For thousands of years, humans have looked to the night sky to help them navigate across the globe and to determine the time of the year.
To this day, most people will agree there is nothing more peaceful than spending the night looking at the brightest stars in the Milky Way. You can view neighbouring planets such as Venus, Mars and Jupiter as well as watch the glow of our closest galaxies like Andromeda.
While stargazing is a fun and fascinating activity for all the family, few people are able to enjoy the spectacle of a truly clear night sky because of the light pollution in our big cities. Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to find the dark side, as Scotland boasts some of the darkest skies in Europe.
For those of you heading to Scotland for a stargazing holiday, we’ve teamed up with stargazing enthusiasts to unearth the best places in Scotland to watch these magical displays.
Located on the far North Coast of Scotland lies Caithness, which offers a superb opportunity for stargazers to experience the night sky as they’ve never seen it before. Suggested by Caithness Astronomy Group and BBC Sky at Night Magazine, Caithness is a great spot for astrophotographers to capture the wonders of the night sky.
Whether you’re an amateur or expert astronomer, or simply just keen to experience the beauty of a truly dark sky for the first time, it will be an unforgettable experience for all.
Galloway Forest Park
Another place recommended by BBC Sky at Night Magazine is Galloway Forest Park. The inky black nights make it one of the best places to view more than 7,000 stars and planets overlooking the forest.
With an 800km² forest surrounding you, there really is no better place to stargaze. The forest, located in the South of Scotland, was the first place in the UK to achieve a Dark Sky Park status, making it a popular destination for stargazers.
Located roughly half an hour away from Sundrum Castle Holiday Park, you will find three visitor’s centres, which offer amazing views of the night sky, as well as Dark Sky Rangers who run astronomy walks and workshops to help you along the way.
The Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly major island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Free from light pollution, the area is one of the darkest places in Scotland, making the western isles the perfect destination for stargazing.
On a clear night you can see the Milky Way, shooting stars, and even watch the satellites orbiting overhead. If you’re really lucky, you might even get a chance to see the Northern Lights, which are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.
The best time to stargaze on the Isle of Skye is from September through to April, as this is when the sky is at its darkest. The Isle of Skye is a haven for astronomers, with nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites that make for some amazing views of our galaxy.
An hour’s drive from Southerness Holiday Park, the village in the Western Southern Uplands of Scotland has been awarded Dark Sky Community status for adapting special street lighting to become ‘dark sky friendly’. A total of £240,000 was spent changing lightbulbs in the town to reduce the amount of light pollution, making it much easier to see the spectacular stars.
One of the places suggested by VisitScotland, the town offers some fantastic stargazing opportunities, and from here you can see an impressive number of stars in the four corner points of Orion.
Isle of Coll
The Isle of Coll is a small island located west of Mull in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Well known for its sandy beaches, The Isle of Coll is also a Dark Sky Island. The bright band of the Milky Way is visible over the island at certain times of the year. These amazing sights are not to be missed, which is why The Isle of Coll is one of VisitScotland’s suggested places to stargaze.
Contrary to common impressions of the weather in Scotland, the Isle of Coll is one of the sunniest parts of the country. It has a high number of clear, dark nights, making it the perfect place to see the planets and stars. The best time to stargaze in Coll is during a new moon or thin crescent. Our advice would be to keep an eye on the moon calendar.