Hebridean Autumn

Cows in mist

Falling leaves, pumpkins, bonfires, conkers, mists and mellow fruitfulness, classic icons of autumn. Now add the adjective Hebridean and the picture becomes minimalist, the colours fade and the flames of autumn burn with a different hue. Here the smell of wood smoke becomes the softer, sweet odour of burning peat and the pungency of fermenting seaweed replaces the delicate, decaying aroma of wet leaves and ripening fruit. The echoing call of migrating geese and the roaring stags are more strident heralds of winter than the duet of the winter songs of robin and the blackbird. The rustling of the wind through the leaves is silenced by the bluster of a westerly gale and the beat of the rain against the window.

Scotvein , Grimsay

On a monochrome morning I watch a herd of whooper swans, pure white against the indigo waves, low over the water, wings beating hard against the head wind, seeking a winter sanctuary on the island. The evocative call of the curlews on the beach and the pee-wit of the lapwings in the field has replaced the ethereal song of the larks; the sublime aria of summer is now the haunting lieder of autumn. Melancholia arrives on the wings of the storm and whispers of the approach of winter.

Tomorrow the sun will rise above the hills of the east, conquering the wraiths of the morning mist and burnishing the grasses with gold. These are the glory days of the northern autumn, as sweet and as sharp as rowan berries, as complex as the golden fragrance of an old, mature, single malt. A time to savour and add to the store of memories, a talisman against the demons of winter.

In these distant islands the images of autumn may be different but the metaphors for change, loss and remembrance still cling to this season. A symphony of change, a borderland between light and dark, the journey from summer to winter.

24 thoughts on “Hebridean Autumn

  1. Beautifully written – you’ve captured so many elements of the Hebrides in your post. We visited the islands in the summer and I fell in love with them… but I would think winter there is a very different experience. Hope you get some more fine autumn weather before the winter storms set in.

    • Thank you. There is a hint of blue sky this morning and a promising forecast of some dry days next week. Fingers crossed!

  2. Absolutely beautiful!

  3. Beautifully written and illustrated with evocative photos Christine, I especially love the photo of the cows in the mist. I hope winter is kinder this year, without the storms and gales of last winter.

    • Thank you. there is something about the misty mornings that has my fingers itching for a camera. As for the winter – we’ll take what comes. It’s an el nino year, so who knows.

  4. Beautifully written. X

  5. Hello Christine,
    This is a beautiful post. Words and images synergistic in capturing the mood of a Hebridean autumn. My bucket list includes a trip to the Scottish Islands some time, when we are less committed! Fiona still needs some persuading, but I think a few more posts like this will work wonders!
    best wishes

    • Hello Julian,
      Thank you. I was asked for more photographs, so I’m trying to oblige. I know that it is often difficult to leave the home plot, but you’d love the islands. As an arist Fiona would love the light and the colours.

  6. Beautiful! I love the colours hope it’s not too windy with you…

    • Thank you. When the sun come out the landscape seems to glow. It’s worth it even for a few short hours just to rveive the spirits. After a rather blustery and wet week, it seems to be calming down a little and we’re promised a calm week. So hopefully a chance to get out and about with the camera.

  7. Lovely – do you get autumn leaves there at all? When I lived in the north of Scotland we had no autumn because the wind blew the leaves off the trees before they had a chance to turn. The full glory of autumn leaves was one of the things that struck me when we moved south (a long time ago now) but we did get these fantastic sunsets

    • Apart from a few conifer plantations, we have very few trees. A few scrubby sycamores, some dwarf birch, alder and willow; and in plces where the sheep and deer can’t get them, some lovely old aspen and rowan. There are a couple of areas of deciduous woodland – around Lews Castle in Stornoway and a relatively new plantation of natives in South Uist. So no autumn colour to speak of. It is a combination of too many sheep and red deer, the climate and the soil. I do miss the trees, but there are some great compensations.

  8. Liz Morton

    That is so incredibly beautiful.Thank you.

    • Hi Liz, I think you caught a dose of Hebridean magic last month! No cure, so you’ll have to come back.

      • Liz Morton

        Yes I did & I don’t want the cure! There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of that magical place. We will be back.

  9. Hazel

    Beautiful pictures, beautifully written. X

    • Hello Hazel,
      I was thinking about you yesterday and wondered if you’d catch the latest batch of photos. One of the best autumn’s for ages, but I don’t think we can compete with “fall” on your side of the pond.

  10. A beautiful post. One day I must go North.

    • You’re halfway here – only a stone’s throw to Hadrian’s Wall, then 8 hours drive and a ferry! Or let the train take the strain to Oban and then a ferry.

  11. Lovely words, lovely photographs, lovely place, lovely people…

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