A Scar Gained At Scarr Mountain

Scarr (‘Sharp Rock’) is a mountain that I have not visited often.
This is a shame.
It’s a great walk and it has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and hills.
It’s not a difficult walk navigationally, and I devised an interesting (though quite long!) route starting from the lower lake of Glendalough.
Following the Wicklow Way from here up through Brockagh forest, then descending the lower slopes of Brockagh East Top (still along the Wicklow Way) brings you down to the Military Road at Glenmacnass. From here I crossed the road and headed up to Paddock Hill, onto Dry Hill (ironically named, I might add) and from there I finally went on to the summit of Scarr itself.

I found this walk quite tough this day. It was very humid and there were widespread showers about. Very changeable weather, one moment sunny, another moment heavily overcast then the next moment – heavy rain showers. Pretty usual weather for Wicklow!

Anyway, near the start of the walk, along a section of the Wicklow Way within the Brockagh Forest, my attention was brought to the bracken growth. This stuff really shoots up, it grows almost as you watch it. Brockagh Forest Bracken copy.jpg

Further on up the Wicklow Way at Brockagh Forest, a particularly wonderful view of the valley of Glendalough opens up in through a gap in the woods.Gleno copy.jpg

Moving on, through the forest and a short descent takes you across a bridge over the Glenmacnass river and shortly after that I crossed the Military Road to start the ascent of Paddock Hill.

Partway up Paddock Hill, and the bracken is swarming here also. Nice blue skies to boot!
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Looking back over to Glendalough now, and the shoulder of Brockagh East that I walked from earlier comes into sight. Also, beyond that, the cliffs of the Spinc rise above the forestry.
The green fields of Wicklow!
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Using my long lens, Scarr does not look too far from here. But distances can be deceptive, and when using a long lens – space is compressed so that further away objects appear closer. This is not the best angle to photograph Scarr from, as it’s an interestingly shaped mountain. Though it’s curiosity is not completely apparent from this angle. A humpy ridge I would liken it to.
Scarr copy.jpg

At Paddock Hill, and between it and Dry Hill; there are quite a few large boulders (or erratics) lying about. Erratic copy.jpg

Definitely a change in the weather coming. Skies to the south in the above photograph look to be mischievous and the wind is blowing them this way!

A short shower now, but then the sky started to clear a small bit. So I took a couple of long range shots. The first, looking over to Tonelagee and Mall Hill with the waterfall of Mall Brook visible.
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This second long range shot, looks over to Lugnaquilla (mostly in fog) as it towers over the shoulders of Camaderry and Brockagh.
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Almost at the summit now, and the weather is fine at this moment.
Scarr Summit copy.jpg

Shortly after this, I headed to the summit proper and took shelter from the winds and ate my lunch. Ham & lettuce sandwich. Decent enough. I had some grapes as well! I needed the fuel this day, I ended up doing about 26km!

Dropping down from the summit to the north east slightly, I obtained a nice view of Lough Dan and the cone of the Great Sugar Loaf in the far distance. This is a great part of Wicklow, popular too.
Lough Dan copy.jpg

It was here that the first ‘Scar’ in the title of this blog post occurred and reader caution: this tale takes a sinister turn now. I placed my camera down gently onto a jagged rock, so that I had my hands free to remove my back pack. It was not when putting the camera down that tragedy struck – it was when picking it back up.
I had picked it up using the hand grip but somehow the camera strap had got caught on a jutting out section of rock, and yanked the camera free from my hand. An almighty wallop was heard, probably as far afield as Wales. I frantically picked the camera back up and searched for wounds. It was scarred in the body just below the memory card door, the force had pushed the door open also – and now I could not get it shut tight. Oops.
I am so careful with my gear, but this is like 4.5k worth of equipment!
All is well though, I used a pair of pliers to gently bend the metal back into shape. Phew.
Sensor/lens mount alignment is fine, and the Sigma 35mm Art lens shows no signs of decentration after my week of testing. PHEW. Good gear costs money, but good gear can take a knock or two. Let’s not see if I am right about the ‘knock or two‘ part. No more accidents!!!

Another perspective on Lough Dan and the Sugar Loaf.
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Heading back to the summit of Scarr now, and midday is approaching. I can see temperature differential occurring now, so long range shots will be hampered by this – especially where the sunlight hits the ground (and thus heats it).

There is a cairn on a few of the multiple bumps of Scarr, this one I liked.
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From here, there is a great view of the Military Road itself, with a backdrop of humps and bumps – the largest one visible below being Mullaghcleevaun (Wicklow’s second highest mountain), slightly left of centre. Barnacullian to the left of it, Mullaghcleevaun East to the right and the rocky face of Carrigshouk below that. This would be a great shot at sunrise I think. Idea!Military Road copy.jpg

Heavy showers in the south now, and I can see they are heading this way.
I am returning to the car at this point anyway, and I have my waterproofs on in preparation.

Baahh!
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Bleurgh. Heavy rain until I arrived back at the car, and the camera remained safe from the rain in my rucksack for the whole 9km or so back from that last photograph. Not a bad walk though!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook!

A lot of time and effort goes into this blog and the images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

A Return To Log Na Coille

Yes, I went to Log na Coille (Lugnaquilla) again :-). One of the many advantages of frequent visits to a particular place, is you notice new things of interest each time, new ways of looking at the same things and also you increase your chances of being there when something magical happens. The weather plays a vital role, and it is never the same from one day to another in Ireland.
I must mention that there are many other great places in Wicklow, but Lugnaquilla is my favourite. It’s a very special place.
Reading the weather forecasts (yr.no) I was under the impression that there was to be a strong temperature inversion. If my information was correct, this would be the second time I would witness an inversion at the highest point in the east of Ireland.

After a very frosty drive to the Glen of Imaal (careful on the roads, now), I left my car at Fentons Pub at around 5:30 am ish. I’d like to note that there was still traditional Irish music coming from the pub at this time, a great start to my day and this put a smile on my sleepy face! It would appear that this is not an unusual occurrence on the weekends!

Hiking up Camara Hill in the dark has become somewhat of a habit for me, as this would be the fourth time I have done this part of the walk in the dark. I have a brilliant 225 lumens headtorch that lights my way, which is an essential piece of gear. However, the sky was so clear and the crescent moon so bright, that it might have been entirely possible to simply allow the stars and the moon to light my way on the frosty path up Camara Hill.Crescent copy.jpg

At the top of Camara Hill itself, a familiar (to me at least) view appears. Lugnaquilla with a herd of deer (bottom right, though small at this resolution) about an hour before dawn. It was still dark so this was a long exposure photograph.Lugnaquilla predawn copy.jpg

Looking down to a frosty Glen of Imaal.A frosty dawn copy.jpg

Climbing up the two Corrig’s (see my checkpoints on a previous post about this walk here), the sun had started to rise, and the final challenge before I arrive at the plateau of Lug itself was ahead of me. I always love this section, it’s a bit of work to get up and the views open up considerably on this slope. From here we can see evidence of the inversion itself, with considerable fog in the lowlands of the south.Inversion II copy.jpg

On the summit plateau of Lugnaquilla itself now, and most people head straight to the top proper from here. But instead, I like to follow a very small path (easy to miss this one) that skirts the rim of the north prison. I have never been overly bothered by summits themselves really, in Wicklow the summits are often the least interesting part of the mountain. The North Prison copy.jpg

Yes, not too warm here. The north prison receives no sunlight at this time of year.

Some more inversion fun happening here, with the ‘whale hump’ of Tonelagee (the third highest mountain in Wicklow) looming behind what looks like a castle on a volcanic mound. This is no castle, and that’s no volcano! This is the upper lake of Turlough Hill power station, Irelands only pumped-storage hydroelectric system. Turlough Hill and Tonelagee copy.jpg

Leaving the north prison rim now, and heading for the summit. There is a curious direction finder nearby. I’ve often looked at this and tried to ‘pick out features’ that it points to. A great way to spend a morning for nerds like me!Direction Finder copy.jpg

Heading towards the south prison now, it’s certainly always worth checking out both prisons if it is a clear day at Lugnaquilla. From here we can see the shoulder of Cloghernagh mountain with a snow patch leading us to some low (lower than I was) clouds. A wonderful day to be here.Cloghernagh copy.jpg

Here is a wider view of my vantage point above the south prison.The South Prison-2 copy.jpg

Crystal blue skies above the thick layer of fog that seemed to envelope everything that was (by my estimate) between 500 and 700 meters above sea level in this view. Luckily for me, I was at about 900m above sea level here, and although the clouds had the appearance of moving towards me, they didn’t ever reach me.

It would be a rare weekend day that has clement weather where you have Lugnaquilla to yourself, and I most certainly did not this day. Personal feelings aside feel about crowds and other people in general, sometimes they have their uses and can add a sense of scale to a photograph, and a depth that would not be attainable otherwise, so I was grateful to these two:Walkers in Wicklow copy.jpg

And also these two (or rather, two and a dog!):Walkers in Wicklow II copy.jpg
Starting to think about returning now, I’ve been out a long time and sunset is only a few hours away. As always, incredibly difficult to drag myself away. On the way back, I tend to take one last look over the north prison as it’s sort of on the way back. The North Prison II copy.jpg

The fog in the lowlands to the south was also worth another shot I thought.Fog copy.jpg

And here is the return journey, both Corrig humps (Upper and Lower) and Camara Hill itself with the flat floor of Glen Imaal beyond.Corrigs and Camara copy.jpg

Beautiful blue skies above Lugnaquilla as I descend, a rare day (especially for a weekend!).Lug copy.jpg

I always dread the descent at Camara Hill, very tough on the knees, especially with a heavy rucksack. But I had the fortune to meet three chaps I met earlier as I was descending Lug (and they were ascending), it was great chatting to these guys and it took my (pretty tired at this stage) mind off the torture of that descent!

A final glance over to the long shadows at Lug itself, another great day in the hills had!Lug II copy.jpg

P.S. I will try to show another part of Wicklow next time, but Lug keeps pulling me back!

Thank you for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Facebook here!

The images presented here are my intellectual property and must not be distributed without my consent.

Lugnaquilla From Fenton’s Bar – The Sequel

Sequels are always tricky.

Having covered a lot of ground in my original post on this hike here, it’s difficult to decide how to follow up in the second installment. But fear not! Lugnaquilla is most certainly not a one trick pony.
On my last visit to this mountain, I concentrated my efforts on the ‘North Prison’ of Lug, so a logical return trip should focus on the other ‘prison’ – the South Prison.

The journey from Fentons Bar to Lugnaquilla might be perceived as the least dramatic route up to the mountain, but it is the most direct. And when you have injuries, you can give yourself permission to ‘take things easy’ and do only a 20km straight forward hike instead of a 20km taxing hike (terrain wise). Plus, I always enjoy walking through the forest in the Glen of Imaal at the very start of the journey, a pleasant walk in itself. Autumn Track copy.jpg

But of course, I had bigger goals this day than a simple forest trail, so I got up early (5am), knowing that the days are much shorter at this time of year. I took the above photograph shortly after sunrise itself, I started my walk at roughly the same time as sunrise in fact. I was debating mentally if I would get up earlier and catch the sunrise over Lugnaquilla, but I was suspecting that it would be in fog early in the morning.
I was right and thus my ‘lie in’ was vindicated! Lug in fog copy.jpg

It is disheartening as a photographer who wants to photograph from a mountain top when it is still miles off, yet completely obscured in fog. Especially so for someone like me who has to watch how many kilometers I hike at the moment (due to leg/foot problems), along with the fact that I have a full time job, so time can be scarce sometimes. No, the mountains do not pay me to visit and photograph them, wouldn’t that be great! Ascending higher now, and the monarch of Wicklow is still in fog. I was gambling on the fog burning off as the sun got higher though, so I pressed on.Lug in fog still copy.jpg

Readers of my previous posts about this route will be familiar with Camara Hill, the mid section of the route up to Lugnaquilla – the highest point in the east of Ireland. Here is a shot I took looking down on Camara Hill from the slopes of Lugnaquilla.Looking down to Camara Hill copy.jpg

The final stretch to the monarch itself is gentle enough from here but there is a rocky section, with some ankle snapping holes. This section would require a lot of care in deep snow, so – pay attention! I was hoping for snow this day, as the forecasters had ‘warned’ snow accumulations on ground above 500 meters above sea level. None was seen this day unfortunately. I won’t blame the forecasters too much, as the weather in Ireland is extremely fickle, and it’s not like I could do a better job. It looks like the fog is lifting at Lugnaquilla now. I am not typically a gambler but today my optimistic gamble paid off.Fog burning off copy.jpg

Near the summit now, and the conditions have changed somewhat. It’s like walking into another climate in fact – howling winds and very cold. I was prepared for this. This was 3 fleece, thermal base layers and winter jacket weather!  Or as I say, 5 jumper weather!Frost copy.jpg

I really love this time of year, and it’s only going to get better as winter starts to tighten its icy grip. Frost II copy.jpg

Very windy up here, so the tripod is no use. Tripods are great but they can stifle creativity somewhat sometimes, just because they can be awkward beasts to maneuver – especially if you are shooting low down to the ground (because of high winds). Here is a photograph of a jagged rock taken from the rim of the North Prison.North Prison rim copy.jpg

A little bit later in the day, as the temperature increased to a balmy 1.4° C. I love this little gadget, and I am not usually impressed by gadgets, but this one, I like. I took this overlooking the North Prison, with the north-westerly winds head on – blows out the cobwebs! Conditions were much worse earlier on but I was too busy taking photographs.54.8 copy.jpg

I didn’t want to linger overlooking the North Prison here, as I wanted to head over to the South Prison this day. The warmer of the two ‘prisons’, due to the north receiving little to no sunlight at this time of year. All this yabbering and still no photograph of the South Prison! Well, here is one now:The South Prison copy.jpg

I took this with my 35mm Sigma Art lens, a wonderful piece of gear and all 36 million pixels of this photograph are bitingly sharp. Of course, I have downsized this (and I do with all of my images) for web use. The original Nikon raw file weighs in at over 75 megabytes and the tiff file I extracted from this is well over 200mb.

From here we can see (at left) the ridge that leads over to Cloghernagh Mountain (a blog post near this area here), and the large ‘dumpling’ shaped mountain to the right is Corrigasleggaun, a beautiful place that overlooks Kelly’s Lough (the lake is hidden by Corrigasleggaun itself here). I will plan a trip to Corrigasleggaun again one day, but the last time I was up there was when I took my dad up here when he was visiting from the UK (I am English). A wonderful day that was.

Here is another shot of the prison, with the formidable cliffs below abruptly falling off in the foreground. The South Prison 20mm copy.jpg

Exploring the South Prison rim, a brilliant, though hazy this day, view of the Ow Valley comes into sight. A beautiful, and infrequently visited area. I like this aspect of the valley, less visitors mean less walker damage/erosion and litter, It also means the chance of some solitude! There are lots of hidden gems like this in Wicklow. Those who concern themselves with Lugnaquilla simply because it’s the highest mountain in Wicklow might never witness that actually some of the lower summits are in fact just as interesting. But Lugnaquilla is my favourite for reasons different to the fact that it’s simply the highest.Hazy Ow Valley copy.jpg

I was really struggling here, I was trying to photograph the Glen of Imaal with the Sugar Loaf in the distance. The 50-60+ km/hour winds coupled with my wish to use a telephoto lens meant pixel level (at 100% view on PC screen) sharpness was tricky, but not impossible. With longer lenses, any camera movement/vibration at capture time will impair pixel level sharpness in the shot. It should be noted that my camera hand hold technique is not perfect, I freely admit this :-). I am usually holding a camera after exertion, so my hands would not be the steadiest. I demand pixel level sharpness, so I knew I needed a fast shutter speed. 1/2000th of a second did the trick, the ISO had to suffer because I knew f/5 was the widest aperture for the Nikon 85mm 1.8G that would deliver sharpness across the frame – anything wider would give soft corners in the image. And that my friends, is a real bugbear of mine! On a further note, that old rule of hand-hold shutter speed equivalent to (or slightly faster than) focal length is simply wrong in this day and age of high resolution camera sensors. 85mm would mean I could hand hold at 1/85th second (no such shutter speed so let’s say 1/100th). Not a chance in hell of pixel sharpness at that speed, anyone who tells you otherwise is basing this off an 8 by 10 inch print at ‘acceptable’ quality, which is fine but why limit yourself to that size? I have a few photographs at home printed at larger than 24 by 16 inches and I did not shoot those using that rule! The rule probably works fine for the average Facebook photograph though, so I suppose it’s all down to technique, expectations, levels of acceptability, fussiness, how discerning you are and what you want from your photography. I have been told by Nikon Support themselves, that I am the fussiest customer they have ever spoken to in Ireland. I am not sure that was a compliment, but I took it as such.

Glen Imaal copy.jpg

Anyway, tangent over, probably should start to leave soon. Such an amazing place, and I do not wish to leave but the clock is ticking and it’s going to get dark (and cold)quickly once the sun goes down. Off the summit now, occasionally glancing back as if saying goodbye to a departing friend. Looking back to Lug copy.jpg

The name Lugnaquilla comes from the Irish ‘Log na Coille’ which translates to ‘Hollow of the wood’ – I am not sure which hollow the name refers to, but I am guessing it could be the North Prison which looks particularly imposing at this time of day.Looking back to North Prison copy.jpg

Although there are no trees here now, I am assuming that at some point in times past there were possibly dense forests that covered the mountains, hence the ‘wood’ aspect of the name. A beautiful clear evening, at this point I would have spent about 9 hours fumbling my way around this area!

Back down to Camara Hill now, and as always, pay attention to the military warning signs. It’s easy to forget that you are hiking on a military artillery range sometimes.Warning Sign copy.jpg

I thought it quite fitting that I was at the Glen of Imaal forest trail as the sun rose that morning and also at the same trail as the sun set. Autumn Trail II copy.jpg

And thus ends a great day at a magical place.

Thanks for reading!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my portfolio site where you can see lots more of my work, or follow me on Facebook here!

A Purple Carpet at Cullentragh Mountain

I have been suffering from a bit of a ‘flare up’ this week – large amounts of pain in the Achilles tendons, lower back, knuckles of hands and various other areas. I spent a large part of the latter stages of last week and Saturday nursing this and resting. I put it down to the stress of everyday life!
Not cool, man!
Well, I wanted to go for a gentle walk on Sunday morning so I took my wife and my favourite little hiking buddy (Casper the Bichon Frise) to Cullentragh Mountain.

Casper copy.jpg

Lovely conditions for a hill walk, partly cloudy skies (nice to be in the shade on ascent!), only to be greeted by the warmth of the Sun at the summit, with a refreshing gentle breeze!

Cullentragh is not a place I visit often, which is a shame.
It’s a very gentle walk from the Shay Elliot car park just above Glenmalure, but for such little effort you are granted a decent reward. Especially at this time of year when the heather is a vibrant purple. I liken the Wicklow Mountains to a ‘Purple Carpet’ at this time of year!

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The problem is, I always have more ‘exciting’ plans, so I tend to avoid coming here. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how remarkable the views are at the top. I had forgotten. 

You get a real feeling of being embraced by the Wicklow Mountains up here, with the Derrybawn Ridge to your north and the steeper slopes of Lugnaquilla and her retinue to the south west. To the south we have the pyramidal mound that is Croaghanmoira dominating the landscape (see my previous post about this wonderful place).Croaghanmoira copy.jpg

There are some sights I treasure more than the views in Wicklow (believe it or not). Here is my beautiful wife who accompanied me on adventures on Sunday. She is a trooper and very supportive of my passion for hiking and photography. I am a truly lucky man.

I am a person who tends to get obsessed by things, and hiking/photography have been an obsession for me for the last three years or so. She never complains when I take her to difficult hikes either :-). Here she is holding my best little buddy Casper the Bichon! Poor Casper is a very nervous dog and does not cope well with other people or other dogs, or any sort of ‘out of the normal’ situation. He loves the solitude of the Wicklow Mountains when I bring him out with me. He is rarely happier.

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Thanks for the adventure guys!

If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my site where you can see lots more of my work!

Knocknamunnion

Today, as a last minute decision, I took a hike in the mist and rain (it rained most of the weekend here, a huge amount yesterday). I needed some fresh air!Forest Mist copy.jpg

I opted for a new adventure today, and observed on my map an ‘engine room/army shelter’ which I believe was built by the British Army in the Glen of Imaal. There is a lot of history in this valley, and each time I visit, I find something new.
As you may remember or know the Glen Imaal is currently used by the Irish Defence Forces (Irish Army) as an artillery range – so I needed to check with them if I could use this route.
Clearance was granted so off I went!Oiltiagh Bridge copy.jpg
The route itself is 90% gentle, and on forest tracks mainly but there is 10% of the route which is really quite nasty, especially after so much rain. Walkers copy.jpg

A short steep climb (thanking my hiking poles today, I had to come back down this way!) then onto the Table Track.

The Table Track runs from the end of the Glenmalure Valley and passes within a few hundred metres of the summit of Table Mountain. This track is very old and was used historically as an access route between Glen of Imaal and Glenmalure. I’d imagine many a rebel would have used this track moving between the Glens to avoid capture by the British. Something I found odd about the Table Track was the colour. It was bright green and grassy and stood out ominously in a desert of brown/purple heather!Table Track copy.jpg
Anyway, onto the shelter itself…. Well, it’s in a pretty sorry state and clearly not used/maintained by the Irish Army.
The roof has collapsed on one half and the second half looks to be set for the same fate in the next few years or so. Glad I went now! I am not sure when I would be able to visit this again.
It’s almost invisible from the side I approached it – it has the appearance of a small grassy lump, so a quick check in with the map was necessary.
The views from here were impressive though, and I must revisit in clearer weather.Ruined Army Shelter-2 copy.jpg

Lugnaquilla was in cloud of course, 3 out of 5 days it is in this condition I believe. Lugnaquilla in cloud II copy.jpg

One final point of historical interest is the Ogham Stone near the start of the walk. Knickeen Long Stone is a standing stone that features Ogham writing. This megalith stands about 8 feet high, with an Ogham inscription reading “Maqi Nili” – I think this translates approximately to ‘Of the son of Neill/Niall’. Ogham is an ancient British and Irish alphabet, consisting of twenty characters formed by parallel strokes on either side of or across a continuous line. An evocative monument to encounter indeed.Knickeen Ogham Stone copy.jpg

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A Camera at Camara Hill – a glimpse of greater things

I opted for a gentler hike yesterday.
After Benleagh last week, there has been an alarming amount of pain in the shins throughout the week so I was apprehensive about the prospect of tackling another tricky hike this weekend. It sort of helped that the weather was poor too – it would have been a shame if it was glorious but I had to ‘tone it down’ due to shin pain!

Anyway, Camara (pronounced ‘Camera’) Hill is not a walk I had done before, and not one I had been particularly excited about in the past. The walk is relatively straightforward and a gentle ascent to the summit of the hill itself lends the possibility of much greater things – Lugnaquilla, the highest point in Ireland outside of Kerry.

Forest Walk copy.jpg

However, Camara Hill is within the perimeter of the Irish Defence Forces Glen of Imaal Artillery range (the only one of its kind in Ireland I believe). So this walk is not always permitted (only permitted if firing is not taking place), and you are not permitted to stray from the agreed access path. Away from the agreed route, there is the possibility of stumbling onto unexploded ordnance on the hillside, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s not enticing to deviate from the agreed route! I think shin splints would be the least of my worries if I were to come across unspent military debris! I advise checking in with the Warden office if you are planning to walk around this area.

Military Range copy.jpg

The mist was down at The Lug (Lugnaquilla is affectionately known as ‘The Lug’ to locals), and later it actually descended to Camara hill – I think the cloud level was at an estimate of 350 meters above sea level at that point.

Walkers approaching Lug.jpg

The slopes of Camara hill itself are gentle and this fella certainly seemed comfortable! I had visions in my head of him climbing, tiring halfway up, and needing to stop for a ‘breather’. I also thought how much easier this hill was for him to get up with 4 legs, a lower centre of gravity and (presumably) no shin splints! A very helpful and patient model though.

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All in all, a good walk had and a bit of exercise and fresh air was obtained!
There are some good spots on this hill, and some lovely views. I must return in more clement weather!

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If you like what you see here please feel free to take a look at my site where you can see lots more of my work!