Where to find the best spots for stargazing in Scotland

As the winter nights draw in and most of us prepare to snuggle up indoors, stargazers head outside to gaze at the dark skies.

Stargazing is a growing trend and we’re so lucky to have the special dark sky status in Moffat.

Europe’s first dark sky town

Moffat is an officially recognised place for stargazing.

It received its special status from the International Dark Sky Association in 2015 following an extensive plan to tackle the increase in light pollution at night.

The town has replaced its old sodium street lights with cut-off warm white LED street lighting which helps to keep light pollution to a minimum so the stars are visible, often with the naked eye.

Where can you see the Northern Lights?

Scotland is the best place in the UK to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).

The darkest spot in Moffat?

It’s in the grounds of the Moffat Distillery, home of Dark Sky Spirits, blenders of whisky.

Read more about the distillery here.

Ideal time to go stargazing

October-March. The stars will be at their most visible on a clear night.

Bring your binoculars and see a whole lot more.

Why is darkness so important?

Astronomers say stargazing is an essential activity.

It’s incredibly calming to watch the night skies.

Just look up and you will feel that you’re in the presence of something extraordinary – a world away from the everyday.

Light pollution affects biodiversity and the welfare of creatures. Humans like all other animals need the dark skies.

See shooting stars

Watch astonishing natural phenomena such as shooting stars, planets and their moons, and imagine how long light has been travelling to get to us.

If you weren’t in the dark, you’d be missing out on all this.

Learn all about the night skies

Visit the Moffat Community Observatory, also home of the Moffat Astronomy Club.

It’s free to everyone (donations welcome).

Join an open evening and let the volunteers guide you straight to the stars and planets – not to mention the dazzling Milky Way.

Even if it’s a cloudy night you’ll enjoy the volunteers’ enthusiasm and expertise – and be impressed by the telescope.

What’s so special about the telescope?

Housed in two log cabins, the observatory contains an incredible 16in Meade f/8 advanced comma free (ACF) on a wifi-compatible equatorial mount.

The 3m diameter observation dome has a focal length of 3251mm with an optical tube which has a superb light-gathering capability – ideal to see objects such as nebulae and supernovas.

The observatory also has cameras to gather data and take astrophotography.

And if you have no knowledge of the dark skies?

Don’t worry. The team offer an introduction to stargazing so no prior knowledge is required.

Join a dark sky walk

A highlight of the annual Moffat Walking Weekend is the dark sky walk.

One includes a visit to the Moffat Community Observatory while another heads up on to Gallow Hill (Moffat Community Woodland).

Dark sky ranger Elizabeth Tindal leads the way to the stars with wonderful tales and mind-blowing facts.

The next Moffat Walking Weekend takes place during the autumn.

Top tips for stargazing

  • Wrap up warm with lots of layers and take a hot drink.
  • Switch off your torch and let your eyes get used to the darkness.
  • Attune your ears to the after-dark noises too.
  • Go with a dark sky ranger or use an app so you can identify what you’re looking at.
  • Avoid a night when the moon is very bright.

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