What has curved arms, rotates at a speed of 168 miles per second and began with a big bang? If you’re not sure, you should come to Loch Ness to have a good look!
To be exact, you must visit Abriachan, a small community high above the shores of the loch.
From there, at night, you will have a clear view of the answer … it’s the Milky Way.
Abriachan Forest Trust has been awarded “Milky Way class” Dark Sky Discovery status, making it part of a nationwide network of places that are recognised as providing great views of the stars as well as being accessible to everyone.
The status was formally confirmed by Dan Hillier, head of public engagement at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, based on a joint nomination by Abriachan’s learning coordinator Suzann Barr and Inverness-based astronomer Stephen Mackintosh.
Suzann said: “This is great news and will help us provide even more ‘round the clock’ outdoor learning opportunities in our community’s forest. We look forward to sharing stars and stories with keen astronomers of all ages.”
It also means you can look for Nessie by day on a Loch Ness cruise and then marvel at the Milky Way when the sun sets on our Highland scenery. Stephen Mackintosh said: “Abriachan is an amazing place for observing the night sky. From here stargazers have access to crystal clear views of the Milky Way and thousands of naked eye stars.
“I urge anyone with an interest in astronomy to see for themselves how alive the night sky appears under world-class dark skies.”
Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness
The Abriachan Forest can be accessed using a path above Clansman Harbour, which is one of our departure points.
It has a beautiful landscape on the route of the Great Glen Way overlooking Loch Ness; offering great walks and the opportunity to spot deer, badgers and pine marten.
You may also come across a reconstruction of an illicit whisky still, which is hidden beside a small burn in the woods. In days gone by, the area was known for the illegal distilling of whisky with stills being hidden from the excise men but remaining close enough to willing consumers in Inverness.
Anyone who was caught committing this heinous crime, might well have been named within the pages of the Inverness Courier, which was first published 200 years ago on December 4, 1817.
Among the headlines that have been published since is one from May 2, 1933, which read “Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness – what was it?” That was the first reported modern-day sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.
So, from an elusive monster to the Milky Way, there’s plenty for you to see here at Loch Ness. We look forward to your company, by day and by night!