Scotland’s dark skies

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  • Thousands of stars visible in Scotland's Dark Sky Park at Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway © James Hilder
    The Aquila Milky Way, Craignell, Dumfries & Galloway © James Hilder
  • Stargazing at Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway © Forestry Commission Scotland
    Stargazing at Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway © Forestry Commission Scotland

With some of the clearest night skies anywhere in Europe, Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries & Galloway is the perfect place to star gaze and has been named the UK’s first Dark Sky Park.

Galloway Forest Park is the largest in Britain, at 300 sq miles, and is the ideal place to explore in the daytime, with ancient woodland and stunning valleys.

But at night, it is one of the best spots in the UK to stargaze with the naked eye, with unrivalled conditions due to the wild scenery, limited number of buildings within its boundaries and lack of light pollution. Thousands of stars and even the Milky Way are all visible without the use of a telescope.

Galloway Forest Park was the first national park in the UK to be awarded Dark Sky Park status from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in November 2009. The awards are aimed at reducing light pollution, protecting the dark skies and the natural nocturnal habitats in which wildlife thrives.

It is one of only three dark sky parks in Europe and gives year round opportunities to stargaze. Identified sites for the best views across the park include Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre, Glentrool Visitor Centre, Bruce’s Stone, Caldons woodlands and Kirroughtree Visitor Centre.

On the edge of Galloway Forest Park is the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory. Facilities include two impressive telescopes, and a roll-off-roof observatory which offers a unique 'out in the open' experience.  

Download a copy of the handy Dark Sky Park guide, Scotland’s Stellar Spectacular, for information about what stars to look out for in the night sky, hints and tips and a short introduction to stargazing in Scotland.

(video © Lilac Films)

Dark Sky Island

The picturesque Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides was named as Scotland’s first Dark Sky Island in 2013, only the second in this classification to date.

As the result of locals working to record measurements of the darkness of the night sky and adjusting lights, you can enjoy exceptional unspoilt views of starry vistas with minimum light pollution – the nearest lamp post is around 20 miles away, on the nearby Isle of Mull.

Why not discover more about the Dark Sky Community on the island of Coll?

Dark Sky Discovery Points

Stargazing is not just confined to Dumfries & Galloway, with a number of sites on the Isle of Skye identified as Dark Sky discovery sites. Nine unique locations across the island include Clan Donald and Kinloch Forest. Other points in Scotland are on the west coast of Kintyre, in Lochaber and at Newbattle Abbey in West Lothian.