Given the uninterrupted skyline throughout much of Scotland, it really is no surprise that visitors from all across the world flood to the historic country to witness some of the most spectacular, awe-inspiring lights in the sky.
Whether you’re a keen amateur astronomer or simply looking for a romantic spot to gaze at the skies above with your significant other, we’ll walk you through the best locations throughout Scotland to go star gazing.
And with a bit of luck and planning, you could even see the breathtaking Northern lights on your visit to the Celtic country.
Star Gazing In Scotland: Our Guide To The Best Spots
There’s no shortage of locations in Scotland where you can get stunning views of the stars. We’ve listed 7 of the best, so you can plan your perfect trip down to a tee.
Just a quick note before we get started. You’ll hear the mention of Dark Sky Discovery Sites throughout our list. These sites are known as such due to having ease of access and not, as you might think, extremely low light pollution. It’s a good idea to bear this in mind when planning the best locations to visit.
Without further ado, let’s get into the very best dark sky site to visit in Scotland.
Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway
Galloway Forest Park is a parkland popular for stargazing throughout the year. Easy to get to, at night, there are a small team of dedicated Dark Sky Rangers who organise tours and walks through the Dark Sky Park and provide talks and lectures on astronomy.
For the best spot in this Dark Sky Park, head to either Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre or Loch Riecawr. The Loch is the quieter area of the two and allows for lots of parking as well as stunning open views over the water under the Scottish dark skies.
Orion Rising above Clatteringshaws Loch in Galloway Forest Park, Scotland. Photo by James Hilder.
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
At Gallan Head on the Isles of Lewis, the Cetus Project created an observatory known as a Dark Skies location by the RAS, or Royal Astronomical Society.
Not only is it possible to witness the glory of the night sky, but the area is also a hotbed for wildlife. These include pilot whales, orcas, and even dolphins. So it’s definitely worthwhile exploring the island during the day too. That’s if you can get up early enough after a night of stargazing!
Isle of Coll, Inner Hebrides
With no street lights on the island of Coll, as very few people live there, the island is a perfect spot for seeing the constellations with the naked eye. In fact, Coll has one of the darkest skies in all of Europe, ideal for seeing the Northern lights.
In the community centre, there are large telescopes which members of the public are free, as well as an incredible indoor planetarium to experience. If you can’t manage to get a look at the Scottish night sky, there is also a hydrogen-alpha telescope which can show you the Milky Way without the need for the night sky.
Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
Scotland’s capital is home to the Royal Observatory, which runs astronomy evenings that are open to the public on Fridays throughout October until April. Although Edinburgh is a built-up city, packed with stunning old buildings and narrow wynds, there’s not a lot of light pollution from the observatory’s famous Victorian dome.
If you are lucky enough to visit on a clear night, light pollution will not be a problem. There’s even a host of telescopes that you can use to get that bit closer to the mysteries of the night sky above.
Caithness, North Highlands
Want a glimpse of the Northern lights? Caithness in the North Highlands could be your best bet. And you’ll be in great company; the area is a hotspot for astrophotographers from across the world, all wanting a snapshot of this sometimes allusive light display.
One of the best things about Caithness is that there are many areas with zero light pollution, meaning you’ll be in the best position to gain uninterrupted views of the spectacle.
Castlehill Heritage Centre is one of the most popular options in the region. It’s easily accessible and is another of the Dark Sky Discovery sites in the country.
Loch Killimster – Maciej Winiarczyk
Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, Fort William
The Glen Nevis visitor centre is a real treat to visit during the day. But at night, it takes on a different, equally as wonderful, guise. Back in 2009, the centre earned the honourable distinction of becoming the first location to be nominated as a Dark Sky Discovery site. Since then, it has been home to throngs of visitors looking for their fix of the galaxy after hours.
Situated just a few miles outside of Fort William, which sits just under Ben Nevis, the UK’s largest mountain, it’s also a great base for walkers wanting to reach the summit. Just don’t attempt to walk this unforgiving mountain under the exceptionally dark night skies.
Glen Nevis – Glenroy.com
Stargazing spots in Scotland: Some Honourable Mentions
Our list of the best places too to view the Milky Way galaxy in all its glory is by no means exhaustive. Below are some notable locations where you may also want to consider gazing at the stars in the dark skies of Scotland.
- Cairngorms Dark Sky Park
- Moffat (a Dark Sky town), Dumfries and Galloway
- Orkney (a Dark Sky island), Outer Hebrides
- Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
- Melrose, Scottish Borders
- Taransay, Outer Hebrides
- Eriska, Argyll and Bute
A Scottish Star Gazing Holiday To Remember With Best Scottish Cottages
Naturally, you’re going to need a comfortable base to call home during your stay in Scotland. Here at Best Scottish Cottages, we have a huge selection of top-quality accommodations for you to put your feet up after a blissful night of star gazing. Encompassing the entirety of the country, we will have the perfect cottage for you in the location of your dreams.
Why not check out our website to book your Scottish stay in one of our luxury cottages – at prices cheaper than you might think?
Do I need specialist equipment to go stargazing in Scotland?
No, that’s one of the joys and major thrills about stargazing in Scotland. Everything you want to see is visible without needing specialist equipment. However, by all means, feel free to bring along a pair of binoculars, night vision goggles or telescopes if you wish.
As far as we are concerned, just something warm to drink and a few snacks are a great addition to watching the night skies!
What should I wear to star gaze in Scotland?
As you’ll likely be aware, Scotland is home to some pretty unpredictable weather. Brace yourself for potential cold and wet conditions by bringing some warm waterproofs and gloves. Don’t forget to wear the correct footwear increase the ground is slippery. Thermals are also a great option – even in the summer months!
Scotland is one of the best countries in the world to experience the full array of the skies above us, especially at night. Star gazing is a popular practice in the country, and it’s easy to understand why.
With so much open landscape and the potential to see the Aurora Borealis, isn’t it about time you started booking your trip of a lifetime to this magical country?