No whisky musings this time, just my thoughts on the Islay Winter.

As much as I love living on Islay, there are days I curse the Winter. This November was one of the dampest months I have ever known. You wake up to a gloomy sky with threatening clouds, rain pours down from dawn to dusk (or it hammers on the Veluxes all night through), shifting from showers to drizzle and back to bucketing. This is when you wonder why you get up instead of keeping tucked up under your warm duvet, listening to Eric Satie’s Gymnopédies, as if you did not have enough of the pouring rain. But, whereas the gymnopédie N°1 evokes a gentle rain, softly dripping on the ground. Reality is altogether different.

As they say on Islay,” if you see Rathlin Island on the horizon, it means it is going to rain. If you can’t see it, it is already raining!”

But when the storm has cleared the sky and let the sun shine in, you can enjoy the most magical nature show. The winter light is oblique, it pours a golden beam on everything, water, fields, woods, rocks, especially at sunset which is at 3.30 pm in December. There is no time to waste when the sun is out. With camera in hand and wellies on, a warm beanie on my head and a thick parka to shelter me from the biting wind, I walk…

The other day, I took a walk on Saligo beach, one of my favourite Atlantic beaches. A fierce wind had blown all night in blustery gusts. It was still brisk in the morning and when I arrived on the beach I noticed the landscape had changed shape. The sand had been blown against the rocks and was partly hiding some of them. The colors were different too. The roaring waves crashed on the shore with a loud splash, throwing white foam in the air.

A symphony of blue and white, like the Scottish flag

I was alone – not many souls challenge that wilderness – my mind felt a sense of eternity while my body reminded me I was mortal! Aching knees and shoulder, a twinge in the back, yes I could feel my age… But being immersed in those powerful and uncompromising elements gave me a bracing energy and I forgot my aches and pains. I had more to do : try to capture the dazzling light with my camera.

The low-angled light gives golden hues to the sand and the rocks

A late afternoon walk in Loch Gruinart, by the RSPB marshes. The setting sun casts gold shades on the land and the barnacle geese glitter in the sky.

At these moments, I forgive Islay winter and I savour how lucky I am to have this beauty on my doorstep.