We are open all year and there are things to see and do at all seasons. Most visitor attractions such as the Arnol Blackhouse, Calanais Stones and Visitor Centre, Museum nan Eilean, An Lanntair, Comann Eachdraidh Nis, etc, are open year-round. Island weather is often unpredictable and you can get spells of settled sunny weather, or rain and wind at any time of year - the weather often changes minute by minute rather than with the seasons.
Winter can be a good time to visit the island, as long as you come prepared with the right clothes. Temperatures are generally mild this far west, with few days of snow or freezing temperatures. Daylight hours are around 8.30am to 4pm. The weather often changes minute by minute - expect anything from sunny days to dramatic storms with giant Atlantic waves crashing in. Clear skies bring starry nights and there is a chance of seeing the northern lights. There are few visitors around and it’s a good time to meet local people and take part in community events at Grinneabhat. Join our weekly coffee morning and other events, sit by the fire with a book, or watch the changing weather sweep over the loch and the hills from the warmth of our cèilidh café.
Birds are busy on the shoreline and croftland – flocks of curlew and golden plover feed on the crofts, and dunlin, sanderling, turnstone, purple sandpiper and ringed plover feed on the shoreline. Sea eagles are frequently seen along the shoreline in winter. February brings the magic of the first skylark song pouring down from a clear blue sky.
Thuirt an gearran ris an fhaoilleach,
“Càit an d’fhàg thu ‘n gamhainn bochd?”
“Dh’fhàg mi e aig an Fhear rinn na dùilean
‘S a dhà shùil air an t-sop.”
Spring is a busy time on the crofts, with the days lengthening, lambs being born, migrant birds arriving, leaving and passing through, and people spending more time outdoors. April and May are the time for turfing and cutting peats, for ploughing and planting the machair and for planting the raised beds and polycrubs at Grinneabhat. Sheep are moved from winter grazing close to the shore to their summer grazings in early May, and the first flowers, such as celandine, violet, cuckooflower, marsh marigold, primrose, thrift and bogbean, start to emerge. May and June are often the driest and sunniest months of the year.
Birds such as whooper swan and redwing leave for their arctic breeding grounds. Wheatears and sandpipers arrive from Africa and terns from the Antarctic. Listen out for the first cuckoos and corncrakes in May, and for the evocative flight song of the curlew over its breeding grounds close to Grinneabhat.
Mar crodh-laoigh a’ tighinn gu baile,
thig sìneadh air an fheasgar earraich.
By midsummer’s day, this far north and west, daylight lingers until almost midnight. This is the time for shearing sheep, for bringing the year’s supply of peats home, for hay-making and for fishing - either in small boats off the coast, or trout-fishing in moorland lochs. The beautiful white bog-cotton flowers on the moorland in June. Late spring and early summer are the best time to hear to the calls of breeding birds around Grinneabhat: skylark and meadow pipit song, the drumming of snipe, the rasping call of the corncrake, and the calls of curlew, lapwing and redshank. By July the summer flowers are at their height, with the machair and Àrd especially beautiful at this time.
Là Fhèill Eòin san t-Samhradh,
thèid a’ chuthag gu a taigh Geamhraidh.
The island becomes less busy with visitors in autumn, making it a good time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. The weather can be lovely during September and October, with the first cold nights, starry skies and northern lights of the season.
Potatoes and other crops are harvested on the machair, and crops are harvested from the Grinneabhat allotments. On the moorland the vegetation begins to take on the russet colours of autumn, the mountain hares acquire their white winter coats and stags roar during the rutting season. Birds are migrating and it is a good time to look for rarities around Loch Ordais, as well as the arrival of whooper swans and other waterfowl, and skeins of geese passing overhead. Twites, finches and reed buntings feed on seeds on the machair. For surfers autumn brings the first big waves of the season. September is the time of gealach buidhe abachaidh an eòrna, the yellow harvest moon.
Mar clach a’ ruith ri gleann, feasgar fann foghar.