The low levels of light pollution across the South of Scotland make it the perfect place to enjoy the Dark Sky. The region is home to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, Galloway International Dark Sky Park and to Europe’s first Dark Sky town, Moffat.

In the Galloway International Dark Sky Park, on a clear night, you can see as many as 7,000 stars with the naked eye! From most towns and cities across the UK you can only see about 100, so it’s a very different experience.

If you haven’t been star gazing before, we’ve put together some quick tips on when and where to go and what you need to bring with you.

What You’ll See Stargazing

When you go stargazing in the South of Scotland, you will see different things depending on what time of year it is. Of course the biggest factor is the weather as clear skies are a must! In this video, Steve Owens from Glasgow Science Centre explains what you should look out for.

The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in is made up of billions of stars and looks like a wispy cloud running across the night sky. It is visible throughout the year but appears in different positions in the night sky. To see it arching across the sky as it is often pictured, it’s best to visit in Autumn.

Stars and Constellations. On a clear night in a dark sky location like the Galloway Dark Sky Park, up to 7,000 stars are visible to the naked eye compared to only 100 visible from most towns and cities. If you are lucky you might even get to see a shooting star! Constellations are simply names for groups of stars which make up patterns and shapes in the night sky. Perhaps the most well known is The Plough. This is a useful one to orient yourself, as the two ‘pointer stars’ at the end of The Plough point to the faint North Star. You might also look out for Cassiopeia, Orion’s Belt, Gemini and Leo.

Where to Go

With some of the lowest light pollution in the UK, the South of Scotland as a whole is a great place to enjoy Dark Skies. You can, of course, visit the Galloway International Dark Sky Park and the Dark Sky Town of Moffat.

But most areas across the region, outside of the urban centres, are perfect for star gazing. Do try to get as far away as you can from street lights, traffic and other sources of light. Where it is unavoidable, try to turn your back to them.

When to Go

Your first priority when choosing when to go star gazing is the weather as you do need clear skies.

But you should also try to avoid a full moon as its brightness will mean fewer stars are visible. You should also try to go after evening twilight and before morning twilight. Check twilight and moon phases for Scotland here.

What to Bring

Warm Clothing. Bring lots of layers as night time in Scotland can be cold even in Summer! It’s better to have too many layers, so you can take some off, than too few.

A Torch. A red torch is better for your night vision, wrap a white torch in a red sweet wrapper or brown paper. Give your eyes 10-20 minutes without looking at any lights or screens to adjust.

Equipment. If you have binoculars/telescope or a star map they’re great to bring. And if you like to stargaze in luxury why not a flask of hot chocolate, a warm blanket, a reclining deckchair?!

Please Respect Your Environment While Stargazing

Please make sure you have permission to access the location you want to stargaze from. Much of South Scotland’s lands and waters are free for the public to access, thanks to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

In return, the code asks people to act according to three key principles:

  • Respect the interests of other people by not encroaching on people’s privacy or livelihoods e.g. staying away from farmland, construction sites, quarries etc.
  • Care for the environment by leaving the land as you find it. Don’t damage the flora and take your rubbish with you.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions by acting in a responsible manner that doesn’t put you or others at risk.

Be sure to read the guidelines to ensure you know the code before you go and understand which areas are excepted from the rules.