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So clear are the night skies above three Lochaber locations that the Milky Way can be clearly seen with the naked eye, writes Nic Goddard.
This has resulted in Resipole Farm Holiday Park in Sunart, Corran Point and Sallachan Beach in Ardgour being recognised as Milky Way Class sites – meaning the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye – and awarded the much coveted Dark Sky Discovery status.
The stunning night sky above Resipole Farm Holiday Park. Photograph: Courtesy of Steven Marshall Photography.The Dark Sky Discovery status for the sites has been awarded to Sunart, Moidart, Morvern, Ardnamurchan and Ardgour Tourist Association (SMMAATA).
A staggering 85 per cent of people in the UK have never seen a truly dark sky and those living in cities may only see around 100 stars even on a clear night.
The three Lochaber locations join a network of more than 150 sites throughout the UK which are part of the Dark Sky Discovery Network and will be promoted on www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk. The network is led by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council and aims to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to get out and stargaze.
SMMAATA intends to add night sky watching to the list of experiences that visitors to the area can enjoy in their promotion of the peninsulas as a tourist destination and ensure local tourism businesses benefit from this growing area of the UK market.
In recent years significant events such as meteor showers, lunar eclipses, Northern Lights shows and BBC Stargazing Live TV programme have contributed to a growing interest in star gazing and the night sky.
Areas such as Northumberland and Galloway have reported increased visitor numbers due to regional dark sky events – it is hoped that this area can do the same.
Steven Marshall, vice-chairman of SMMAATA, who prepared and submitted the Dark Sky Site applications, told us: ‘This exciting development will raise awareness of the outstanding beauty that our dark night sky holds and it will be great to share this experience with locals and visitors alike.
Promoting it will provide a compelling reason for people to visit us during the darker months of the year.’
Michelle Hilder, chairwoman of SMMAATA, added: ‘Our night skies above West Highland Peninsulas are a sight to behold and it is wonderful to get our first three sites accredited.
‘There are several other sites that we are keen to get accredited over the coming months and it is hopeful that this will help promote the area over the autumn and winter months and entice visitors to come and have a unique experience.’
Annie and Ewen MacLean, of Ardgour Estate, upon which the first two sites are located, said the initiative is an exciting opportunity for the community and visitors to enjoy, learn about and share our unpolluted, amazing night skies.
‘We are delighted and fully support two of the accredited sites here on Ardgour Estate, at the gateway to the peninsula,’ the couple told us.
Rory Sinclair, owner of Resipole Farm Holiday Park upon which the third site is located, commented: ‘Milky Way Class Dark Sky Discovery status here at Resipole really brings home something we have known for
years. It is that we truly have some of the most stunning night skies.’