Skye stays dry as the rain reigns

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Media captionSkye has had sunny skies while much of the UK suffered months of rain

Skye's water supply is fed from the burns that run through the springy, purple heather.

But this year torrents have turned into trickles or else they have dried up altogether.

The result has been a summer that combines the best of times and the worst of times.

The weather has been beautiful. Tourists have been flocking to the island to escape the soggy British summer further south.

But crofters are struggling to keep their animals fed and watered.

Image caption The burns have dried to a trickle on much of Skye

At Glendale, near the island's dramatic north west coast, Linda Jackson is one of many islanders who rely on private water supplies.

For six weeks the well at the bottom of her garden has been completely dry, forcing her to use a back up from the mains for both house and croft.

That means more pressure on the public supply which has itself been running worryingly low.

Linda's biggest concern is for her flock of almost 100 sheep and lambs, struggling to graze in a field which runs down from croft to loch.

As they see Linda approaching, black bucket in hand, the animals flock towards her.

She is carrying food which contains vital vitamins, which the sheep are not getting from the parched grass.

Image caption Linda Jackson was concerned about getting water to her sheep

As they swarm around us, nibbling trousers, shirts and microphone cables, Linda tells me about the extraordinary summer.

"It's been the driest we've ever had. Never known sunshine like it. There's not even been any dew in the morning.

"I've been here quarter of a century but I've spoken to people who've been here all of their lives, 80 years, and they've never had a summer like this.

"I mean it's Skye! It rains on Skye. Everybody comes all prepared with their leggings and their wellies on holiday and they cannot believe it because they've come up from areas where it's absolutely poured for weeks and weeks."

Linda is not the only crofter with problems.

Slightly further east, on the Waternish peninsula, Richard Gazeley has run a hose out from his house to fill the troughs for his eight cattle. He explains that he has no choice but to put this pressure on the public supply.

"I've never known it so dry." Richard tells me.

"The burns have dried up so that's our main problem. We have a supply coming down from the house. It enables us to keep the animals watered. We use quite a lot of water each day.

"It's a bit of a worry really."

Normal levels

Further south at Carbost, Mark Lochhead has been having a tricky time too. His task is to keep Diageo's Talisker distillery producing whisky.

But they don't call it the water of life for nothing and the shortage of that key ingredient has made the distillery manager's job much tougher this year.

"We've been able to keep going." Mark tells me, with a hint of pride, insisting that there will be no shortage of whisky.

Footfall at the distillery's visitor centre is up 15%, says Mark, although he admits that the sunshine is taking its toll.

"Our production levels have been varied over the last couple of months from normal production levels to around half what we normally do. That is a direct result of the weather and the prolonged dry spell we are experiencing."

Scottish Water is monitoring the situation closely, not just on Skye but across the highlands and islands.

"It's not a drought," insists John Rae, general manager for water operations, who wants customers to conserve water by, for example, turning taps off while brushing their teeth.

"We are asking customers to play their part," he says, adding "we are also doing our part."

"We are finding and fixing leaks on the islands. And we are putting in place appropriate contingency measures to ensure that customers will continue to enjoy their supply of water."

In any case nature may intervene before those measures are needed.

There is a change in the air. Rain is in the forecast and the message for the tourists is enjoy it while you can.

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