Guest blog: Unlocking the magic of dark skies in National Parks

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park’s Volunteering, Engagement and Programme Manager, Charlotte Wallace, is star struck

Paul barr photography   night sky detail

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and the John Muir Trust welcomed Steve Owens, author of Stargazing For Dummies[1], and Executive Director of the Crawick Multiverse, to Balmaha Visitor Centre for an evening of stargazing in late November.

The two-hour event explored the wonders of the night sky, from galaxies to nebulae, shooting stars to satellites and night-time outdoor activities that can take place even during cloudy weather. Staff and volunteers enjoyed that chance to learn more about Scotland’s dark skies, outdoor learning and #WinterResidentials[2].

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park’s Volunteering, Engagement and Programme Manager, Charlotte Wallace, shared her thoughts about the experience:

"Every once in a while we are lucky enough as professionals to undertake training and work with partners to make something truly inspirational happen.

"About two weeks ago, I believe this happened within the National Park, when the partnership between the John Muir Trust and the National Park Authority welcomed Steve Owens, from Crawick Multiverse, to Balmaha Visitor Centre to introduce us to the wonders of the night sky.

"Both the National Park and the John Muir Trust have been very passionate about dark skies for many years, but this session aimed to share our enthusiasm for being outdoors at night with staff particularly from outdoor centres and residential providers. They in turn can go and use their new understanding straight back in providing brilliant residential experiences for young people.

"Within the first few minutes of listening to Steve, I looked around the training room and it was obvious that we were all enthralled with the magic and wonder of the night sky. The delivery of the session from such a knowledgeable and passionate individual really brought it to life.

"Personally, I was captured by how the night sky could both inspire creativity and the joy of sharing myths and stories around the legends of the stars. It also make my brain ache with the scale and magnitude of the universe we are part of. That sense of place and scale, has really stayed with me, and every night since I have taken time to stop, take a breath, and look up!

"So in summary, what a way to spend a Thursday evening! In a beautiful setting in the National Park, underneath the big dark sky, learning about stars, galaxies, and the importance of our role in sharing this with others."

Images from Paul Barr Photography.

[1] Steve Owen’s published book ‘Stargazing for Dummies’ is available to buy online.

[2] Brilliant Residentials is the research-based campaign from Learning Away that aims to demonstrate the positive impact that high-quality residential learning can have for students and teachers.