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Sky High by Neil Dennehy

Here we are again, another fortnight’s passed, the summer is flying by and what a summer it’s been! I know technically it’s autumn now but thankfully, the hot spell of weather has frozen the calendar and we can stay in our summer gear for another while…

I took the opportunity last Saturday evening to ramble up to the Holy Year cross, over Clonmel, to take in the sunset, and it was glorious. So good in fact, that I went back up Sunday evening for another show. Same star and theatre but each and every performance is exquisite and unique.

While the air was still warm and sticky in the valley, Scrouthea hill welcomed me with a cool, refreshing breeze and a panoramic view of the Comeragh’s, the Knockmealdowns, Galtees and Slievenamon.

My cousin Nicola, who happens to be a pro photographer, joined me on Saturday, and captured the striking image inset. I’ll be showing some of her pics on my Instagram @highestpotential22 but I highly recommend checking out more of her top-class work on instagram @nicola_corboybarnett or her website .

It was a fortuitous evening in more ways than one. Nicola was delighted to get so many gorgeous photos and I was thrilled with how well she could capture the views as the eye sees them. Phone cameras are good, but they never really do nature justice.

We decided that I would bring Nicola to some of the beautiful places included in my WellWalks and the photos she’d take would add to her portfolio while encouraging people to come and experience these for themselves along with the sounds, scents and feel of being in nature with a group of nice, friendly people.

So why, you might wonder am I writing about sunsets in a wellness article?

There are, of course, the fitness gains from well-paced exercise to reach a viewpoint. Strengthening muscles & joints, improving cardiovascular fitness and helping our bodies to detox through lymphatic flow are all good. We use up mental stress through physical movement, clearing our heads and relaxing our minds. People often say, “I’ll sleep well tonight”, and they do. We burn off some excess calories too.

Some say that sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone, in our brains and that sunrise and sunset are the safest times to look in the sun’s direction. I would add that it’s not recommended to stare directly at the sun for longer periods at any time.

Then there’s the inner perspective that tends to rise along with the elevated outer perspective of reaching higher ground. Many things become more apparent or clear to us.

We see that the climb isn’t usually as difficult as our minds expect and that the reward is far greater than we imagine. Pretty much any hilltop can be climbed when you pace yourself and have the support of a good guide. The satisfaction of reaching it is significant. Doing this with others connects us in a memorable way.

With a view so vast, we get a sense of being quite small, but not in any insignificant way. Our problems and our responsibilities diminish when we realise that this everchanging landscape has been there long before us and will be there long after. It takes the pressure off all that we feel we should do or need to do. At the same time, we understand that we are not simply observers but part of this big picture, and it just wouldn’t be the same without us.

We gain an attitude of gratitude. It’s quite impossible to immerse yourself in a stunning sunset without feeling thankful to whoever or whatever created it. The following thunderstorms that broke the heat during the week, gave us a sense of the awesome power of nature, while putting on another phenomenal atmospheric display.

You really do get a ‘high’ from taking the time to appreciate the sky, and nature in general.

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