This week may feel like a little taster of summer with some lovely bright days and temperatures on the rise, but it has been a turbulent weather picture so far this year.
Storms, flooding and arctic blasts have characterised the first few months of 2014 but what will the summer hold have in store?
Stornoway Gazette weather correspondent Eddie Graham has put together a guide for visitors on what to expect when holidaying in the Isles during the summer. This will be published in full in our tourist guide Island Life due to be published and available free across island outlets in May.
Take a look at our montage of weather from across the islands over winter 2013/14 and into the spring.
Eddie Graham’s weather guide to Summer in the Hebrides
Tourist literature often shows the beaches of the Outer Hebrides bathed in a golden sunshine, but how true to reality is this? Isn’t the truth more one of mist, rain and midges?
Here, I will attempt to debunk the various myths associated with the weather during summer in the Outer Hebrides (comprising the islands of Lewis, Harris, Benbecula, Barra, North and South Uist). For the sake of convenience, let’s consider “summer” as referring to the holiday period from May to the end of August.
Sunshine: The long-term statistics from the Met Office reveal that May and June are the two sunniest months of the year, with an average of six or seven hours of sunshine every day across the Hebrides. During most Mays or Junes, a week or more of glorious sunshine is a frequent occurrence.
Warmth: In terms of temperature, July and August are warmest months, although they are appreciably duller and wetter than either May or June. Average daily highs reach about 16 to 18degC, falling to no lower than 10 to 12degC by night.
Rain: A moderate fall of rain is likely on about 11 or 12 days of either May or June (one out of every three days) – but for July and August, this figure creeps up to about 15 (1 in every 2 days). There is considerable variability in rainfall from year-to-year, however. For example, the summers of 2012 and 2013 brought heat-wave and drought conditions, causing many wildfires. At the opposite extreme, July 2009 was extremely wet – a small tornado caused damage in Stornoway, and there was a flash-flood following a massive cloudburst of rain.
The following list of “Weather Tips” may help you when planning any activities this summer:
Weather Tips for the Hebrides
The best time for sunshine is usually during the morning on east-facing coasts. Conversely, west facing coasts are sometimes sunnier in the late afternoon and evening (due to a “double-sun” reflecting off the sea).
If you arrive at the beach only to find a chilly sea-breeze spoiling things, find a rock or some sand dunes to shelter behind - these can act as very efficient “sun-traps”.
Light northerly winds sometimes bring a deck of low clouds to Lewis and North Harris – if this is the case, head for South Harris, the Uists or Benbecula, which are often sunnier in the same meteorological situation.
Conversely, if it’s a southwesterly gale that you want to avoid – then head for the Lews Castle Grounds in Stornoway which are a great place for a healthy stroll in the fresh air.
Sea temperatures hardly reach above 14degC at their warmest in August, but after a sunny day, the top foot or two of water can become quite balmy for bathing in at some beaches.
But please always be careful if swimming in the sea! Even on the finest of summer days, powerful currents have been known to drag swimmers away to their peril.
The Highland midge is prevalent from June to August; if this wee visitor is spoiling your picnic, head for the coast or the tops of the hills, where a breeze often keeps them at bay.