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Rare Brocken Spectre Spotted From Beinn Mhòr

A group of walkers were treated to the rare sight of a Brocken Spectre from Beinn Mhòr in South Uist, western Scotland. The Press and Journal reports that a small group of walkers from the Free Church in Balivanich captured the magical sight on camera as they scaled the 2,034ft ridge.


What is a Brocken spectre?

A Brocken spectre, sometimes also known as a Brocken bow or mountain spectre, occurs when the enlarged shadow of an observer is cast onto a cloud or mist. The wraith-like image looming out of the clouds appears to the observer as a giant spectre, hence the name.


It is referred to as a Brocken spectre after the mountain in the Harz Mountain range in the Central Uplands of Germany, where it was first reported by a pastor named Johann Silberschlag in 1780. The Brocken is covered with cloud or mist for at least 300 days in every year, and is a rich source of tales of the supernatural.


As the sun shines from behind the person casting the shadow, water droplets of varying distances can be illuminated, and rainbow rings of light form a halo around the shadow, known as a glory. The strange and uncanny optical illusion can occur on cloudbanks or misty hillsides, and can sometimes be cast by an aeroplane flying through clouds.


Fiona Norman from the group of walkers on Beinn Mhòr described the experience as ‘magic.’ She said: “On Saturday September 10, a wee group from my church took a walk up Beinn Mhor in South Uist. “The weather was fab, sunny, the top of the hill was shrouded in mist. That’s how I got the photo- the sun behind me and the mist below on the ridge.”


Not surprisingly, this spooky natural phenomenon has inspired poets and writers throughout the ages, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens. It also gave rise to the myth of the Scottish Big Foot, after a Brocken spectre was spotted on Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms, which is the UK’s second highest mountain.


According to the BBC, the honorary president of the Cairngorm Club and experienced mountaineer, Professor John Collie, related an unsettling experience he had on the mountain when out walking in the late 19th century.


Prof Collie said that when out walking on a misty winter’s day, he heard the tread of heavy footsteps in the snow behind him, and thinking was being followed by a dangerous creature, fled off the mountain as fast as he dared. This gave rise to the legend of the Big Grey Man, which other walkers came forward with stories about.


Some of these walkers claimed to have seen as well as heard the Big Grey Man. While myth and legend fans might prefer to embellish the stories with their imaginations, it seems as though there is a rational scientific explanation for this particular fairy tale.


If you would like to have the chance of spotting a Brocken spectre for yourself, why not sign up for a Skye Munros course.


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