This page is part of the South East Sutherland and North East Ross-shire Area Guide, provided by Balvaig Cottage Bed and Breakfast.


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Dark Sky Discovery & Northern Lights

North East Ross-shire and South East Sutherland is generally an excellent location for stargazing and for seeing the Northern Lights and the Milky Way. The area is relatively free of light pollution in many parts, and night skies can by crystal clear when the weather conditions are good.

There are plenty of good viewing locations easily accessible by car - especially probably the area on the small road between Bonar Bridge and Golspie that runs over the moorland - though be careful of deer and potholes. Here we think there is likely to be virtually no light pollution and a fairly low horizon line in all directions. Although there are not yet many designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the area, there is certainly great scope for dark sky viewing, probably unrivalled in much of Scotland. Although there are fine designated sites on the west coast, the weather here on the east side tends to be drier and therefore there is more likelihood of clear skies at night.

We certainly recommend that you check the weather forecasts before you set out on a dark sky trip. If there is an easterly airstream and high pressure during the winter then this is often a particularly good sign. Longer range forecasts can be seen on XC Weather and Metcheck, for example. The season for stargazing is September to mid-April. The months of May, June, and July are not viable - there are no really dark skies due to the very light nights here during late spring and much of the summer, unless you are prepared to go out in the very early hours of the morning! We also recommend that you check for the phases of the moon, because moonlight tends to "wash out" the sky.

At Balvaig, we have star charts, astronomy books, etc., we provide recliners and camping mats to lie on (to make looking at overhead stars easier), and head-torches which can be taken out with you. The reclining chairs in the garden are great for looking up at the stars at night, and it is quite easy to hold binoculars still whilst using these recliners due to the arm-rests. Alasdair often takes guests outside at night, including walking to some nearby good observation areas, and gives them a "guided tour" of the night sky. If you are interested in being shown the night-sky, please mention this when you contact us to see if Alasdair can be there when you are. He has a pair of 15x70 astronomical binoculars with superb light-gathering, allowing one to view many deep sky objects. He can also provide knowledge of how to do basic (low-tech) astrophotography, and show you some useful stargazing software.

If you want to get an idea of what you might see, the position for Balvaig B&B is:

  • Latitude: 57.920250 or 57 degrees, 55 minutes, 12.9 seconds
  • Longitude: -4.415174 or -4 degrees, 24 minutes, 54.63 seconds
  • Altitude: 40 metres above sea level

However, even if you get here and the night skies cloud over, you can still enjoy an autumn break here.

night sky in northern Scotland

Night sky over the Kyle of Sutherland
from a photo by Kit Marshall

night sky in northern Scotland

Balvaig Cottage at Night Looking West

night sky in northern Scotland

Balvaig Cottage at Night Looking East



The Milky Way from Culrain from a photo by Kit Marshall

The Milky Way from Culrain
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