Stargazing Scotland – The Best Dark Skies

stargazing Scotland

Look to the Scottish skies for stargazing & the Northern Lights and enjoy stargazing Scotland…


There’s nothing more wondrous than looking up to see a clear sky full of stars. In addition, seeing the Northern Lights is on many a travel bucket list. Scottish dark skies have a lot to offer.

Luckily for travellers in search of stars and the Aurora Borealis, Scotland has some of the largest expanses of dark sky in Europe. Therefore, making it a perfect destination for eager stargazers. 

Scotland lies at the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska. Therefore, spotting Northern Lights  in Scotland’s night sky is as likely as other destinations.


For The Northern Lights…


Head to Aberdeenshire and the Moray coast, where there are plenty of dark sky discovery sites and limited pollution. Visit Rattray Head Lighthouse or Cullykhan Bay near Fraserburgh, or Cullen Bay.

Located over 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, Shetland is also a magical place. From here, you will potentially get a glimpse of the Northern Lights – known locally in Shetland as the ‘Mirrie Dancers’.  Stay in a lighthouse or take to Eshaness for the majestic views and history.


Northern Lights, Cullen Bay, Aberdeenshire. Pic credit: VisitScotland / Discover Fraserburgh / Fiona McRae


Visitors to Scotland’s towns and cities may also be in with a chance with seeing the lights. Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, or along towards Angus and Dundee offer aurora spotting if it’s very strong. Fife and St Andrews has also had auroral displays on a clear night in the autumn and winter.

For more information on seeing the Northern Lights in Scotland, visit:


For Stargazing…


The best time to go stargazing is when there is no bright moon at night and when the sun has set enough so that twilight does not affect observations. Locations identified as ‘Dark Sky Sites’ are only dark during these times, equating to about two weeks every lunar month. Some of the best places to go stargazing in Scotland include:

Dumfries & Galloway, home to Galloway Forest Park, which has glens, lochs and some of the highest hills in southern Scotland. With so few buildings and very limited light pollution it was the first Dark Sky Park to be named in UK. A visit to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is a must, as is meeting with a Dark Sky Ranger at one of the visitor centres.  Also head to Moffat, the UK’s first Dark Sky Town.


stargazing Scotland

Old Telford Church, Isle of Berneray, Outer Hebrides. Pic credit: Casey McIntyre


With the high quality of the night skies, the Tomintoul & Glenlivet – Cairngorms Dark Sky Park became Scotland’s second international Dark Sky Park.

North West Sutherland, between Kylesku and Inchnadamph, is one of the darkest sky locations in the UK and possibly Europe, ideal for taking in the wonder of the dark skies above.


For more stargazing…


The Outer Hebrides has some of the darkest skies in the whole of the UK. The naked eye can see many astronomical sights. The Orion Nebula (over 1,500 light years away), the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, can also be seen from the islands, one of the very best spots in the UK for watching this incredible phenomenon.

In addition, nine locations on the Isle of Skye have been officially named ‘Dark Discovery Sites’ after they were judged to be perfect spots for stargazing.

For more information on stargazing in Scotland, visit:


Take a look at our dark sky photography gallery, featuring reader submissions CLICK HERE >>

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