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Clatteringshaws Loch, Dumfries & Galloway

Landscapes and nature

Dark sky parks & stargazing in Scotland

One of the most magnificent sights in all of nature is the night sky peppered with stars, distant planets and streaking meteors. Luckily for us, Scotland has some of the largest expanses of dark sky in Europe making it a perfect destination for eager stargazers.  It is also home to Europe's second Dark Sky Park, the first of its kind in the UK, as well a myriad of Dark Sky Discovery Sites. These are places which experience low or practically non-existent levels of light pollution, revealing ink-black skies filled with dazzling stars.

5 Amazing Places to go Stargazing in Scotland

1. Coll

This tiny island off the west coast of mainland Scotland is one of the best places to stargaze in the UK. Designated a ‘dark sky community’ in 2013 by the International Dark Sky Association, the Isle of Coll is blessed with extremely low light pollution, guaranteeing clear vistas to observe the stars. The best time to visit for a stargazing holiday is from August to March when the skies are at their darkest. In high summer it is light almost all day! The island is quite flat, so almost anywhere is suitable to see the night sky in all its wonder, weather permitting. Thinking of visiting? Check out the Coll Bunkhouse

2. Moffat

After adopting special street lighting to keep light pollution to a minimum, Moffat was named Europe’s first ‘dark sky town’. Located in Dumfries & Galloway, the town has similar light quality to rural areas and is a great place to stay and stargaze in Scotland. Check out accommodation in Moffat if you’re thinking about booking a trip. During daylight hours, the surrounding hills and the local section of the Southern Upland Way provide excellent walking opportunities, while the River Annan is good for fishing.

3. Galloway Forest Park

You can look forward to exceptionally dark night skies in Galloway Forest Park, the UK’s largest forest park in Dumfries & Galloway. Very few people live within the boundaries of Galloway Forest Park, meaning the nights are extra clear. Clatteringshaws Loch and Kirroughtree Visitor Centre are perfect spots from which to view the night sky, and there are often stargazing events and guided tours by special Dark Sky Rangers. Search for accommodation in Dumfries & Galloway and start planning a stargazing adventure in South Scotland today. 

4. North Ronaldsay

Orkney’s northernmost island, North Ronaldsay has long been associated with dark and clear night skies. However, it was only in 2021 that the island was officially recognised as a ‘dark sky island’. On winter nights, you’ll see the stars shine and sparkle here across the sky in a truly dramatic display. When conditions are right you may even see the Northern Lights dancing in red and green. A trip to this remote part of Scotland will also give you the chance to meet the island’s famous seaweed-eating sheep and visit the UK’s tallest land-based lighthouse. 

5. Tomintoul and Glenlivet – Cairngorms Dark Sky Park

During the darker months of the year, you’ll find that the Tomintoul and Glenlivet area of the Cairngorms has amazing stargazing opportunities. Dark sky events take place all year round here with the Cairngorms Astronomy Group. Amateur astronomers, night-time photographers and enthusiasts in search of stunning views will find this place easy to access. Interested in a road trip? Our Snowroads route will take you right through the Tomintoul and Glenlivet area. Find out more about The Cairngorms National Park.

 The UK's Dark Sky Parks

Galloway Forest Park in southwest Scotland spans 777 km2 of forested glens, lochs and some of the highest hills in southern Scotland. Here, there are few buildings and even less light pollution. That's why the International Dark Sky Association chose it to be the very first forest park in the UK to be honoured with Dark Sky Park status.

Located just under an hour-and-a-half by car from Glasgow, Galloway Forest Park can be reached easily from central Scotland and the north of England. The M74 and A1 run straight through the surrounding area while the nearest town of Ayr is well served by frequent bus and rail connections. 

The high quality of the night skies above Tomintoul and Glenlivet in Moray have earned the area a prestigious award by becoming Scotland’s second International Dark Sky Park. The Tomintoul & Glenlivet - Cairngorms Dark Sky Park is not only the darkest park in the UK but it is also the most northernly Dark Sky Park in the world.  

Find Dark Sky Discovery Sites

Visit one of the many Dark Sky Discovery Spots scattered throughout Scotland. Alongside easily accessible destinations like Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian, Scotland boasts its own Dark Sky Town in the attractive village of Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway. Thanks to its special 'dark sky friendly' street lighting, the number of stars visible at night can be breathtaking.

When it comes to optimum star-gazing conditions, the Highlands rarely disappoint. Located far away from the obscuring haze of light pollution, here you can gaze up at celestial wonders with just your naked eye. Head to the west coast of Kintyre, Lochaber in the west Highlands, Assynt in the north west Highlands, or escape from the mainland to one of the nine sites on the Isle of Skye.

If you prefer islands, don't miss the practically street light-less Isle of Coll, Scotland's Dark Sky Island. Located 32 km from the nearest lamp post, Coll is one of only two Dark Sky Islands and offers unparalleled night-sky clarity. The northernmost island of the Orkney archipelago, North Ronaldsay, is also recognised as a Dark Sky Island and an International Dark Sky Community.

Winter is a fantastic time to visit the Outer Hebrides to experience #winterinthewild with extraordinary scenery, beautiful empty beaches and stargazing in some of the darkest places in Britain. Further North, the spectacular winter skies on the Isle of North Ronaldsay in Orkney have been drawing astronomers and stargazers to the islands for many years.