Dark Skies in Galloway Forest Park
Stars in your eyes
Scotland has some of the darkest skies in Europe and Galloway Forest Park is one of the darkest places in Scotland, which is why it’s the UK’s first Dark Sky Park. So few people live within the Forest Park that the nights really are inky black, making it a brilliant place to enjoy the stars – and we’re working with local people to keep it that way.
A stellar spectacular
Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye from the Forest Park, and the bright band of the Milky Way is usually easy to see arching across the sky. There’s a new show every night because, as we travel round the sun, we’re getting a constantly changing view of the stars. Which seasonal celestial displays will you spot?
Galloway Forest Park has around 75,000 hectares of land, where limited numbers of buildings means we can keep light pollution to a minimum. In addition, we have some control over development of this land, making it easier to control sources of light.
The Forest Park has a Sky Quality Meter (SQM) scale reading of 21 to 23.6. The SQM scale runs from 0 to 25 and, to put it in context, in the middle of a major city such as Glasgow or Edinburgh, you would get a reading of around 8, whereas a reading of 24 would be measured in a photographer's dark room. Based on this scale, the Forest Park’s score gives us as near to total darkness - meaning clear, starry skies for all to enjoy.
Visiting the Dark Sky Park
You’ll get a great view from any of the three visitor centres, and particularly at Clatteringshaws, which overlooks the unlit heart of the Forest Park. There are Dark Sky information points at the visitor centres and at a series of sites across the Forest Park to help you identify the constellations and planets you can see, and there are panoramic viewing points at either end of the Carrick Forest Drive in the northern part of the Forest Park.
Find more information about what to see and where in the Forest Park in our Dark Skies Park leaflet. You can also download our map of the boundaries and sites in Galloway's Dark Sky Park to help plan your visit.
Please note, you do not need permission to view in the park or to use the designated viewing areas.
Find out more
Interested in learning more about Galloway and its Dark Skies? Listen to Galloway ranger Lucy share her expert knowledge of the nocturnal spectacle in her Dark Skies podcast, or take a look at some of the recommended links below.
- Dark Sky Discovery
- Galloway Forest Astronomical Society
- International Dark Sky Association
- The British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies
- The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh
- Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Skyglow: light pollution and the changing skies
- New for 2015 - Dark Sky Park Rangers! Come and experience the night sky with your own dark sky park guide. More information can be found by visiting the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.