“If forecasts say that the sun will appear after midday it is well worth delaying your start, especially with daylight through to 11pm from April ’til August.”
Weather is important in the Cuillin with wet rock taking twice as long to cross as dry rock. Our guides know the routes so cloud is less of an issue and we also know the routes that are less problematic in high winds. We study the forecasts many times a day to watch how approaching weather will affect us.
Modern forecasts are vastly improved but accuracy depends upon the speed that weather changes. The extremes of settled weather or atrocious conditions tend to be easy to predict but careful interpretation is needed when changes are afoot. Vastly different opinions can be given from respected sources even the evening before at times. Remaining optimistic frequently pays off in summer in particular with so much light available to climb long into the evenings.
For shorter-term and last minute updates.
XC Weather Used by local fishermen particularly for wind up to 5 days ahead. Wind direction is key to the type of weather we get so is always our first site to study. Need to register the difference between solid rain and just passing showers.
BBC Weather For good animations of cloud cover, precipitation etc. I use this for the immediate 24 hours for most accurate prediction of when fronts and rain will arrive.
Metcheck.com This site is now back up and running and I always found to be pretty on the ball.
Mountain specific forecasts
The areas covered are huge and need careful interpretation for the Cuillin.
MWIS.– The Mountain Weather Information Service is usually good for predictions of wind direction/ferocity, temperature, precipitation and cloud-base on the mountains. NW Highlands forecast, which is a PDF download. Wordings need to be read and re-read as north and south can refer to either the UK, Scotland or the NW highlands themselves. Skye lies north of the Great Glen and south of Torridon, often both used to say how far or fast weather is approaching. Often errs on pessimistic side.
Met Office – Met Office Mountain Area Forecast for the Western Highlands. Gives advice up to 5 days ahead. Even bigger area covered than MWIS.
Long term forecasts
Click on one of the 9 days and it allows you to click forward further than the period initially shown. Particularly useful in winter when checking temperature of the air masses.
It’s vital to understand the weather on Skye
Weather changes very, very fast on Skye. Luckily, forecasting has improved beyond all recognition. Generally forecasts for the proceeding 12-24 hours will be very accurate. If forecasts say that the sun will appear after midday it is well worth delaying your start, especially with daylight through to 11pm from April ’til August.
In addition to the rapid changes the island has a big variety of micro-climates. These often follow reliable “rules of thumb” such as heading to the north of the island when there are strong sou-westerlies or climbing on the south end of the Cuillin if the wind is blowing from the north.
Long-term forecasts should only be used to plan the ideal build-up. It is crucial to weather watch in all but the most settled of periods.
No other UK mountains are affected so dramatically by the weather. Wet rock and poor visibility make progress and navigation complex. Conversely, a fine day can turn the Cuillin into a playground for those who are fit and light on their feet. A good day is worth waiting for and certainly shouldn’t be missed with some feeble excuse such as visiting Dunvegan Castle!
How do Skye Guides track the weather?
Specifics are always changing and we get every forecast possible to make our own interpretation.
WINDS- North and East =good South and West = bad!
Not 100% true but a good sweeping generalisation. We get weather straight off the Atlantic from the South and West whereas weather from the North and East tends to catch on the Scottish mainland and leave Skye in a drier “shadow”.
CLOUD- Work out cloud base level.
MWIS is the most useful website for an expert opinion on this but seeing where it lies on the day is still the only sure way.
RAIN- From scotch mist to tropical downpours there are many types…
Avoid being on wet rock if you can as it takes twice as long to travel across dry rock; you won’t regret it! Showery weather can be a lot better than you’d imagine as the rocks dry very fast. So study predictions as close to your outing as possible-
The video forecast on BBC gives the best visual prediction of how weather systems are progressing. National forecast is shown a couple of times an hour on BBC News 24 throughout the day. Reporting Scotland forecasts on BBC1 breakfast television are about 5 minutes before the half hour between 6am and 9am. In the evenings they are shown at about 6.50 to 6.55pm Monday to Friday.
There is a very useful 5 minute video forecast for the week ahead on BBC1 around midnight/1am each night. The projections for cloud and rain for the following 24 hours is very accurate and most useful.