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The Machair Months
Posted on: 22nd June, 2018
Yesterday saw a celebration of the estival solstice, the longest day of the year and the start of summer. Here at the northerly latitudes of the Isle of Harris, we were treated to blue skies and 18 hours of daylight as the sun rose at 04.25 and finally set at 22.24.
A sure sign that the new season is upon us can be seen along our island’s western shores, as the land known as ‘machair’ begins to fully bloom. This unique and fragile ecosystem is a joy to behold at this time of year, as the coastal grasslands erupt into a riot of wildflowers.
Their natural carpet of colour changes as the summer rolls on. A bright white sea of daisies will give way to hundreds of yards of yellow buttercups before the sea pinks, purple clovers and rarer orchids, trefoils and bluebells battle it out.
The machair also holds an abundance of wildlife, from the endangered corncrake crexing long into the night, to the rare great yellow and moss carder bumble bees. All around are lapwings, curlews, buntings, oystercatchers and breeding terns and waders.
Further inland, great swathes of bobbing bog cotton sweep across the moor, their white heads listing lazily in warm winds. Locals who cut their peatbanks in Spring will be stacking their peat 'fàds' into ‘rùdhain’, drying them out in preparation for collection at summer’s end.
Out at sea the water is warming to a balmy 12-15c while huge basking sharks gulp at plankton and jellyfish drift in on the tides, washing up on our beaches in an array of sizes and colour. Salmon, seatrout and mackerel are all on the move, keeping the local seals well fed too.
While we can’t always guarantee wonderful summer weather, there’s no doubt our island is alive and full of life at this time of year.
The distillery is incredibly busy with visitors eager to share our story and spirit, and the evenings are long and bright enough to enjoy a few good measures of Isle of Harris Gin at the end of the working day.
Here’s to the machair months, and all the bounty they bring!