Skip to main content

To boldly glow...

Press Release   •   May 24, 2016 10:44 BST

The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, South Ayrshire. Picture: Damian Shields

Scottish tourism is boldly going where few destinations have gone before, with its designated Dark Sky Communities proving a hit with stargazers.

Now VisitScotland, the national tourism organisation, hopes that Moffat’s designation as Europe’s first “Dark Sky Town” will add to the country’s astronomical allure.

In February, the Dumfries and Galloway town joined Coll, the first “Dark Sky Island” in Europe, and Galloway Forest Park, one of only four “Dark Sky Parks” in the western world, as one of the best places on earth to study the sky at night, all of which is helping to boost “astro tourism” in Scotland.

There is particular interest in the heavens this month as, on 30 May, Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been in over a decade – a mere 46.8 million miles away, making the Red Planet appear particularly bright in the night sky over the next few weeks. 

Another excellent place to obverse the night sky is at the edge of Galloway Forest Park, where the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory in East Ayrshire – a four-star VisitScotland attraction – allows visitors to learn about the wonders of the universe.

A recent report estimates that the Dark Sky Park is taking in an additional £500,000 over the winter months purely related to dark sky tourism with the expectation for that to rise to around £1 million.

Keith Muir, Head of Tourism & Communication at Forestry Commission Scotland, which owns the park, said: “The Dark Sky Rangers are now in place and beginning to get some trade and more local accommodation providers are being affected by the increase in astro tourism. Even the increase in the number of dark sky places has assisted in the numbers with all the local events being either full or oversubscribed. There is still work to do and opportunities to be taken, but this takes time, resources and willingness to be part of it by the local tourism businesses.”

Dumfries and Galloway followed up the Dark Sky Park designation with a successful application for Moffat to become a Dark Sky Town. 

Colin Smyth, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, said: “The accolade of the first ever Dark Sky Town in Europe is an outstanding achievement. Following the award of Europe’s first Dark Sky Park in the Galloway Forest, I am proud that Moffat has been named as the first Dark Sky Town in Europe and the first ever Dark Sky Town outside of America.

“Our council is committed to supporting the local economy and by working together with communities such as Moffat, the region’s tourism businesses can capitalise on our fantastic natural assets.  The award of Dark Sky Town will encourage more visitors to experience what Dumfries and Galloway has to offer during the winter months, helping to boost our local economy during these periods.”

Julie Oliphant, owner of the Coll Hotel and a member of Coll Dark Skies Group, said: “Having Dark Sky status is an added string to our bow and it’s an added draw, particularly in the low season. The dark skies above Coll will stop you in your tracks. They really are awesome, even if you don’t know what you’re looking at. We have a telescope in the hotel and there are sky maps in all our rooms. You can’t help but be amazed.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “Scotland really is out of this world when it comes to viewing the night sky, with Dumfries and Galloway and Coll among some of the best places to enjoy the beauty of the cosmos. Having Dark Sky status is a real draw for visitors, with accommodation and transport providers, food and drink outlets and all manner of other tourism businesses benefiting as a result.”

To find out more about stargazing in Scotland, go to

Notes to Editors

  • Follow us on twitter: @visitscotnews
  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
    1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
    2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
    3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international       opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One       Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
    4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
    5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
    6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
    7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
  • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP.
  • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit or follow @scotgovESIF
  • For VisitScotland’s press releases go to, tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to
  • Where possible, a Gaelic speaker will be made available for broadcast interviews on request (Far an tèid iarraidh, agus far am bheil sin nar comas, bruidhinnidh neach le Gàidhlig aig agallamh)
  • For holiday information on Scotland go to
  • For information about business events in Scotland go to

    Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016

  • 2016 will shine a spotlight on Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design through a wide-ranging, variety of new and existing activity.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design begins on 1 January 2016 and ends on 31 December 2016 and will build on the momentum generated by the 2015 Year of Food and Drink as well as previous years including Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • Through a series of exciting events and activity, the year will showcase Scotland’s position as an “innovation nation”, its outstanding built heritage, and its thriving, internationally acclaimed creative industries sector.
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, Architecture + Design Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
  • The Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • Join the conversation at #IAD2016
  • Events can join the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design Partner Programme throughout the year by visiting