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11 places for stargazing and spotting the northern lights – from Lewis to Portknockie

If you want to search for the stars or catch sight of the Aurora Borealis there's plenty of great places in the north and north-east to go to.

Catch the Northern Lights if you can. Image: Shutterstock.
Catch the Northern Lights if you can. Image: Shutterstock.

While some may wish to spend their evenings snug and cosy, wrapped in an extra duvet as the cold weather rolls in, others are eager to explore the great outdoors.

There’s nothing quite like gazing out at the stars with your nearest and dearest, so why not venture out beyond your comfort zone and find the perfect spot to look at the night sky?

North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, Orkney

The most northerly island in Orkney has a view of the sky you’d struggle to find elsewhere.

The isle is bestowed by minimal light pollution which means the night skies are a delight to gaze upon.

Residents, tourists and astronomers of North Ronaldsay are certainly in for the experience of lifetime when they set up camp to watch the stars.

Sometimes it’s even possible to capture the Aurora Borealis and the Milky Way.

Plan your visit here.

Clear Orkney skies. Image: Shutterstock.

Slains Castle, Cruden Bay

The popular Scottish landmark boasts an incredible view across the North Sea, that much is certain.

But anyone who has stopped by in the chilly winter evenings will tell you its astral skyscape is enough to rival the stunning horizon.

Astronomers and locals are welcome to set up their telescopes and cameras to snap the aurora gracing the skies.

Some may be lucky enough to spot shooting stars from the nearby Cruden Bay Beach too.

Plan your visit here.

A view over Cruden Bay under the stars would be stunning. Image: Mike Shepherd.

Duncansby Head, Caithness

Duncansby Head has provided visitors with a fantastic view of the Northern Lights over the years.

Lots of people travelling along the NC500 stop in the nearby John o’Groats, often populated with tourists, but it’s worth venturing out to Duncansby Head to take in the landscape overlooking Orkney.

The area is much more quieter than the neighbouring John o’Groats, which makes it ideal to relax and watch the stars.

The Northern Lights over Duncansby Head. Image: Shutterstock.

Crathes Castle, Banchory

The 16-century landmark is easily accessible for those looking to get out and see the stars.

Light pollution in the area is low, which gives visitors the best view of the sky.

Join the Aberdeen Astronomical Society for one of their spectacular stargazing event within the castle grounds and learn about the cosmos whilst you’re there.

The gardens are just as beautiful as the night sky. Image: National Trust for Scotland.

Glenlivet Blairfindy, Glenlivet Estate, Ballindalloch

Glenlivet Blairfindy received an official stamp of recognition as a Dark Sky Discovery Site which makes it accessible to anyone looking to gaze upon the stars.

The Glenlivet area has been cited as “one of the best places” to go stargazing in the Cairngorms National Park as it boasts very little light pollution and is easily accessible to visitors travelling through the night.

Plan your visit online.

Visit the castle whilst you’re here. Image: Gordon Lennox.

The Carrachs, Chapeltown, Ballindalloch

The Carrachs, surrounded by abandoned farm houses and trees, is a fantastic location to set up your telescopes and cameras to capture the Aurora.

According to satellites, this area has very low light pollution, which allows visitors to see the stars without interruptions.

In 2018, the Carrachs was established as a Dark Sky Discovery Site.

Plan your visit online.


This stunning landmark of Bow Fiddle Rock is often a popular spot for photographer’s to capture the wonders of nature.

Its unique bow-shaped formation, which gave it the iconic name, was sculpted by the waves of the North Sea and is not a sight to be missed.

And it also provides an incredible backdrop with the stars shining above.

Plan your visit online.

A photographer’s paradise. Image: David Main.

Isle of Lewis

Lewis and Harris is a great place for stargazing and trying to catch sight of the northern lights due to the lack of light pollution. And the northern lights have previously been captured on camera at the Calanais, (Callanish) Standing Stones.

The ancient landmark was erected around 5,000 years ago, predating the iconic Stonehenge, and hosted ritual activity for approximately 2,000 years.

It is unclear what purpose they were intended to serve, but many have speculated they form an astronomical observatory.

Plan your visit online.

A historical astronomic observatory. Image: Shutterstock.

Abriachan Forest, Abriachan, Inverness

Join the Highland Astronomy team as they embark on an evening of stargazing and storytelling at Abriachan Forest.

This Dark Sky Discovery Site is free to enter.

Astronomer Stephen Mackintosh also hosts a monthly Star Stories event where he will offer guidance and share tales of the stars and, depending on the weather, visitors might get a good look at the Milky Way.

Each event will have an indoor alternative if the weather is poor and features an astronomy presentation.

Book your visit online.

Follow the trail to find the perfect spot. Image: Shutterstock.

Kinloch Forest, Isle of Skye

There is plenty to do and see around Kinloch Forest, whether that’s spotting the local wildlife or venturing along their walking trails, or even taking in the stunning views over the Sound of Sleat.

It might be a great spot to explore during a quiet weekend afternoon, but afterwards, why not linger around the area to unwind with a bit of stargazing?

Low light pollution has been recorded here as the Forest is a registered Dark Sky Discovery Site, offering a clear view of the sky.

Plan your visit online.

Set up on the shore. Image: Shutterstock.

Castlehill Heritage Centre, Caithness

Castlehill Heritage Centre is great educational resource for visitors of all ages with plenty group events, organised by the Caithness Astronomy Group, are held here in addition to various exhibitions and interactive workshops.

Guests keen to stargaze are advised to contact the Caithness Astronomy Group prior to visiting this location.

To make an enquiry, contact: