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Castles in the sky

I'd been watching the forecast closely all week hoping for a chance of some clear skies overnight as the peak of the most prominent meteor shower in the Northern hemisphere, the Perseids, had arrived.

The Perseid meteor shower happens each year from mid July until the end of August and is a beautiful display of shooting stars from cloud debris left over by comet Swift-Tuttle as it travels by on it's 133 year orbit.

Friday dawned and as I checked the forecast again before heading to work, the thunder and lightening which seemed to have been forecasted for most of the week and not amounted to anything on Arran had gone off radar and in it's place an overnight forecast of mild temperatures, little wind and clear skies.

I was working on Saturday but spent most of Friday day dreaming about what it would be like up high overnight and also how gutted I would be if I didn't make the effort in these promising conditions.

My mind was made up and after a quick gather of kit and some dinner when I finished, I jumped in the car and drove to North Glen Sannox.

Similar to the spontaneous night I had a few years ago on Beinn Tarsuinn, I had a hankering for a particular view point and this time it was looking down from below Caisteal Abhail onto hunters ridge and South across to the deep grooved North face of Cir Mhor and the sweeping ridge lines and shapely summits of the surrounding hills.

I'd imagined what this view would look like under the night sky each time I had passed it walking or running during the day and couldn't fully get this out my head.

I set off with the dog and headed up the quiet path in the heat, the burn was very tempting for a dip but I refrained and just refilled my water bottle before crossing and heading up onto the hill path towards Sail an Im.

The dog certainly took advantage of a dip!

The slow wander up Sail an Im was beautiful, clear blue skies and a very gentle breeze to just about keep the midges away.

Fresh blaeberries dotted the hillside and were a nice treat as we gained height.

As we reached the prominent blocks of granite as the ridge starts to taper out, a large herd of red deer were lit up by the setting sun as they grazed at the top of the Leac an Tobair.

More were dotted along hunters ridge which made a fine scene with the back drop of Cir Mhor and A'Chir ridge.

I'd marked a bivy spot when out running on the hills a couple of weeks ago and after locating the spot, decided to move slightly nearer the edge of the Coire to get a bit more of a breeze as the midges were pretty hungry.

After setting up, we took a wander down to the natural spring on the ridge to re-fill the water bottle and then returned to our spot to boil up some water for some noodles.

The last of the sun lit up the hills a beautiful pastel pink, a fine view for dinner.

Before the light faded I found an ideal spot just away from our bivi to set up the tripod and camera for the viewpoint I'd been dreaming about.

A quick Auto focus to the furthest away point and then a switch to Manual and we were all set.

It was time to dawn the duvet jacket, sit back, replace vital calories and watch the rest of the daylight fade away and the night sky unfold.

Saturn and Jupiter were the first to appear from the South, directly behind Cir Mhor.

This was followed by the big dipper above the Castles to the North West and as the sky darkened, more and more stars lit up the sky until the full extent of the Milky way appeared to the South in all its glory.

With the moon not rising until after 1am, the sky was at it's darkest around midnight and I had to pinch myself with what was unfolding in front of me.

Low cloud slowly crept in from the sea, filled the glens and started spilling over the ridges like dry ice.

Combined with the endless infinity of sparkling stars and galaxies, this was a very overwhelming sight and one that exceeded my expectations of that vision I had imagined.

With constant tweaking of camera settings and checking what I'd captured, the time passed quickly and at around 1am, before moonrise, I decided to try and get my head down for a few hours before my alarm went off at 3.

I use a hoop bivy bag for a little extra head space so just enough space for myself and a very small collie dog to be comfortable.

The dog was first to reach the land of nod and had positioned herself perfectly in line with her nostrils breathing hot doggy breath from her nose to mine.

I managed to stop giggling and drift off enough for time to pass, waking up just before my alarm to pop my head out the bivi bag to see how light it was.

The moon had risen and venus was in close proximity and this combined with the full inversion that had slowly crept in overnight was another overwhelming sight.

The dramatic carved out gullies of the North face of Cir Mhor were lit up by the moon and the mountains had gone from dark silhouetted giants to defined works of art.

I went back to my camera for a while and after a glance above Caisteal abhail summit, two bright meteors shot across the sky right before my eyes - A night that kept on giving!

I packed up my stuff and checked all around with my bright torch to be sure to leave nothing but my bivi imprint( 1 human and 1 small dog) and headed towards the summit for a view North before heading back down off Sail an Im.

The view of the moon and venus with the rocky summit of Caisteal abhail silhouetted against the back drop was immense.

As I set my camera up on the granite wall behind a large drop, I could hear the heavy breathing of sleeping deer from the gully below - Obviously not much wind for out scent to travel!

A magical descent as we wandered off the ridge watching the warm colours of pre-dawn breaking over the horizon and the endless sea of cloud covering everything below us as far as the eye could see.

I could just make out a very faint table top shaped mountain way in the distance and did wonder if it could be Ben Nevis but can't be sure?

As we approached the final narrow part of the ridge on Sail an Im before we were engulfed back into the normality of ordinary life, a final jewel in the crown of a stag on the ridge silhouetted against the inversion.

My camera was packed away, so you'll just need to take my word for it...



Aug 28, 2020

Thank you Solomeeru for your feedback, I really appreciate this.

Spending time in the mountains is what I love and I'm always trying my best to capture the emotion that I experience from being up there at the time.


I am not readily moved emotionally by general images of Arran,s Hills but your recent results have actually done that. I understand your mind-set to achieve such excellence and applaud your endeavours. May you long continue in this field of photography at which , if I may say, you excel

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