Highlands & Islands

'Milky Way' designation for forest near Loch Ness

Night sky from Abriachan Image copyright Ken Armstrong/Castlehill Photography

A large area of woodland in hills above Loch Ness has become a Dark Sky Discovery site.

Abriachan Forest Trust has been awarded Milky Way class Dark Sky status, the first location in the Inverness area to receive the certification.

There are other Dark Sky Discovery sites in the Highlands, including Castlehill Heritage Centre near Thurso.

The status is only awarded by Dark Sky Discovery to places with "very clear views" of the Milky Way galaxy.

Suzann Barr, learning co-ordinator at Abriachan Forest Trust, said: "This is great news and will help us provide even more "round the clock" outdoor learning opportunities in our community's forest.

"We look forward to sharing stars and stories with keen astronomers of all ages."

Stephen Mackintosh, astronomer and founder of Highland Astronomy Tours, helped the trust to secure its new designation.

He said: "Abriachan is an amazing place for observing the night sky.

"From here stargazers have access to crystal clear views of the Milky Way and thousands of naked eye stars."

Dan Hillier, who leads the Dark Sky Discovery Site project from the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre, said: "It's fantastic that this new site is part of such a vibrant community forest.

"It will open up the night sky and the wonder of astronomy to a great many people."

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