Ask any astronomer for the best stargazing spots in the world, and they’ll say the Atacama Desert in Chile, or Hawaii, or possibly out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Press them further, and you might save yourself a trek halfway across the world. Continue reading to discover why Scotland is undoubtedly in the world’s top 10 places to go stargazing…
After cloudy skies, light pollution is the stargazer’s biggest enemy. Scotland’s population density at 68 people per square km (p/km2) is one of the lowest in Europe, and once you leave the central belt it drops dramatically to around 9p/km2 (England’s population density is 400p/km2). Clearly, fewer people create less light, making Scotland a stargazer’s dream. And of course, Scotland’s long winter nights keep it darker for longer too.
An International Dark Sky park is defined as “a location of exceptional night-time beauty, dark skies education, and preservation of the night time environment.” Stop off at Galloway Forest Park in southern Scotland en route to your hot tub lodging holiday in Strathyre or Ardgartan Argyll. It is one of only seven gold standard Dark Sky Parks in the world, and the first in the UK. With a Sky Quality Meter score of 21-23.6 out of 25 it’s as near to total darkness as you can get.
A term we’ve coined for those who campaign to keep our skies visible at night. Organisations such as the International Dark Sky Association and Dark Sky Discovery work to reduce light pollution, provide accessible spots for stargazing and run dark sky events. In Scotland these organisations are active preserving and publicising Scotland’s unique stargazing credentials. If you are visiting our Scottish locations, you will notice we don’t have outside lighting. This keeps light pollution to a minimum and allows you to see the skies as you would never normally see them.
Scotland is the best stargazing UK location to see the awe-inspiring aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, as they are more familiarly known.
When the Milky Way gives way to the morning sun, Scotland is revealed as a land of beauty and majesty. The splendour of the night skies is matched by a daytime landscape of snow-capped mountains, misty lochs, and magical forests. It certainly has more going for it than the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile! And it’s easier to get to.
Ardgartan Argyll at dusk
What do you think? Have you been stargazing in Scotland? If you have yet to start your stargazing adventure, look at our Beginner’s Guide to Stargazing and our month by month Stargazing in the Forest guides, to whet your appetite. Then book a Scottish forest lodge and pack the binoculars. Happy Stargazing!