When is the off peak season? Well, it is generally September to April with October to February being REALLY off peak. While the area is truly stunning in summer, outside of this fairly narrow window is when the sights really can be totally different. The colours are different with the skies putting on tremendous shows, the waterfalls have more water, and very often the sun shines. Yes, there’ll be rain, there might be snow and it will be freezing at times. Also, there are fewer tourists – so it’s even quieter. While many facilities shut down for some of the winter, we know what is still open and we’d love to help you make the most of this time of year.
PS – no midges off peak!
Perhaps you’re worried about the weather? You do need to dress accordingly and be prepared for the worst. However, without rain, you don’t get the stunning rainbows. The main roads are usually cleared quite quickly of snow – including the one running past us. The days are short, so you don’t need to be up early – we can help you with an itinerary to make the best of a day, going where the weather is best and getting back before the roads ice over for the night. The snow belt is generally south of us so we don’t get it too bad – and the infrastructure deals with it well. It may often be windy – that’s great as it blows the rain clouds along to get the next bit of sunshine.
We’ve seen the most stunning clouds during the winter including the nacreous clouds (polar stratospheric). Nacreous clouds are pretty rare and very high clouds, known mainly for the coloured light they reflect after sunset and before sunrise. The colours are reminiscent of the colours which reflect from a thin layer of oil on top of water, an effect known as iridescence. The sun often lights up the clouds at sun rise and sun set in an awesome after burn. If you like your photography, the clouds are an essential part of that.
We can see the Northern Lights from our garden – and they can be a stunning sight to see. There’s no denying that cameras see something different to the human eye – did you know that the human eye mostly sees in black and white in the dark anyway? However, standing out with a hot cuppa and watching the lights dance in the sky with the naked eye is a truly amazing experience and it doesn’t take a camera to see this wonder. There’s a good chance of seeing muted greens and pinks even with the naked eye. As we write this, the next 3 years or so are expected to be fantastic years for the norther lights as they tend to show in an 11 year cycle – driven by the solar maximum.
Oh my word, the rainbows are truly fantastic up here. Clearly it’ll be raining when you see one – but the sun will be shining too! They are so vivid and it’s not uncommon to be right at the base. However, we haven’t found the actual pot of gold yet. Look across the valleys, beaches, mountains, fields….wherever, gloriously colourful rainbows are to be seen.
What is a Moonbow?? A moonbow (sometimes known as a lunar rainbow) is an optical phenomenon caused when the light from the moon is refracted through water droplets in the air. The amount of light available even from the brightest full moon is far less than that produced by the sun so moonbows are incredibly faint and very rarely seen. These conditions have happened right here and we have seen a moonbow – on an autumn evening not long after sun set with a low and brilliant moon.
A sun halo is a ring or light that forms around the sun (or moon) as the sun light refracts off ice crystals present in a thin veil of cirrus clouds. The halo is usually seen as a bright, white ring although sometimes it can have colour. Conditions need to be cold and sunny – quite common up here in the northern highlands. It’s so exciting when you’re driving along, for example, and then a phenomenon just appears. If you’re a passenger in the car – keep your peepers peeled and off that phone as you just don’t know what you’ll see.
Wildlife is pretty hardy to stand the winters here. And, because the days are shorter many animals have a much shorter window to get their food – so you have a better chance of seeing them rather than getting up at 3am in the summer. Otters are a lovely sight to see – perhaps playing on a frozen river or hunting in a burn. See amazing stags in the snow as they come off the high tops for shelter. There’s real treats waiting – just got to be patient and get out in the right place. Of course, we can help know the right place – although no guarantees when wild animals are concerned.
We find Spring particularly exciting here. The seasons are so defined and spring is awesome – it really feels things are coming alive again. There are daffodils everywhere and we’re really proud of our tulips at Ceol Mor. The flowers that are most stunning though is the gorse (locally know as whins). They cover hillsides and cliffs with the most vibrant yellow and give off a light coconut type smell which is just wonderful. Escape the polluted city and have a break with us where your nose will have a treat too!
The days are short in the winter…but, this means a lie in and then watch the sun rise. Sometimes it feels like the ‘golden hour’ lasts all day as the sun rises and rolls across the top of the hills opposite us before setting right in front of our lodges. Watching it light up the mists and clouds is fabulous – and it genuinely provides some solar gain for the lodges. From November to early March the sun rises are just the best…and then the sun sets take over.
With virtually no light pollution, the night skies here can be tremendous. As well as staring at the milky way, also see the planets. Mars, Jupiter and Venus can often be seen with the naked eye. In the photo here – taken before the sky was even dark, we see Jupiter and Venus with the moon on between. Mars genuinely has a soft pink hue. When dark skies return in September after the long summer days, it’s so exciting to see the stars and planets again.
How can we help you enjoy an off peak break up in the Northern Highlands? Just drop us a line and hopefully we’ll give you the confidence to book a break and see sights that you will remember for all your years. We’ve had visitors tell us that they have made lifetime memories at Ceol Mor…come and make your own.