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8 Dark Sky Experiences to try this Autumn

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The colder and darker nights may be looming but that doesn’t mean the fun stops after hours. Scotland is the perfect holiday destination to enjoy a wealth of outdoor activities whatever time of day or season and it looks like the stars might be aligning for you to book a dark sky break! From shooting stars and constellations to the Aurora Borealis, watch Scotland’s night skies come to life with colour as we give you a roundup on some of our best stargazing locations.

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Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

Named Britain’s first Dark Sky Park in November 2009, Galloway Forest Park is the perfect after-dark spot to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. Whether you’re a casual stargazer or a serious amateur astronomer, no-one isn’t humbled by nature’s finest light show. If you’ve not been into the deepest, darkest countryside before, you might not have realised that every night above your head, there are up to 100 meteors per hour flashing across the night sky. Make sure to check out the park’s tours, walks and workshops on astronomy and astrophotography which can easily be arranged by the Dark Sky Rangers (which might be the coolest job title ever!).

Find out more on Dumfries & Galloway.

Accommodation:

  • Gorsebank Glamping – sleeping under the stars is on everyone’s bucket list right? Turn your wishes into reality at Gorsebank Glamping with a stay in the stargazing ridge pods all fully equipped with your very own wood fired hot tub! On a clear night, admire the beauty of the night sky and stay warm and cosy by the firepit.
  • The Cross Keys Hotel – at this time of year, there is nothing more enticing than a comfortable hotel stay. When it comes to cosy spots, The Cross Keys Hotel ticks all the right boxes with its warm and friendly staff and individually decorated bedrooms. The hotel is also dog-friendly, which is a bonus if you don’t want to leave them behind while on your travels.
  • Creebridge House Hotel – if you’re looking for peace and tranquillity, look no further than Creebridge House Hotel. This traditional country house is the best way to enjoy Scotland’s rural life and what better way to round off your evening of stargazing by keeping warm and cosy by the log fire?

Best Viewpoints:

Food & Drink:

  • The Clachan Inn Restaurant – nestled in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway, The Clachan Inn Restaurant is renowned for its high-quality food and drink. Before you set out on your stargazing adventure, be sure to stop here for a bite to eat and sample a fine selection of dishes from their menu.
  • The Station Kirkpatrick Fleming – with its warm and welcoming atmosphere, you will no doubt feel like a local when you pay a visit here. Enjoy a range of hearty pub classics including fish & chips or the restaurant’s very own signature burger.
  • Truffles Bistro – if you’re looking for somewhere that’s a little bit off the beaten track, be sure to book a table at Truffles Bistro. This compact dining area in a sandstone arched vault room is the perfect place for a celebratory meal with items on the menu including fillet steak and chicken with a mushroom and garlic creamy sauce.

The Moray Coast

Be sure to head to the Moray Coast for the ultimate dark sky break. On a clear night, wrap up warm and take a flask of your favourite hot beverage where you will be treated to carpets of majestic constellations, a perfect night-time activity for stargazing. If you’re lucky enough you might be able to see the Northern Lights too.

Find out more about the Northern Lights in Scotland.

Accommodation/Food & Drink:

  • Inverglen Guest House – stargazers can expect a warm and enthusiastic welcome at Inverglen Guest House situated on the scenic Moray Coast underneath fabulous light pollution free dark skies. If you love eating out, then you are sure in for a treat. With Inverness just a 20-minute walk away, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to food and drink here. Will it be a steak night at The Mustard Seed or will you indulge in seafood delights at The River House?
  • Mosset Tavern – you certainly won’t be disappointed when you dine at Mosset Tavern. With its peaceful setting and extensive menu, including favourites such as slow roast half chicken, or if you can handle the heat, why not try the Hot Buffalo Bites Pizza?

Best Viewpoints:

Isle of Skye

Cosying up by a log fire may seem ideal at this time of year but the Isle of Skye has so much more to offer. The largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides, it is a popular hotspot for stargazers and astronomers from September through to April, when the sky is at its darkest. Here you can see the Milky Way, shooting stars and if you’re lucky enough and have a bit of patience, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Looking for the best viewpoints? No problem! The Isle of Skye is home to nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites dotted around the island where you can see amazing views of our galaxy, that’s what makes it a great choice in the winter for a dark sky break.

Find out more about Skye.

Accommodation:

  • Dark Skye Cottage – you’re in for a treat when you book a stay at the Dark Skye Cottage. The cottage is a great place to relax and unwind after a night of stargazing. Finish the evening off by curling up on the sofa while you admire the view of Beinn na Caillich and Broadford Bay.
  • Uig Hotel – this hotel is the perfect base for getting your bearings around Skye whatever time of day you choose to explore. Relax and unwind in spacious and comfortable surroundings and at night dine in the hotel’s very own restaurant, offering a selection of modern dishes using fresh and local ingredients. The hotel is dog-friendly too if you can’t bear to leave them behind.
  • Duisdale House Hotel – whether you are planning a romantic weekend for two or want to spend some quality time with your friends or family, the Duisdale House Hotel offers a sense of escapism to all guests. During the day, make the most of the fresh air by strolling through the picturesque gardens, admiring the beautiful scenery that surrounds you before heading out again at night to gaze up into the dark sky.

Best Viewpoints:

Food & Drink:

  • Edinbane Lodge Restaurant – the Edinbane Lodge Restaurant really is a shining star when it comes to food and drink. Receive a warm and friendly welcome as you enjoy the very best of Scottish hospitality, with local chef Calum Montgomery bound to cook up a storm.
  • Scorrybreac Restaurant – ‘Scorrybreac’ which translates to ‘speckled rock’ is quite a fitting name for this restaurant, describing the dark, stony cliffs found within Skye’s landscape. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of dishes from wild venison to mouth-watering seafood.
  • Kinloch Lodge Restaurant – locations don’t appear more iconic than the Isle of Skye but thankfully the personalities of the warm and friendly staff are big enough to match. Tantalise your tastebuds with the Isle of Skye venison loin or the roast Portree cod fillet. To finish off, indulge in one of the restaurant’s delicious puddings; the dark chocolate fritter is a must!

Isle of Coll

Enjoy a stargazing extravaganza when you book a trip to the Isle of Coll. Home to amazing wildlife, beaches, cycling routes and some of the darkest skies in Europe, the island has been awarded official Dark Sky status by the International Dark Sky Association. Once you set up your telescope, you will be dazzled by the wonders of the universe. From crescent moons and planets, to spectacular sunrises and sunsets, the island truly is a Scottish star.

Find out more about the Isle of Coll.

Accommodation/Food & Drink:

  • Coll Hotel – come and stay at the Isle of Coll’s only hotel. After a night of stargazing, rest your head in one of their en suite rooms and wake up to stunning views across the bay to Mull, Staffa and the Treshnish Isles. Make sure to check out the restaurant too, catering for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Coll Bunkhouse – if you’re looking for a cheap but comfortable place to stay, Coll Bunkhouse has everything you need to make the most out of your dark sky break. With its dreamy scenery, and all the comfort you could desire from its cosy rooms, fully equipped kitchen and modern facilities, it really is the perfect base to get away from it all.
  • Tigh na Mara Guest House – oh I do like to be beside the seaside and that’s exactly what you can do at Tigh na Mara! The guest house offers visitors the chance to stay at their ‘Wee House by The Sea’ self-catering accommodation. If you want to wake up to a cooked breakfast after a late-night stargazing, make sure to book a stay at the bed & breakfast.

Best Viewpoints:

Moffat, Dumfries & Galloway

South Scotland certainly plays a starring role when it comes to all things stargazing and Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway is no exception. Home to Europe’s very first Dark Sky Town, Moffat also adopted special streetlights to avoid light pollution to preserve our wondrous starry skies.

Check out more of our Dark Sky Escapes in South Scotland.

Accommodation

  • Moffat Wigwams – still want to be at one with nature but don’t want to sleep out in the cold? Staying in a wigwam might be the answer. Enjoy all your home comforts with your very own double bed with a luxury foam mattress, en-suite shower and fully equipped kitchenette. On site, you can enjoy a range of daytime and night-time activities including fishing for brown trout in the river, woodland walks, cycling and of course, stargazing.
  • Dell Mar Guest House – this small bed & breakfast has stylish rooms providing guests with the perfect base to explore more of this beautiful spa town.

Best Viewpoints:

Food & Drink:

  • Brodies – featured in the Michelin Guide for good food and holding one AA Rosette to its name, this award-winning restaurant is a favourite amongst visitors and locals. Taste your way through its culinary delights, with the menu also boasting a fine selection of vegetarian and vegan options too.
  • The Limetree Restaurant – when it comes to quality restaurants, Moffat certainly packs a punch. With the menu changing every two weeks, The Limetree Restaurant has enough variety to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.

Glen Nevis

Escape to Glen Nevis in the Highlands for your next dark sky break. By day, the glen offers a fantastic range of walks and hiking routes but by night it transforms into a beautiful celestial haven. If you’re a keen photographer, make sure to bring your best camera along with you to capture stunning pictures of the night sky pictured above. Happy snapping!

Find out more about the Highlands.

Accommodation:

  • Airds Hotel & Restaurant – why not treat yourself to some down time in a luxury hotel? Stay in one of the 11 individually styled bedrooms and suites all decorated with designer fabrics and wallpapers. If you’re in the mood for a movie night after your stargazing quest, the room has a TV and DVD player with a collection of 130 DVDs to choose from.
  • Glen Nevis Cottage – escape to a cosy winter retreat right in the very heart of the Highlands. With the beautiful Glen Nevis right on your doorstep, make the most of the remaining daylight hours by enjoying a range of outdoor activities. Take a guided walk or climb with Highland Mountain Company to explore more of the surrounding area. Whether you are looking to a bag a Munro or take a scenic walk down the glen, there are walks for all abilities. If you wish to take things at a much slower pace, the area is a haven for nature spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for pine martens, otters, red squirrels and much more.

Best Viewpoints:

Food & Drink:

  • Ben Nevis Inn – enjoy dinner with a view! This little gem of a restaurant boasts a perfect backdrop for a Scottish dining experience like no other. Choose from the finest produce which the Highlands have to offer; from haggis, neeps and tatties to Cullen skink, all for a price that won’t break the bank.
  • Crannog Seafood Restaurant – there’s no doubt that we take great pride in our food & drink, especially when it comes to our seafood. If you’re looking for a place to eat out while on holiday in Scotland, be sure to add the Crannog Seafood Restaurant to your list. With langoustines freshly caught from Loch Linnhe, as well as mussels and scallops being just some of the items on the menu, seafood lovers will definitely be on cloud nine.

Tomintoul and Glenlivet, The Cairngorms

Looking to discover more of the Cairngorms National Park when the sun goes down? No problem! Tomintoul and Glenlivet will offer you a star-quality experience with spectacular views of the night sky. Awarded the prestigious status of International Dark Sky Park, it is the most northerly Dark Sky Park in the world and from October through to March, you can see the night skies light up for a night-time spectacle like no other, a firm favourite amongst astro-photographers.

Check out our blog for more beautiful spots to stargaze in Inverness and the Highlands.

Accommodation:

  • Glen View – Easter Corrie Cottages – craving a weekend away outdoors? These cottages provide the perfect Highland getaway for you and your family this autumn. With uninterrupted views of the Scottish countryside and adventure waiting outside your doorstep, with many walking and cycling routes nearby, you will never be short of things to do here.
  • Thistle Dhu Bed & Breakfast – Thistle Dhu Bed & Breakfast allows you to experience a slice of Highland life. This time of year offers a plethora of outdoor activities for visitors, including walking, fishing and mountain biking. The bed & breakfast features a handful of spacious and comfortable rooms all with super king-sized beds to help you get the best night’s sleep possible.

Best Viewpoints:

Food & Drink:

  • The Croft Inn – get ready to work up an appetite and feast your eyes on delicious seasonal favourites. With the inn accredited a Taste Our Best Award, you can never go wrong on quality here.
  • The Clockhouse Restaurant – set in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, enjoy a taste of Highland cuisine when you dine at The Clockhouse Restaurant. From Scotch lamb to seafood delights such as Scottish salmon, there is simply something for every taste!

Eriska, Argyll & The Isles

The possibilities are endless when it comes to luxury in Scotland. This autumn, why not treat yourself to a luxurious stargazing break on the Isle of Eriska? This 300-acre island is situated at the mouth of Loch Creran and north of Oban, and you can only get there by a bridge. But if you wish to travel in style, seaplane and helicopter landings are possible options too! Once darkness falls, be treated to a glittering blanket of stars along with a treasure chest of astronomical wonders, including the Milky Way, occasional Northern Lights and Orion.

Accommodation/Food & Drink:

  • Isle of Eriska Hotel & Restaurant – luxury and relaxation all rolled into one. Feel like a pampered pooch when you check in at the Isle of Eriska Hotel. Enjoy a magical stay on this private island boasting a wonderful array of wildlife and scenery. During the day, book a slot at the gym, swimming pool or indoor sports hall before you freshen up for a delicious gourmet meal and head outdoors to see the night sky.

Best Viewpoints:

Eriska Pier – the island’s dramatic pier is also a great stargazing location. In the winter months, the Northern Lights can sometimes be spotted here.

Make sure to share some of your favourite snaps with us using #VisitScotland or #ScotlandisNow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Still looking for more dark sky holiday experiences? Check out our blog on all the star-studded hotspots across the country. Find out where to get the best views of the night sky, on our Dark Sky Parks and Stargazing page.

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