When you mention Scottish (or British, for that matter) weather on the Continent, everybody immediately imagines rain, rain, and more rain. Having been on the island three times before I thought this was somewhat exaggerated; after eight months I still do*. I don’t know the average yearly rainfall data, but it seems to me that the difference is more about how frequently the weather changes. A clear Scottish sky in the morning doesn’t mean it won’t rain in the afternoon. A morning rain in Bohemia usually does mean that you won’t see the sun for the whole day. Similarly, floods don’t happen there every year, let alone every month; when they do happen, in the worst hit areas you don’t wade ankle-deep or knee-deep: you don’t wade at all because you would need an aqualung.
I came here in November. Having followed on the BBC website the previous two harsh winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, I was naturally curious what my first Scottish winter would be like. In the end the winter temperatures rarely fell below zero, while in the old country they had a couple of weeks when they didn’t rise above -15C. Several months later they rarely reached 20C while back there they were daily over 30C. I need not tell you I prefer the Scottish model. Except perhaps for missing a bit the picturesqueness of a snowed-in town or countryside.
What admittedly did take me rather by surprise was not how rainy, but how windy the country was. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20: it stands to reason that an island would be more open to winds than a river basin. But it hadn’t occurred to me how much so, although my perception may be partly influenced by spending considerably more time outdoors – and by having to smoke outdoors.
Anyway, in my eyes Scotland isn’t a rainy, but a windy country.
First of all I was however suprised by something else: how clean the air was. Mind you, I’m talking Glasgow, not the Highlands. I hadn’t expected the air to be as polluted as at the turn of the 20th century; on the other hand, I didn’t expect it to be perceptibly cleaner than in Budweis with its six times smaller population and comparatively insignificant history of heavy industry. I put it down to the closeness of the sea as well.
Another surprise was sunsets. I had been used to red ones and suspected people sending photographs of orange ones to the Beeb of doctoring the snaps. After a month and a half here I concluded that not only are orange sunsets quite natural here, they possibly even outnumber the red ones.
Which brings me to the length of nights. During winter I didn’t notice any difference, but during spring it seemed more and more like the dark was coming fairly later than I had been used to. As the summer solstice kept approching I almost wondered whether Strathclyde had white nights. I began making notes and found out that the difference was not imagined. Glasgow lies only 7° to the North from Budweis, yet the longest day was almost one and a half hours longer.**
I already wonder what surprises Scottish autumn will have for me.
* NB: This was written before I learned that 2012 meant the wettest April-June period on record.
** According to the the yr.no website it was 17h 36min in Glasgow (19/6, sunrise 0430, sunset 2206) and 16hr 13min in Budweis (21/6, sunrise 0457, sunset 2110).