From sci-fi blockbusters such as Prometheus and 2001: A Space Odyssey, filmed on the Isle of Skye and Harris due to their unique, other-worldly landscapes, to a dram of Ardbeg whisky being flown into space to see how zero gravity effects the maturation process - Scotland certainly has an interesting past when it comes to our relationship with the universe!
There’s also something to be said for people taking a wider interest in our universe with Amazon recently claiming a 500% increase in telescope sales and the UK Government considering Scottish options for converting one of our airports into a spaceport, so perhaps holidays on the moon aren’t that far off…
But for now, most of us make the most of what we can see from our little planet and Scotland is a great place to do it from.
On Friday (20 March) thousands of astro-tourists are expected to descend on Scotland to see if they can catch a glimpse of the best total solar eclipse since 1999 – the further north you get, the better the view! Residents and visitors to the Isle of Lewis will be bathed in 98% darkness between around 8.30 and 10.30am.
I remember the last one quite well. I was 11 and was going down to the beach from my parents’ house on the Isle of Man. At the time I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, it was just making it harder for me to see where I was going on my rollerblades.
But the eclipse only lasts for a few hours and with our incredibly low light-pollution we can offer much more when it comes to gazing into the expanses of the universe.
The Dark Sky Park in Galloway Forest Park was the first of its kind in the UK and home to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory. A star-gazers paradise, where outdoor lighting is controlled to make sure budding astronomers have the best view of our night sky.
Coll Dark Sky Island was the second accredited Dark Sky place in Scotland and I’ve actually experienced Coll’s Dark Sky with the help of Cosmos Planetarium at a recent industry event. It’s an indoor 360 degree immersive planetarium that guides you round our galaxy.
Coll & The Cosmos is a new stargazing weekend break on the Isle of Coll which makes the most of the island’s incredible dark skies. A partnership between Cosmos Planetarium and Coll Bunkhouse (a VisitScotland five-star hostel), it offers a wide range of astronomical equipment, practical hands-on instruction in using telescopes, combined with the experience of time inside the fully digital planetarium.
People also often travel further north to see the Northern Lights. I’ve seen them twice and even once spent a night in my car in a field near Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire to try and get some decent pictures of them. I’ve now set up alerts on my phone to let me know when the best conditions are to see them. You can too thanks to Lancaster University and Aurora Watch UK, so you can tell your visitors when’s best to spot them.
I attended the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s Signature Conference during Scottish Tourism Week with many of the industry’s brightest stars gathering to talk all things tourism. The importance of social media and user-generated content was a key theme which kept cropping up throughout the conference. VisitScotland is leading the way in this area and also provides digital platforms for every business, large or small, to take their message across the world – get your free listing now.
One of the presenters, Damian Cook from E-Tourism Frontiers, called for a need in truly unique social media posts to get prospective customer’s attention and engage them in your business. So rather than a photo of one of your rooms or a plate of food from your restaurant next week, how about a unique shot of the eclipse or stunning time-lapse of somewhere in your local area featuring the Milky Way?
Fingers crossed for a clear day on Friday…