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Summer's Slow Close

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The last signs of summer, Isle of Harris. Image © Peter Kwasniewski

While the autumnal equinox is still some weeks away, the alternatively termed meteorological summer is set to end on August the 31st.

But, as is nature's way, the seasons rarely stick to a set schedule, particularly in these times of quick-paced climate change.

Even without access to a calendar, subtle signs across the island suggest that summertime is passing and things are about to turn once more.

A blackface sheep pre-shearing for the summer, Isle of Harris.

The flocks of sheep scattered across the crofts of the Outer Hebrides are one such indication. The rams and ewes will have been well-sheared by now, and their fleeces showing signs of regrowth.

Their lambs are fat on summer grass, and while some will still bother their mother for milk, most will now be ready for weaning. It can be a noisy time of separation, but things soon settle down...

Out at sea, the dolphins and whales scoop up the last of the summer bounty of mackerel and herring, while local fisherman will still be filling their creels with lobster and langoustines.

Purple patches of blooming heather. Image © Annie Spratt

On the moor, peats are almost dry and ready to lift, and upon the hill, the heather bloom is reaching its peak, painting the landscape with the purple of their bell-headed blossoms.

Wild thistle crowns add to the mix, still attracting the attention of Great Yellow Bumblebees, and the wildflowers of the machair are enjoying a last hurrah.

But, elsewhere, the vibrant greens are beginning to fade as the first ferns turn and the bracken browns, and both start their slow decline as Autumn approaches.

Bill Cross (and friend) at the peats, soon to be fully dried and brought home.

Perhaps the surest sign of change is the swift shortening of the days. The darkness begins to fall much faster with each passing evening, and soon the last light will slip even further.

These ever-dwindling days prompt the passing on of migratory birds, and it won't be long until the tell-tale time of pre-winter gales rock the last of the tourist campervans.

We'll be sad to see the last of summer after being blessed with many hours of sunshine and countless dry days this year, as we've enjoyed watching the island come to life once more.

Soon the sound of stags will resound across the hills. Image © The North Harris Trust

But, the months which lie ahead are full of promise, and soon the Red Deer stags will start to roar from the hilltops as the annual rut approaches.

Here at the distillery, we'll remain busy making both gin and whisky to bring a bit more of this beautiful island to you, no matter how far you find yourself from our shores.

So, as summer's slow close comes to pass, let's say "slàinte!" and raise a glass to the seasons' endless cycle.

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