Highlands & Islands

Living on the edge of 'snowball Scotland'

Satellite image of Scotland. Pic: 'NEODAAS/University of Dundee
Image caption A satellite image of Scotland showing some parts had escaped the worst of the weather

Some communities have escaped the bad weather which has caused travel chaos and shut schools in Scotland.

An image released on Thursday by the University of Dundee satellite receiving station showed most of the country blanketed with snow.

But for the islands of Mull and Islay, the weather has been dry and snow-free.

While some parts of Scotland have been white for a week, the isles only saw their first flakes on Thursday night.

Jim Lutomski, who runs a bicycle business in Port Ellen on Islay, said life beyond snowball Scotland had been unusually fine.

He said: "We had no snow until last night.

"It has been quite astonishing - it has been so dry but with no ice on the roads, which is perfect.

"At the moment we have sleet and snow, but Islay has various micro-climates and the weather is very different on the higher ground and also where the land is exposed to the Atlantic."

Mr Lutomski added: "Because of the direction of where the weather is coming from it seems to have expended itself by the time it has reached us.

"Usually we are among the first to get anything that's coming to Scotland."

Sian Dickson at Mull's tourist information office said the island was also seeing its first heavy snowfalls.

She said: "Until last night we've had some really nice days. It has been very cold, but nice and sunny."

Rob Ware, a contributor to the latest Your Pictures gallery on the BBC Scotland News website, said Skye had fared better than other parts of Scotland.

All schools on the Western Isles and most on Orkney and Shetland have been open while hundreds on the mainland were closed because of heavy snow and ice.

Image caption Some islands have escaped scene such as this on mainland Scotland

The Western Isles had its first closure of the week on Friday, however, when Balallan was shut because of a burst pipe.

St Kilda, a small archipelago about 41 miles (65km) off the Western Isles, usually escapes heavy snow and plunging temperatures, according to a regular visitor.

But Gill Pilkington, who has been preparing to leave St Kilda at the end of seven-and-a-half week stay, said this winter has been very different.

Ms Pilkington, a research associate of the University of Edinburgh, said the weather conditions have been nothing like what she had seen in 20 years of visiting St Kilda.

She said: "The snow started on the 27th and there was a good covering by the 28th and it has stayed, which is unusual for St Kilda because of the usual effects of the Gulf Stream.

"Yesterday was the coldest I have ever seen it on St Kilda. I was walking on sphagnum moss and it was like concrete and the burn is almost frozen."

The researcher added: "The light has been just incredible - greys and ice blues."

National Trust for Scotland, which owns St Kilda, withdrew its islands staff for the winter in September.

Ministry of Defence contractors, who staff a rocket range radar station, will remain on the main island of Hirta.

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