Croagh Patrick - a Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory Panorama

Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory as seen on Croagh Patrick, Ireland Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory as seen on Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Croagh Patrick Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory

Ireland is a magical place, many myths and legends abound of superheroic endeavours and mysterious peoples.

That magic didn’t disappear centuries ago either, it still exists.

Here is a case in point, a panoramic image from Panoramic Ireland of one of the most well known, and most holy of Irish mountains - Croagh Patrick in County Mayo.

The 764m conical quartzite mountain rises above Clew Bay with its reputed 365 islands (much less in reality) and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Often the weather at sea level is fine and balmy, but on top after the gruelling climb it has dropped significantly and cloud moves in.

This is the site of one of Ireland’s traditional pilgrimages, on the last Sunday in July thousands of people make their way to this peak to climb for penitence and absolution. Many still observe prayers and stations of the cross on their long, slow shoe-less climb. I have climbed Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday several times, and a few times outside of the July pilgrimage.


On each occasion, the winter climbs have afforded the best views and finest weather. Surprisingly, the end of July on a tall Atlantic mountain is often clouded in.

A case in point, the end of January 2008 and a winter’s afternoon climb of this iconic, conic mountain saw better weather at the top than at the base.

We took our time ascending the easy start, the saddle and the dangerous scree slope to reach the top to be greeted with views of majestic scenery.

A few minutes later, alone on the church-topped peak we were treated to a magical scene of a Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory - see the panoramic image below:

Panorama of Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory on Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Panorama of Brocken Spectre and Ringed Glory on Croagh Patrick, Ireland

There has been a church on top of Croagh Patrick since the 5th century, today’s building dates from the 1910s.

What is a Brocken Spectre I hear you ask. And what is a ringed glory?

Both are magical phenomena - the brocken spectre takes its name from the Brocken, a mountain in Germany’s Harz Mountains where low sunlight shining across the mountain creates a shadowy figure opposite to the direction of the sun.

The ringed glory is also due to the low angle of the sun, creating a rainbow halo around the viewer - again opposite to the direction of light from the sun. A bit like a saint’s halo in paintings.

Technically here the camera is seeing its own brocken spectre and ringed glory, each person standing to your side would see their own and not yours or anyone else’s.

There are references to the brocken spectre in Irish history and strong references throughout Europe.

Panoramic Ireland’s photography workshops are available to book, throughout summer, autumn and winter 2020.


Last modified on Sunday, 26 July 2020 21:44
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