'Brocken spectre' spotted on Cuillins of Skye shows how the natural world can blow our minds – leader comment

Natural phenomenon, like the Brocken bow or Brocken spectre, can sometimes seem supernatural, but we must resist the temptation to succumb to superstition and seek rational explanations instead
A ghostly sight on Sgurr nan Gillean in the Cuillins, Skye (Picture: Iain Weir/SWNS)A ghostly sight on Sgurr nan Gillean in the Cuillins, Skye (Picture: Iain Weir/SWNS)
A ghostly sight on Sgurr nan Gillean in the Cuillins, Skye (Picture: Iain Weir/SWNS)

If you venture up into the mountains of Scotland, beware! For there are sights so mysterious and strange that they could strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest.

Hiking in the Cuillins of Skye, Iain Weir witnessed one such apparition – known as a Brocken bow or, spookily, a Brocken spectre – in which a halo-shaped rainbow formed around his shadow which had been projected onto clouds lying below the summit.

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He appears to have taken this vision in his stride, describing it as a “magical experience”, but other walkers have feared they were being stalked by a silent stranger or even something supernatural.

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The phenomenon is thought to have inspired the myth of the Scottish Bigfoot, aka the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui. In the 1920s, the respected mountaineer John Norman Collie told of fleeing in terror from one such creature some 35 years before and other climbers came forward with similar tales.

Most of the time, the natural world is pretty easy to understand. Only occasionally does it blow our minds, but that’s no reason to lose them and succumb to superstition.

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