Updated: Oct 18
Tourism on the Small Isles has a seasonal push and surge. Starting in April, visitor numbers grow, peaking in July and August, before tailing off again towards the end of September. It’s not hard to see why. The islands are abuzz with activity with visitors joining us from all over the world. The warmer temperatures and longer days mean endless time for exploration and there are lots of events from traditional music sessions to guided tours. It barely gets dark - more of an eternal dusk. Summer stargazers can look north and enjoy displays of noctilucent clouds.
But the islands have much to commend them through every season, especially if you are passionate about the outdoors or wildlife.
Autumn can be a special time. The islands let out a collective sigh following the busy season. The colours of the bracken begin to change and intensify and there are often lingering vivid sunsets. The lengthening nights provide plenty of opportunity to observe the night sky and constellations. Make the most of it by heading outside with a blanket and thermos and allowing your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness or join in on a stargazing course. Wildlife on the islands is more visible - otters become easier to spot and the deer come closer to the villages. In Rum, the deer rut takes place over these months. Stand outside at dawn for the best chance of hearing the evocative sounds of roaring stags. Towards the end of Autumn, grey seals start pupping and, watched from afar, this is a nature experience you are not likely to forget.
Winter is usually the quietest time of year on the isles particularly after Christmas and the festivities have passed. Some days can be wet and wild but just as many days are brisk and bright. Although colder, the freshness and clarity of air make for beautiful photography opportunities. The snow tipped hills of the mainland and Skye make a particularly stunning backdrop.
In winter, we are often joined by creatives who come to immerse themselves in our inspiring surroundings and explore their art through residencies. But there are opportunities for anyone to come for an extended stay and experience island life by staying in one of our bunkhouses for a month or two at reduced rates.
One of the best ways to experience a winter’s day on the isles is to head outdoors for an exhilarating walk. Take in all the elements, from the wind whipping your hair to the taste of the salty sea on your lips. Then retreat indoors to cosy up by the stove with a good book and warming, hearty soup. There is always a danger that your travel plans might be disrupted because of the weather necessitating an extra night or two on the island. Travel to the Small Isles sometimes requires a degree of flexibility.
Spring can be a great time to come over and enjoy the many walking routes on the isles. The paths are clear with the bracken having not yet had a chance to take over. The days are lengthening and the temperature usually agreeable. Check out Walk Highlands for a great selection. Spring is also a significant time for our sheep farmers with ewes lambing all through the spring months. You might have the opportunity to join in on a spot of lambing or help care for a lamb.
By the end of Spring, the puffins will have returned. Head to Canna and enjoy the walk to the puffin spectacle at the sea stacks (Dun Mòr and Dun Beag). Unwind to the sounds of nature and perhaps enjoy a picnic of locally sourced products in one of our more sheltered bays.
Each season has its own delights and visiting throughout the year gives you a chance to really get to know the isles and all they have to offer.