Dark Sky Scotland – Revealing the Wonders of Scotland’s Night Skies

Dubbed as the “Dark Sky Scotland” project, Scotland’s tourism authorities, along with more than 30 interested organizations, are busy with plans to create “dark-sky parks” as a way of promoting the Scottish Highlands as a world-class stargazing spot. With 2009 being named as the International Year of Astronomy, it presents the perfect opportunity for the Scottish tourism industry to introduce the spectacular night skies of Scotland to seasoned stargazers, while inviting potential stargazers to discover this relaxing and therapeutic pastime.

To all that have had the opportunity to visit Scotland, whether in the flesh or by means of film and television, it is obvious that this fascinating country has some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. What many don’t realize though, is that Scotland is considered by experts in the field of astronomy to have the most beautiful night skies as well. Because of the regular rainfall in Scotland the atmosphere is really clear, providing superb night sky viewing with the naked eye and incredible viewing if you happen to have a telescope handy.

UK coordinator of the global celebrations to mark the International Year of Astronomy, Steve Owens, noted that more than half of the population of the world resides in urban areas, and it is these people who should be encouraged to take time out to look at the night sky. While it is difficult to estimate what the market for dark-sky tourism will be, there are thousands of subscribers to astronomy magazines and members of astronomical societies, giving some indication of the interest in the night skies. While acknowledging that the very weather that clears the atmosphere could also hamper stargazing, Owens expressed his confidence that anyone spending a long weekend or more in a designated dark-sky area is sure to have the opportunity to see something spectacular.

Ian Stevens, proprietor of the Tobermory Hotel on the Tobermory Isle of Mull, agrees that people will see something spectacular in the night skies when visiting various areas of Scotland. Stevens believes that light pollution prevents city dwellers experiencing the wonders of a night sky and many don’t even know what they are missing. He notes that city dwelling guests at his hotel are amazed at the night sky, describing it as “exciting” and even “romantic”. What is even more exciting and romantic is that at the right time of the year, the multi-colored aurora borealis, or northern lights, can be viewed from Mull, providing a magnificent and unforgettable experience. Why not make a plan to see all this beauty first hand?