Star Gazing and Cloud Watching

Star gazing

A great activity on nights when there’s a clear sky. Elgol provides a big sky horizon for night time watching and there’s also good opportunities for cloud watching to see interesting cloud formations during the daytime.

Many astronomers lament the amount of light pollution affecting their observations, including at some of the better known dark sky sites.  Skye, you’ll be pleased to know, was confirmed as having very low levels of light pollution.  Wherever you have a really wide field of vision the chances of good quality observations increase. The hill behind Springbank Cottage is ideal and has an extensive horizon.

What you can do

  • Scan the night sky to try and pick out recognisable stars and constellations.
  • Watch the moon and see moon phases for real.
  • Use a star chart and planosphere to help identify patterns among the stars.
  • Look out for the International Space Station as it passes.

Where to do it

  • Elgol has all the makings of a perfect dark-sky site – no street lighting, almost no light pollution and a huge viewable horizon.

What we provide

  • Binoculars
  • 2019 Guide to the Night Sky
  • Planosphere for 51.5 deg North
  • Guide to the major constellations

Advice about the activity

  • Clear skies give the best visibility and make it easier to identify star groups.
  • Set up the chairs and cushions, wrap up warm and sit out on the terrace and enjoy the show.
  • Never look directly at the Sun.

Sky guides

The 2019 edition of the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s guide to the NIGHT SKY authored by Storm Dunlop and Wil Tirion and published by Collins. The book provides a month-by-month guide to exploring the skies above Britain and Ireland and we provide a copy at Springbank Cottage for our guests to use during their stay.

The guide gives a calendar of potentially viewable events together with details of the moon’s phases for each day every month. Each month also has three charts for how the sky will look at three set times which gives you a good idea of what you should be seeing and when you are likely to see it.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know your Bellatrix from your Betelgeuse, the guide gives clear indications of how to locate key features at specific times of the year. It also enables you to explore the night sky to pick out less familiar constellations as well as other objects such as globular clusters, gaseous nebulas and other galaxies, notably the Andromeda galaxy, which is visible at most times of the year.

Cloud watching

An increasingly popular activity especially among photographers and the area offers good opportunities to see some interesting clouds, including the aurora borealis at the right time of the year.

The whole of the west coast of Scotland enjoys big scenery and regularly delivers great seascapes, sunsets and interesting cloud formations and Skye is no exception. You don’t always need the amazing scenery to set off what you see in the sky as dramatic cloud formations quickly develop yet seem to go again just as quickly on a good breezy day.

Get your head in the clouds

According to the The Cloud Collector’s Handbook  – an official publication of The Cloud Appreciation Society – there are 46 different cloud types so there’s plenty of variety to look out for.

It is the seemingly endless variability of cloud formations that both fascinates and frustrates when trying to identify what you are seeing in the sky with what “the book says” a specific type of cloud should look like. What makes cloud watching so interesting is that clouds can, quite quickly alter their characteristics which means that they move from one modification to another.

Another terrific source of help in identifying your cloud is The Met Office’s Pocket Cloud Book which very clearly explains how clouds get their names and shows what each should look like.  It also gives some idea of how clouds develop and why.

You might not see all the different types of clouds in these books but at least you’ll know what you are looking at.

There’s more on offer at Springbank Cottage

Both of these books are part of an extensive collection of reference guides available for guests of Springbank Cottage, Elgol, Isle of Skye self catering holiday cottage to use.  This is part of our environmental activities facilities intended to offer our guests a lot more than is usual for a holiday cottage.

So, if you are thinking about a trip to Skye and you want more than just a “standard” holiday cottage, take a closer look.  We hope you will be surprised by how much is on offer during a stay at Springbank Cottage.

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