2019 marks the 50th anniversary of a truly momentous occasion – the first Moon landing. On the 16th of July 1969 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins set off in Apollo 11 where they took one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind!
But what on earth does this have to do with Scotland? Well, 2019 also marks the 50th anniversary of VisitScotland (Scotland’s national tourism organisation – or us!). So, with these two big occasions, we thought it was an opportunity to celebrate in a truly Scottish way – with something innovative and out of this world…
BuzzBò; the Highland Coosmonaut
To celebrate this memorable anniversary, at the end of June 2019 VisitScotland launched the world’s first Highland Coosmonaut – a cuddly toy Highland coo (Scots word for cow) – into ‘near space’.
BuzzBò, named after Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, and the Gaelic the word for cow, ‘Bò’, soared 36,000 metres from Gilnockie Tower near Langholm to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, before making his return.
The intrepid animal was named by 7-year-old Peter Lunan, of Dunblane, whose entry was chosen by the national tourism organisation in its national ‘Name the Highland Coosmonaut’ competition.
Dressed to impress, the coo was suited and booted in its very own custom-made spacesuit, complete with traditional Clan Armstrong tartan of course – supplied by Lochcarron of Scotland – which was specially made by Vintage Bunting in the Scottish Borders.
Head over to our social media to follow #Coosmonaut for more action-packed activities.
Out of this World Trail
Looking to enjoy an out-of-this-world experience? Browse the brand-new Scotland is Out of This World Trail where you can follow the map to explore an array of stellar attractions and locations across the country that all boast fascinating connections to outer space. From Loch Airigh in the Outer Hebrides with links to Jupiter, and the Isle of Coll which is Scotland’s Dark Sky Island, to Bonnybridge in Falkirk, the official UFO capital of Scotland, there are dozens of places where you can enjoy an out-of-this-world experience.
Did you know that Neil Armstrong has connections to the Scottish clan Armstrong? Three years after the historic moment on the Moon, Neil Armstrong took another ‘small step’ into the history books, only this time in Langholm in Dumfries & Galloway, the ancestral home of Clan Armstrong. It was here in ‘Muckle Toon’ that he became the first and only Freeman of the town. When Armstrong accepted the honour, he told the audience: “It’s said that the most difficult place to be recognised is in one’s own home town. And I consider this, now, my home town.”
This picturesque town is the traditional seat of Clan Armstrong and it was here that this clan dominated the south western border in the 16th century. Head to Gilnockie Tower, a fine defensive pele tower, where you can explore the enthralling 500 years of history when Clan Armstrong thrived across the region. Delve into the fascinating clan history, mystery and discovery of the Armstrongs through a vaulted chamber, banqueting hall, spiral staircase, or venture on The Borders Reiver Trail, starting at the tower.
Undoubtedly, one of the most spectacular sights you can see across Scotland is the dark night sky dotted with sparkling stars, distant planets, and flashing meteors. The Galloway Forest Park in southwest Scotland spans an enormous 777km², featuring swooping glens, glittering lochs and towering mountains. Within the park, head to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory where you can use specialised equipment, such as powerful telescopes, to look through the open roof to see which twinkling stars you can spot. The park is located just under an hour-and-a-half by car from Glasgow and is easily accessible from central Scotland and northern England too. So, look out your warm clothes, hiking boots and torch to get out of this world.
It’s well known that Scotland has a fascinating and colourful past, but did you know a lot of that history involves Scottish clans? The term ‘clan’ means family or children in Gaelic, but not all Scottish clansmen were related to each other. From ancient origins in the Celtic, Norse, or Norman-French traditions, many Scottish clans had firmly planted their roots in the Highlands of Scotland by the 13th century. Today, many clans can be traced back to a specific part of Scotland, for example the MacLeods of Skye, the MacNeils of Barra or the MacNabs of St Fillan on Loch Earn. If you have ancestral ties and a clan history in Scotland, a trip to your clan’s homeland will be a true step back in time.
Scotland is home to many science-y centres and attractions where you can explore fascinating inventions, discoveries and learn all about the wonders of the world. Head to Glasgow Science Centre where you can uncover many exhibits, workshops, shows, activities, a planetarium and an IMAX cinema that will keep the family entertained for hours. In Edinburgh, Dynamic Earth is a great place to take the kids. Journey through time from when the Earth was first formed, all the way to the rainforests, icebergs and landscapes we know today. Make sure you stay to experience a film or two in the ShowDome Cinema – a 360-degree digital dome of technology! Elsewhere, venture to the Dundee and Aberdeen science centres where you can get hands-on with over 50 interactive exhibits, live science shows, ‘meet-the-scientist’ special events and lots more.
The Northern Lights (also called the Aurora Borealis) is a magical phenomenon that has fascinated scientists, explorers and mankind alike for centuries. Did you know that northern Scotland actually lies along the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway? This means that at certain times of the year (primarily the autumn and winter seasons) you’re in with a good chance of spotting this mesmerising light show in Scotland. Some of the most common places to spot these ‘Mirrie Dancers’ is in the northern corners – Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Aberdeenshire, Moray Coast, and the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides – but it is possible to spot them across the country, even in Fife and Edinburgh.
Wherever you venture in Scotland you can find attractions, locations and magical phenomenon that will make you feel like you’re a whole other world away.