The Scottish Forestry Commission established part of Galloway Forest Park as the first Dark Sky Park in the UK. Announced on 16th November 2009 in the International Year of Astronomy, it was a breakthrough in awareness about the importance of preserving some areas of the UK as areas without light pollution. On the Forestry Commission’s Dark Skies website you will find podcasts, blogs, and much information about stargazing and astronomy. You can download a copy of the Park’s Dark Skies leaflet here.
The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, on the Craigengillan estate in South Ayrshire, at the edge of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, opened in 2012. It occupies a fantastic hilltop site on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park. It is within the magical surroundings of Craigengillan, rated by Historic Scotland as one of the top four Designed Landscapes in the country, on a par with Culzean and Drumlanrig. This new public observatory lies within the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park near Dalmellington, under some of the darkest skies in the UK. The observatory offers
- A fully robotic 20” Corrected Dall Kirkham telescope in a 5 metre dome, operated from a warm control room.
- A roll-off-roof observatory with a 14” Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope for a more hands-on, out in the open observing experience.
- A multi-purpose lecture room served by a toilet and kitchen and an “outdoor classroom” in the form of an elevated observing deck from which to enjoy the inspirational experience of naked-eye observation.
Facilities are also available for amateur astronomers to be able to set up their own equipment and have access to the WC and kitchen amenities.
Visits must be pre-booked! Tel. 01292 551118
There are good stargazing opportunities around Straiton (also at the edge of the Dark Skies Park), and the Girvan valley. Download the PDF of the official Dark Skies Map: you will see that if you head up the valley towards Tairlaw bridge, you gradually leave all the house lights behind you, and when you get up beside Genoch Inner Hill, darkness really begins to descend. The photographs of the rising moon below, and at the head of this page, were taken from the slopes of Genoch Inner Hill, looking towards Tairlaw.