5 reasons to go stargazing in Scotland

There is no better place for stargazing than Scotland

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Standing at the edge of a Scottish forest on a clear night and looking to the heavens will convince you that there is no better place for stargazing than Scotland.

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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…

1. Lights out

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.

2. Dark Sky park

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 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.

3. Dark Sky Curators

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.

4. The Northern Lights

Scotland is the best stargazing UK location to see the awe-inspiring aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, as they are more familiarly known.

5. When the Dawn Breaks

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.

Stargazing

Stargazing

5 of the best stargazing spots in Scotland

  1. Galloway Forest Park – one of only two Dark Sky Parks in Europe
  2. Isle of Skye – one of the darkest places in Europe
  3. West coast of Kintyre – on a clear night you will see the Milky Way in all its glory
  4. Royal Observatory Edinburgh – learn more about the night skies
  5. A hot tub in Ardgartan Argyll or Strathyre - enjoy the laid-back approach to stargazing
Ardgartan Argyll at dusk

Ardgartan Argyll at dusk

5 Stargazing Tips

  1. Head for the dark – stars are shy; the darker it is, the more the stars will come out
  2. Adjust your eyes – you’ll see 10 times more stars 20 minutes after switching off your torch
  3. Take binoculars – a small pair of binoculars will take you to the next level
  4. Use an app – try Google Sky Maps which will tell you exactly what you are seeing in the sky
  5. Wrap up – Scottish winter nights are not for the feint-hearted. Layers upon layers and a good pair of gloves are essential, along with hot drinks.

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!

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