Winter is presaged by the arrival of holiday decorations transforming the village into a twinkling dazzle of colour and nostalgia. Across the island, homes and businesses take up the call as islanders get into the holiday spirit. Craft fairs at Fulford and Beaver Point Halls in early December officially kick off the local gift-buying season, while concerts and other special events vie with Christmas parties for people's time and attention.
At Stonehouse B&B, a sense of calm replaces the bustle elsewhere, and guests can savour the spirit of the season in peace. A fire amidst the Standing Stone Circle is the perfect way to mark the winter solstice and welcome the returning of the light. Christmas at Stonehouse is an elegant, joyful setting for those who wish to get away for the holidays.
New Year's Eve events are held at restaurants and pubs only a short cab ride from the B&B. For those who may prefer a quieter way to mark the closing of the year, the Stonehouse is perfect for a more intimate celebration with friends, old and new.
When all the festivities are behind us, and winter sets in in earnest, the warmth and comfort of the Stonehouse B&B really shines through. Hearty breakfasts fortify guests for their day; regardless of whether they plan to spend it sitting cozily next to a fireplace or bundling up for walks along the seashore, or even searching for treasures in the island's diverse shops.
For those who allow themselves to embrace it, the subtle multi-hued layers of greys and greens that swathe the land, sea and air in winter are a beauty impossible to truly capture on film or canvas. Whether blowing wind churns the waters or a heavy calmness stills it, there is a feeling of closeness and connection with the elements that just isn't as graspable at other times of the year.
Thanks to our location in the most temperate climactic zone in Canada, the lush forests are wonderful to hike through in any season, even in the rain. The carpets of mosses and lichens that were dry, wisps of pale yellow and dull brown in summer are suddenly brilliant green again, contrasting with the starkness of the denuded oaks and maples. Also more vibrant than ever are the sensual Arbutus trees that shed their leaves and bark in the heat of summer, but flaunt their waxy, green leaves in the grey mists of winter. Their most compelling feature, however, is their twisting, sinuous, almost flesh-like trunks and branches whose raw skin now gleams a yellow-green tinge like a classical wrestler anointed and gleaming with olive oil.
Usually there are no more that a handful of snowfalls each winter, and rarely does it stay on the ground for more than a few days. During those times a stillness descends on the island, and the rest of the raucous, bustling world seems far, far away; with only the occasional ferry sounding its horn in the distance to remind you that anyone is out there.
In Scandinavia there is a saying that goes something like: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." This logic that applies well here on Salt Spring Island. As long as you have suitable footwear outerwear you can have great adventures exploring now-quiet trails, parks and shorelines regardless of the weather.
Ruckle Park is a favourite winter destination, not only for its vistas of nearby islands and passing ferries, but also for Ruckle Farm, which constitutes a large portion of the park, where sheep begin having their young. Most people associate lambs with springtime but around here they often come early in the New Year. If you are really lucky, you may even see one being born just a few feet away, on the other side of an old wooden fence. It is a magical experience.
While some close up for the winter, many of the artisan studios around the island can still be visited year-round.
Arriving back at the Stonehouse B&B a fog bank may have enshrouded the Standing Stones, giving them a serene aura that compels you to walk amongst them and contemplate the beauty and mystery of the universe.
Only a few steps away a welcoming fire is burning in the Stonehouse living room, waiting to warm you up while you tell everyone about your day. Perhaps, after tea and scones, you will take a dip in the hot tub and let it all sink in.