WHAT could be more romantic than a night under the stars, wrapped up warm, marvelling at the cosmos?

Scotland’s dark skies are an underappreciated asset. It’s easy to forget the incredible views of the night sky that are on offer away from the bright lights of the cities.

This winter is also forecast to be a very good year for sightings of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, with 2024 marking the midpoint of a solar cycle that increases the geo-magnetic storms that we see as auroras.

Here are 12 brilliant places to stay across the country with great stargazing and aurora potential. 

Arbor Bothy

Nethy Bridge, arbornethy.com/stay

Nethy Bridge is known as "the forest village" as it’s surrounded by Abernethy Forest, an ancient boreal forest of Scots pine and birch.

Staying in Arbor Bothy, you’ll feel fully immersed in nature. The self-built bothy has floor to ceiling windows overlooking a little garden full of birds and the occasional red squirrel and out into the forest. The bothy is beautifully designed and equipped with all you need for a restorative retreat. Hammock chairs and an outdoor firepit make for the cosiest backyard stargazing spot.

The bothy was built by photographer Graham Niven, so book a dark sky photography workshop with him to really enhance your stay. 

The Herald:


Isle of Lewis, brighid.co

On the north-west coast of Lewis, looking out to sea, you’ll find this beautiful hideaway for two. 
The design is inspired by dark, hardy Lewisian gneiss rock, with panoramic windows facing the ever-changing weather fronts which roll in from the Atlantic.

Inside, the interior takes inspiration from the island's Scandinavian heritage with modern minimalist furniture combined with traditional materials. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the sunrise, sunset and the dark night skies from the private decking, the spacious living room or the free-standing window bath. Every room has full height windows for a truly immersive stay on this gorgeous, rugged coastline.

The Herald:

The Black Cabin

Oban, airbnb.co.uk

The Black Cabin is a lovingly designed cabin set high on a hill overlooking Oban. Built by local craftspeople using materials sourced from as nearby as possible, the cabin is designed for comfort and is in tune with its surroundings. The warm dark interiors have a cocooning effect and every little detail has been well considered.

It’s a great location for exploring the area, or just kicking back and relaxing. This corner of Argyll has very little light pollution, so as well as the twinkling lights of Oban below, the views of the night skies are outstanding. Guests rate the hot tub on the deck as the best spot for stargazing.

The Herald:

Balneden Steading

Tomintoul, balnedensteading.co.uk

Tomintoul and Glenlivet, located within the Cairngorms National Park, is the most northerly dark sky park in the world. With very little light pollution and well-placed mountains, the views of the night skies are magnificent. Members of the Cairngorms Astronomy Group offer frequent stargazing sessions with a laser-guided night sky tour.

Stay at Balneden Steading, in the heart of the dark sky park. There are three light and spacious self-catering cottages, sleeping two or four, with kids and dogs welcome.

As well as stargazing, Balneden makes for a great base for an active break, with an on-site drying room, laundry and gear store. 

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The Pendicle, Guardswell Farm

Perthshire, guardswell.co.uk/pendicle

The Pendicle at Guardswell Farm is a pretty wooden cabin set high on a hillside with sheep grazing in the fields below. It’s an idyllic spot that invites guests to relax and rejuvenate in nature, leaving behind the cares of the modern world.

The Pendicle has been sustainably built, with sheep’s-wool insulation, local larch cladding and a perennial wildflower roof. There’s a cosy wood-burning stove, and indoor and outdoor cooking options. Wrap up in a blanket and sit out on the elevated deck, firepit going, and watch the sun go down over the Carse of Gowrie, River Tay and Fife, then wait for the stars to come out and dazzle.

The Herald:

Coll Hotel

Isle of Coll, http://collhotel.com

The Isle of Coll is a designated Dark Sky Community. Coll lies around 10km west of Argyll in the Inner Hebrides and islanders have adopted an outdoor lighting management system to reduce light pollution and keep the skies dark.

Winner of Scottish Island Hotel of the Year for two years running, the Coll Hotel offers an exceptionally warm welcome. The award-winning restaurant serves excellent local produce, including creel caught local langoustine and Coll lamb. Rooms are light and lovely with expansive sea views. With a canopy of stars above, Coll Hotel is perfect for a romantic Hebridean escape.

The Herald:

The Kennels, Slogarie Estate

Dumfries and Galloway, slogarie-estate.co.uk/stay

Where better to stargaze than Galloway Forest Park? Designated a gold-tier International Dark Sky Park since 2009, on a clear night more than 7000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye and the Milky Way is easy to see.

Maximise your views of the dark sky by staying deep within the private Slogarie Estate, in the heart of the Galloway Forest. The Kennels is a fully equipped cosy cottage for two, with four-legged pals welcome. This secluded cottage is set beside woodland, with great walks right from the door. Sitting here outside at night wrapped in a blanket and watching shooting stars is truly magical.

The Herald:


Skye, abhaigskye.co.uk

Abhaig boutique bed and breakfast is on the Trotternish peninsula, a mile south of pretty harbour town Uig. Light pollution is almost zero and the changing skies and the stars are spectacular.

Choose to stay in the main house or Am Bothan Dubh – the black bothy, a stylish luxury cabin in the garden.

Viv and Steve are excellent hosts, providing hearty breakfasts with delicious local produce, picnics to order and freshly baked cakes in the afternoon just when you’re ready to warm up. They are also a great source of local knowledge when you’re planning your travels around Skye.

The Herald:

Lochend Chalets

Stirlingshire, lochend-chalets.com

The Lake of Menteith is just a 25-minute drive from Stirling, but it feels worlds away. The peaceful hamlet of Port of Menteith on the shores of the loch is accessed only by single-track road.

Family-run Lochend Chalets has been welcoming visitors to rustic log cabins here for decades, and today has luxurious waterfront lodges available to rent too. With floor to ceiling windows, the views of the loch and Ben Lomond are unbeatable.

Many guests come with kayaks and paddleboards to launch right from the door, others come purely to relax and enjoy the views and the dark, starry skies at night.

The Herald:

Uig Sands

Isle of Lewis, uigsands.co.uk

Uig Sands restaurant has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the best places to eat in the Outer Hebrides, with incredible fish and shellfish on the menu, and gorgeous views over the beaches.

A recent, very welcome addition is four luxury guest rooms. All are en suite with kitchen facilities and a log-burner, and expansive views across Uig Sands. This stretch of coastline is sparsely populated enhancing the already dark skies of Lewis. In the evening, you’ll often have the beach all to yourself, allowing the theatre of the night skies to unfold.

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Lightkeeper’s Cottage

Mull of Galloway, lighthouseholidaycottages.co.uk

How about a romantic, windswept getaway in a former lighthouse keeper’s cottage? The Mull of Galloway lighthouse is Scotland’s most southerly point and offers impressive coastal views and very little light pollution. Set at the base of the lighthouse and owned by the Mull of Galloway community trust, the original lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been turned into three comfortable self-catering properties sleeping four or six.

From the lighthouse, on a clear day, there are spectacular views of Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Cumbria. At night, outside the cottages, who knows how far you’ll see.