Scottish Otherworldly Wonders

5 Scottish Otherworldly Wonders

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, Ayrshire

As night descends on a hilltop in rural Galloway you can take a leap into the unknown, dreaming of far-flung galaxies as you gaze out into the star-studded sky through the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory’s two giant telescopes. For techies, one is a 20” Planewave CDK telescope in the 5-metre dome, the other, (wrap up warm), an open-air 14″ Schmidt-Cassegrain. Pioneering and awe-inspiring, the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park is Scotland’s – and Europe’s – first dark sky park.

The Kelpies, Falkirk

In mythology, kelpies are otherworldly water horses, spirits with malevolent, shape-changing powers. The Kelpies in the Helix Park near Falkirk, however, have no dark purpose. The two giant horses’ heads stand 30m tall and are the world’s largest equine sculptures. Big, bold and beautiful, Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, has called them ‘equine guardians’ and used 300 tonnes of steel to create each sculpture. They are monumental tributes to the heavy horses that helped to transform this landscape and build the area’s now long lost, industries. Clambering inside the horses’ heads, you can explore this feat of engineering and design close up.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

Fairies feature in many of Skye’s place names and the island is steeped in ancient folklore. The bewitchingly beautiful Fairy Pools have cast their spell over all those who stumble upon their crystal clear, bracingly blue waters. At the foot of the Black Cuillins, these natural pools carved into the rocks are linked by a series of tumbling waterfalls and have become a wild swimming hotspot. It’s a 40-minute hike up to the first waterfall, where you can plunge into the invigorating waters, swim under a natural arch and lounge on a ledge in the sun.

Reelig Glen, Highlands
When snow blankets the Highlands, Reelig Glen is transformed into Narnia. Although gazing up into the towering treetops you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into Gulliver’s Travels. The giants in this majestic woodland soar skywards – and into the record books. Boasting four of the tallest trees in Britain, Dughall Mor, a Douglas fir known as the ‘Big Dark Stranger’ was declared the tallest conifer in Europe at 66.4m high. Add the tallest lime tree, tallest larch and tallest Norway Spruce. Some say it’s the rich soil that has sparked the intense growing spurts, others believe there’s something in the sparkling waters of the Moniack Burn…

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Was it an astronomical observatory, religious shrine or ceremonial circle? At sunrise or sunset the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of standing stones in Orkney’s bare bleak heartland, exerts an almost mystical power. Dating back to around 2,500 BC, there were originally sixty megaliths in the circle; today only twenty-seven remain. The Ring of Brodgar along with Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe and Skara Brae make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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