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In praise of - dark skies.

I suppose if you live in the middle of nowhere, with not a street lamp in sight, a giant sweep of sky sparkling like the contents of a jewellery box is something that you can start to get used to.

But for those of us whose nights are electric, punctuated by auras of orange and white and the leaky noise of neighbouring windows, there is no greater spectacle than a grand, starry, constellated sky.

It's a reason to travel, to get out of the city, to head as far as possible from the crowds and the light bulbs.

Often we don't mention the starry moments of our holidays. We talk about the sun, the precipitation, the daily temperature range or how chilly the sea was, but not that time we wandered out of the holiday cottage and stood under the big canopy of the heavens and just stared.

So the fact that Wigtown book festival, which starts this weekend, has a strand, this year, of programming dedicated to dark skies and the Galloway Forest Park, the first Dark Sky National Park in the UK, is one of its most beguiling attractions.

Books are wonderful things and the stramash of ideas that is a book festival is always fun, but a big clear, unpolluted night sky is something to really charm the heart. As part of this festival strand there are: a drive-in movie, some late-night stories for children, talks by astronomers, an artist-created event examining "space-nature", AL Kennedy talking about Dr Who and a one-off radio broadcast of originally composed music called "the dark outside", which you can tune into while in the forest park.

Of course, we all know who the stars are. And whether you are there during the festival or at any other time there is only one way to find them – and that's to put the book down, get out of the signing tent and look up.

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