New guide for starstruck visitors

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VisitScotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland have created a free pocket visitor guide to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park at Galloway Forest Park.

Scotland’s Stellar Spectacular: A Guide to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park offers an introduction to stargazing with plenty of hints and tips on how to get the most out of the experience as well as the variety of things to see and do in Dumfries & Galloway.

The guide is available now, with 10,000 copies available via VisitScotland Information Centres, Galloway Forest centres, in Waterstone’s across Scotland and the north of England, and the National Geographic store in London. It is also available to download from www.visitscotland.com/surprise.

Developed following the country’s growing interest in stargazing through programmes such as BBC2’s Stargazing Live, the guide showcases the unrivalled stargazing opportunities in Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.

Recent news has shown that ‘Brits are turning to the heavens’ with a rise in students taking physics degrees, and Amazon recently announcing a 500% increase in telescope sales, so it’s a perfect time to start stargazing.

Dumfries & Galloway hosts some of the darkest skies in Europe and the guide promotes the region as a fantastic place to spend a peaceful evening stargazing - whether it’s a brisk spring or a warm summer’s evening. VisitScotland’s guide offers tips on what equipment you need, wrapping up warm, as well as quirky tips such as taking along a broomstick to balance your binoculars on. It also details which constellations you can expect to see from the Dark Sky Park including The Plough, Pegasus, Capella and the Summer Triangle. An astronomical events section highlights meteor showers throughout the year with the next shower called Lyrids taking place 21 /22 April.

Sitting in the heart of Galloway and covering 300 square miles, Galloway Forest Park is easily accessible for visitors from throughout the UK. The guide highlights other things to see and do in the unspoilt region including visiting Wigtown; Scotland’s National Book Town, the Red Squirrel Walk in Dalbeattie Forest as well as historic attractions such as Drumlanrig Castle and a glorious gardens section within the guide.

For the best chance to spot the constellations, the guide features recommended hotels and bed & breakfasts which offer stargazing packages across Dumfries & Galloway including the Craiglemine Bed & Breakfast and Astronomy Centre and The Selkirk Arms Hotel that has a two-night package with dinner, bed and breakfast and guided tours of the park.

Paula McDonald, regional director for VisitScotland, said: “We are over the moon to launch Scotland’s Stellar Spectacular: A Guide to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, which we have created with the assistance of Forestry Commission Scotland. Gazing at stars has been something men and women have done for thousands of years and The Galloway Forest Park is the only one of its kind in northern Europe and will prove to be a fantastic jewel for Dumfries and Galloway. We have some of Scotland’s best food producers, accommodation, mountain biking, sailing, walking and now star gazing. It doesn’t get any better than that for visitors seeking a naturally inspiring experience.”

Keith Muir, Forestry Commission Scotland’s head of tourism in Galloway, said: “What we are seeing in the increase of astronomy tourism is exactly what Forestry Commission Scotland wanted to achieve. The Dark Sky Park was set up to promote tourism in the rural area over the quieter winter months and we are now seeing this paying off.

“We are delighted to observe the rise in private operators running astro-weekends and to witness more people coming to the area just because it is a Dark Sky Park . An added spin off is that there is an increasing awareness amongst people and businesses in the area that “bad lighting “ can have a detrimental affect on reducing visitors’ ability to the see the wonders of the night sky.

“Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park is now the shining example of what south west Scotland has to offer our visitors and we are delighted to work in conjunction with VisitScotland on the A Guide to the UK’s first Dark Sky Park . “