Scotland’s dark-sky hotels: sleeping under the stars

By Emma Power,

Feeling starry-eyed?

Then you’re in luck – thanks to the low levels of light pollution in the country’s most remote landscapes, there are infinite cosmological discoveries dotted across Scotland’s inky black skies.

We’ve even teamed up with Annierose Knox from Visit Scotland to bring you the best of Scotland’s dark-sky hotels!

And really, what could be more romantic than a cosy night in a hotel beneath the Milky Way?


Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, near Dalmellington, Ayrshire

Why not pack a flask of hot chocolate and head for the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, set within the Galloway Forest Park?

Here, you’ll find two powerful telescopes in an observatory with a roll-off roof, so you’ll feel like you’re truly out in the wild with only twinkling constellations for company.

Hotel pick: The Knowe B&B

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Set in a former Victorian rectory, this intimate bed-and-breakfast is tucked away in the stunning Scottish countryside, halfway between Castle Douglas and Ayr.

With the whole of southwest Scotland on your doorstep, it’s the perfect spot for a romantic weekend spent wandering in the wild with the stars as your guide.


Royal Observatory, Edinburgh


If you’re staying in the capital city, you can still see the stars and learn more about the fascinating world of cosmology and astrology at the Royal Observatory at Blackford Hill.

The observatory hosts regular public astronomy evenings and talks during the year and its exhibitions include some real meteors from outer space which you can actually touch.

Hotel pick: The Glasshouse Hotel

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On the site of the former Lady Glenorchy Church, this contemporary, glass-sided property with a weathered Gothic-style stone facade is just a 20 minute drive from the Royal Observatory.

Boasting warm Scottish service and overlooking the iconic Calton Hill, the boutique hotel’s best feature is definitely the secret two-acre rooftop garden, perfect for an evening spent staring at the skies with a chilled glass of bubbly.


Isle of Coll, Argyll & the Isles


Did you know that Scotland has a dark-sky island complete with beautiful beaches, wild ponies and rare birds? Well, it does – and it’s incredible!

The magical Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides is one of the best places to admire the spellbinding night sky – there are no street lights whatsoever on the whole island!

Hotel pick: Ardanaiseig

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In a 19th-century manor house next to lush woodlands and the sparkling waters of Loch Awe, this grand baronial hotel is the perfect base for a day-trip to the Isle of Coll.

With 240 acres of secluded green gardens surrounded by rugged mountain valleys, Ardanaiseig boasts velvety night skies undimmed by light pollution – book the luxury Boatshed suite (image below) and take a rowboat onto the loch so you can see the stars reflected in crystal clear waters.


Dark Sky Discovery Spots, Highlands


The Highlands are dotted with places miles from any light source so you can see the Milky Way arching across the inky-blue sky without the aid of a telescope.

Why not head to Assynt in the north west Highlands or the Isle of Skye for a spot of Scottish stargazing? The northern tip of the isle is a particularly great place to hunt for the Northern Lights.

Hotel pick: The Craigdarroch Inn

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Set on a heather-covered hillside in the Highlands village of Foyers, this traditional family-run inn has spectacular views across Loch Ness and its beautiful southern shores.

Settle down in the lodge’s beer garden with a locally brewed ale and watch as the sun sets over the loch and mountains and the stars begin to shine.


North Highlands


A spectacle on the bucket list of every keen traveller, the vivid Aurora Borealis is one of the most remarkable sights in the whole world.

The northernmost coastline is one of the best places to see it in mainland Scotland, and the quiet position of Noss Head near Wick makes it an excellent stargazing spot too.

Hotel pick: Ackergill Tower

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This 15th-century castle can be found on a gorgeous 3,000-acre private estate at Sinclair Bay, the northernmost tip of Scotland.

The dark-sky hotel is even home to a treehouse perched in a 150-year-old sycamore tree, complete with a twilight ceiling so you can enjoy stargazing from the comfort of your warm 7ft bed.


Dark Sky Town, Moffat


Europe’s first dark-sky town, Moffat has adapted special street lighting to keep light pollution in the area to a minimum – all the better to see the stars with, my dear…

The pretty village in Dumfries & Galloway offers some fantastic stargazing opportunities, showcasing an impressive number of stars from all four corner points of Orion’s Belt!

Hotel pick: The Buccleuch Arms Hotel

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An elegant 18th-century coaching inn, The Buccleuch can be found in a picturesque valley surrounded by rivers, lochs and the rolling Moffat Hills.

The cosy dark-sky hotel has been lovingly restored and retains most of its original Georgian features; their toasty open fireplaces are perfect for warming yourself up after a refreshing starlit stroll though the village.

We’ve even got some top tips from star photographer Jamie Carter on how to make the most of your trip!


Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway


In the southwest corner of Scotland, Galloway Forest Park is the UK’s first dark-sky park and one of the darkest places in Europe.

The huge natural wonderland achieves almost total darkness during winter and spans forested glens and lochs, with panoramic vantage points at Carrick Forest Drive – perfect for amateur astronomers.

Hotel pick: Selkirk Arms Hotel

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A foodie’s dream, this charming townhouse dates back to 1777 and is nestled in the pretty harbour town of Kirkcudbright amongst the vibrant local art scene.

The Selkirk hosts special breaks for budding stargazers, with trips to Galloway Forest Park and talks from astronomer Steve Owens who runs his very own dark-sky blog.

  • September and October are great months to stargaze in Scotland, when it gets dark earlier but it’s still warm outside.
  • Put the weekend of Saturday 12 August in your diary: it’s the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower, when up to 50 shooting stars can be seen every hour.
  • Always go stargazing around New Moon – a Full Moon is so bright that it blots out all but the brightest of stars.

Content on Scotland’s dark skies via Annierose Knox: Visit Scotland

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An Edinburgh dweller, Annierose is a Content Executive at VisitScotland. Her favourite things include the seaside, road trips, jogging around Edinburgh, taking pictures and adventuring through as much of Scotland and the world as possible!