Star-gazers are in for a heavenly treat as Scotland gets its second Dark Skies Park, set amid some of the country’s most rugged and remote scenery.
The new park is the most northerly in the world.
Tomintoul and Glenlivet – Cairngorms Dark Sky Park has been officially recognised due to its lack of interference from light pollution, which allows clearer views of the cosmos from the ground.
Galloway Dark Sky Park, set up in 2009, was the first in the UK and one of just four in the western hemisphere.
It has been credited for attracting an increased number of visitors to the area.
The new Cairngorms park is one of the world’s darkest and has been awarded gold tier status by the International Dark-Sky Association, which is responsible for designations.
It is set on the Glenlivet Estate, which is managed by Crown Estate Scotland, and sits mainly within Cairngorms National Park.
Achieving the recognition has taken years of work to minimise light pollution, save energy and preserve the natural darkness of the region.
It is expected to generate a range of benefits for the Cairngorms, including bringing astro-tourists during the off season when star-gazing opportunities are at their best.
Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan were guests at the launch of the new park last night.
“Our night skies are not a place of darkness, but are in fact a spectacular canvas on which is painted one of the greatest views our planet has to offer,” Mr Buchanan said.
“Neither is this view beyond our planet a place of stillness. Dark skies have a life of their own. To gaze up at a clear night sky free of light pollution continues to leave me spellbound, unsuccessfully grasping for words to describe the unfathomable wonder of it all.
“It is an absolute delight to celebrate the Dark Skies of Tomintoul and Glenlivet.”
Prof Brown added: “Town-dwelling visitors who visit here will find their blood race when they find the sky to be black and flooded with thousands of brilliant stars rather than yellow/grey and dotted with a few bright smudges.
“Amateur astronomers will love what wonders the site offers through their telescopes and keen astro-photographers will be able to use extremely long exposure times to get fabulous images of faint cosmic objects.
“On top of all this are the general wellbeing benefits associated with dark skies.
“Suppression of unnecessary light improves human sleep patterns, saves money and can actually increase security.
“It also retains the habitats of diverse nocturnal wildlife such as moths, birds, bats and even some mammals.”
The four-year project is part of the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership of land owners, community groups, local businesses and schools.