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I'm going to Scotland... dark skies here I come! :)


Simon1990
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Hi Everyone! I'm taking a trip up to Scotland next month, and have ensured that the location I'm staying at is well within the severely dark patch shown on the dark skies map. I kind of wish I could now invest in my first basic imaging setup, i.e. webcam or something, but cant really afford it :rolleyes:

I was wondering if anyone can tell me anything about astronomy in Scotland in general, i.e. are the skies really as dark as the map indicates? Are there any proper observatories I could visit?

Or can you tell me any good advice in general about visiting Scotland, i.e. places not to miss, any local customs, etc (Sorry I know this should only really be about observing in this forum)

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Hi Paul,

I'm really excited about visiting! The place I'm staying is:

North Loch Tay Side

By Killin

Perthshire

FK21 8TY

It's a camping and caravan site (I'll be camping) - I shouldn't die of frost-bite in the middle of July in a tent, right?

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hey killin is not far from me. I stay in FK9. I was in killin around 2 weeks ago. Its lovely.

On the north side of Loch Tay is Ben Lawers, which is apparantly quite an easy walk.

But do yourself a favour...drive from Killin west toward Crianlarich and Tyndrum. Its traditional to stop at a cafe in Tyndrum called 'The Green Welly'. Have coffee, etc...

going north on the road (A82) through tyndrum (you will have travelled from the south in to tyndrum), just as you leave tyndrum, the road forks....left goes to Oban, right goes toward Forth William. Oban is lovely, and is the seafood capital! But take the right fork to fort william. After a short while you will see a mountain straight ahead which is exceptionally conical and smooth....Ben Dorain. Staying on the road, you will pass a sign pointing left to 'Glen orchy' this is a very nice drive along a river. But stay on the main road, you will pass a town called Bridge of Orchy.Just pass that the road will rise again, round a sharpish bend. Once you are on top of the rise, you will be in my favourite part of Scotland, Rannoch Moor. A vast flatland, with lots of tiny lochs and stream, at 1500ft. Looking north, you will be looking at Glencoe, the most amazing site! 3000ft mountains rising from the base of the glen. The pretty postcard pictures are taken from a place (which has about 2 houses and a car park) called Altnafeadh. I suggest you park up here (and further back in the moor itself) and get some pictures. I dont think there is a better and more iconic place in scotland.

I am going back up soon with my camera....

as for dark skies...they will be dark in loch tay! Should be even darker in Rannoch moor. If you camp in the moor, take plenty of midge repellent. The west higland way passes through the moor, and there are numerous articles on google with folk who have been virtually attacked by them. Its fine during the day though.

Bear in mind that it wont get back to pitch dark till august (early) courtesy of us being around 57N. Late july should be pretty dark though.

if you are in to walking, a lot of scotlands mountains are quite easily accessible. Ben nevis, the highest in the UK, is well pathed, i believe. Also we have the freedom to roam act, so go where you want unless otherwise signposted.

you can also go to the other side of the moor....

from your campsite to east towards aberfeldy, go through aberfeldy staying on the road. You will reach the A9, a dual carriageway. Head towards pitlochry, which is a very pretty town. Keep heading north and you will soon come to killiecrankie, and soldiers leap. A very famous battle was fought here. Head a few more miles north, passing through blair atholl. Just outside blair atholl is a place called House of Bruar, which has a good restaurant and lots of nice shops if thats your thing.

leave House of Bruar on the B847 towards Kinloch Rannoch (you will be continuing in the same direction as you arrived at house of bruar. This road is wide enough for 2 cars but only just, so DONT go crazy :rolleyes:. There are some blind corners.

the road heads west then south. The B847 meets the B846, take the road going to kinloch rannoch, and as you approach the town of Kinloch Rannoch you will be afforded good views of Scotlands most famous mountain Schiehallion (a famous experiment was performed here by Maskelyne). I havent stopped in Kinloch rannoch, so I dont know what is there, but it is on the banks of Loch Rannoch. There is a place called Rannoch Station, several miles west of Kinloch Rannoch, but at the station the road ends. Further west than this, is Rannoch moor viewed from the other side. I havent been as far as rannoch station. When we passed through KR we went straight through, heading directly towards Schiehallion (the imposing conical mountain).

having gone through KR (you will be heading S) the road meets a junction just at the foot of schiehallion. Turn left......

this road goes along the base of schiehallion and is a very impressive drive. Again the road is similar to that that brought u into kinloch rannoch. Wide enough for two cars, but some blind corners. Follow this road (there is no other option) until it meets the B846 again. Turn right and it will take back to aberfeldy (which u passed through near the start of your journey. This road meets the A827 in aberfeldy, head back to killin.

so thats just a short description of what I would do.

all these roads are on google streetview......including the view west from altnafeadh!!! :)

paul

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Yep, twilight all night up here at the moment. It never gets dark, even with 100% cloud cover there's still light in the sky.

It's workable looking South on a clear night and should be much better around the Tyndrum area in late July.

The Green Welly is a "must", a regular stopping off point on the way South for us. :rolleyes:

As soon as the wind drops, the midgies will be out! Try to get some Avon 'Skin so Soft', the best stuff if you're outside in the evenings. :)

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xephem (the retro-cool equivalent of stellarium) says you only get 1 hour of nautical darkness one month from now (that's with the Sun 12 degrees below the horizon), and no astronomical darkness (18 degrees below) until the middle of August. You won't get the blackest of skies until then; but nautical darkness will still be a lot better than light polluted towns.

Re: observatories. Dundee observatory used to do tours -- I'm not sure if they still do?? They have a nice refractor, and a very cool papier maché dome :rolleyes:

Royal Observatory in Edinburgh has a visitor centre; though the domes were all covered up for restoration the last time I was up there. The view over Edinburgh is worth the slog up the hill though.

And take some midge repellant -- we train them to eat foreigners... :)

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Thank you all so much for your advice! The darkness thing may be a bit of a blow, but as you say, can't get much worse than the light-polluted skies I'm used to (unless I lived in London I guess)

I will be printing these comments off, and keeping them safe with me while I'm up there :) If you think of anything else that could help, please let me know :rolleyes:

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I was up near Oban at the end of May. Amazing how light the sky was. At 1am I could just make out Cassiopiea in the deep twilight. Never really appreciated how much more twilight you guys up there get. Good luck with your trip Simon :rolleyes:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just got back from a short holiday in Galloway, it was rather cloudy but even on the one clear night it never really got dark enough to make it worth setting up...and thats not so far north. Fortunately plenty more to do in this wonderful country. Mind you in a month or two observing should be fab, I find I can see at least one mag better from semi rural Cumbria to the Galloway village where we stop.

re Killin, the road over the shoulder of Ben Lawers will get you some nice height and well away from the village for super observing and easy parking.

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Great landscapes. Regarding the length of the night, it is easy. In northern summer go south for longer nights. In northern winter do the reverse, go north for longer nights.

North of the arctic cicle is never dark in summer and never light in winter. (Well atmospheic refraction reduces the effect but that's the gist of it.)

Olly

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I'm staying just round the corner from "Rest and be Thankful" on 1st of October - hoping it will be clear and dark that time of the year!!! Hope its nice and dark round there too :-)

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I live in Dumfries, just 30 mins from Galloway forest, Even here in my town its dark, but to be honest the last 3/4 weeks have been really cloudy and the days are really long this time of year, Winter is the best time for gazing really dark and clear skies. Oh and very cold lol

Edited by johnkirkpatrick
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Here's darkness times for Glasgow and Aberdeen this month:

Sunrise and Sunset for U.K. – Scotland – Glasgow – July 2010

Sunrise and Sunset for U.K. – Scotland – Aberdeen – July 2010

No full darkness at either place (it would show as times in the "astronomical twilight" column), but towards the end of the month there starts to be decent amounts of useable darkness. However there's also the Moon to contend with, which is full on 26 July.

Moonrise, Moonset and Moonphase for U.K. – Scotland – Aberdeen – July 2010

I'm further south and hoping to make use of the window of opportunity between the 11th and 18th July, when the Sun will be starting to sink far enough below my horizon and the Moon will be between New and First Quarter, giving the possibility of decent darkness for an hour or two - if only the weather obliges.

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I was working near dumfries a few months ago in winter and I was shocked how dark it was, no light pollution from towns, nothing.

I left the office late and it was pitch black, I could nothing what so ever, rather nasty feeling around outside an unfamiliar office and no idea where my hire car was. Took me 10 minutes of stumbling around to find it, I've never missed remote locking as much before.

Just a shame I didn't have a telescope back then, I didn't even look up to take in the stars as I had little interest, not that I could have used my scope, it was bitterly cold!

I live in Dumfries, just 30 mins from Galloway forest, Even here in my town its dark, but to be honest the last 3/4 weeks have been really cloudy and the days are really long this time of year, Winter is the best time for gazing really dark and clear skies. Oh and very cold lol

Sent from my HTC Hero using Tapatalk

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  • 1 month later...
I live in Dumfries, just 30 mins from Galloway forest, Even here in my town its dark, but to be honest the last 3/4 weeks have been really cloudy and the days are really long this time of year, Winter is the best time for gazing really dark and clear skies. Oh and very cold lol

Hi there

I live in Essex and me and 3 mates are driving to New Galloway, ditching the car and going walking in Galloway Forest for 2.5 days.

The weather looks good for next week. Sun and cloud so hopefully it will clear through the night.

Will we get an awesome view of the stars at the moment if the weather is good?

Any tips?

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i went to and stayed a few days in a place called glengoulandie country park, its a small camp site but has all the amenities required and its nestled between hills. its not far from pitlochry town, definately one i would recommend :p

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