the traditional scenes of russet-red foliage and falling leaves is a rare one for us. Instead, the natural world of our island communicates its changes through a myriad of other means.

Our northerly latitude means the days have quickly shortened, and wild weather fronts are now beginning to batter our shores with Storms Ali and Callum already making their presence felt.

Those of us who cut their peats this summer will be lighting fires in their hearths already, bringing the familiar drifts of aromatic peat-smoke to our scattered villages.

In the high hills of Harris, the sound of the stags can be heard, their bellows marking the start of the rut, when battles are fought over breeding rights by the big males of the red deer herds.

In the rivers which flow from high mountains to sea, the Atlantic salmon are swimming upstream, striving to reach their spawning grounds as the circle of life begins for them once more.

New life can also be seen around our rocky shores as grey seals bring their pups into the world. Each single white-coated newborn will need to learn quickly, being left to fend for themselves after just a few weeks.

For local crofters, the seasonal cycle is marked too, as they release their best rams among free-ranging flocks of sheep. With brightly painted briskets, these black-faced beasts will soon be busy breeding lambs in time for next spring.

Finally, beneath the waves, our precious Sugar kelp seaweed is slowly undergoing a period of peaceful regrowth. 

The defining botanical ingredient for our Isle of Harris Gin, we prefer to harvest its gold-green fronds during the summer months, which also allows a welcome break for our diver Lewis as the water temperature drops.

For our part, our distilling work will also be experiencing a change or two this autumn, as we prepare to undergo a little growth of our own. More on that soon, but meantime let’s raise a glass to this wonderful time of year, as our island calendar continues to unfold.

Wildlife images © Lewis Mackenzie

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