Nestled between the Isle of Mull and the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Coll is one of the best places in Scotland to view a naturally unpolluted starry sky. The Isle of Coll was designated as a Dark Sky Community by the International Dark Sky Association in December 2013 and has been a fantastic point to see the unfiltered skies above at night ever since.
There are plenty of other attractions to look out for. We recommend budding stargazers planning to visit the Isle of Coll stick around as we cover them right here!
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History of the Isle of Coll Dark Skies
The Isle of Coll is a small island, spanning 13 miles wide and 3 miles long, and sits just off the West end of the Isle of Mull. It’s home to about 220 permanent residents, although this number blossoms during summer. The Isle of Coll used to hold about 1,000 permanent residents during the 1800s, but factors like the Napoleonic War and the Highland Potato Famine caused many to leave for other countries like Canada by the mid-19th century.
The decrease in population led to minimising light pollution, something that’s maintained by the smaller community that lives on the Isle today. And while the Isle of Coll was home to stunning night sky views, it was officially designated as part of the Dark Sky Community in 2013, an incredible achievement for such a small community.
Today, the island is home to many attractions that provide guests with the most accurate view of deep sky objects like the Moon, Milky Way, and the Northern Lights.
Highlights of the Isle of Coll Dark Skies
If a visit to the Isle of Coll to see the Dark Sky is something you’re planning to add to your vacation, then make sure to read the highlights of this fantastic location below – there’s bound to be something you can add to your to-do list!
View the Northern Lights
The beautiful dancing lights, sometimes called the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, are visible from the Isle of Coll – although you must be there at the right time and place.
The most likely time to see this stunning phenomenon is Autumn until Spring, as the Isle of Coll’s latitude makes it too bright during the Summer months. You’ll also need a clear night without any obtrusive weather, so give yourself a few days for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
If you don’t arrive during the optimal season, don’t worry! Visitors in the Summer months have the transcendent Noctilucent Clouds to look forward to – beautiful night-shining clouds that hover tens of kilometres above the island.
Attend Coll and the Cosmos
One of the premier attractions budding astronomers can attend on the Isle of Coll is Coll and the Cosmos. This stargazing weekend break is perfect for any audience that wants to see the majestic stars above without worrying about having any prior knowledge about stargazing or astronomy.
Coll and the Cosmos is an event hosted by the Coll Bunkhouse & the Coll Planetarium, which hosts this fantastic weekend break in March and October of each year (visit their website for more details).
Visitors can expect an amazing stargazing learning experience with a fully digital cosmos planetarium, 360-degree theatre views showing off the star clusters and planets above in high resolution, and a wide range of astronomical subjects covered in fascinating detail.
Trust us. There’s no better place to become familiar with the night sky than this weekend break.
Visit the Coll Cosmos Planetarium
If you miss the Coll and the Cosmos Planetarium event, then you can always see the many deep-sky objects throughout the year at the Coll Cosmos Planetarium!
This multi-media theatre experience brings years of experience and thousands of photographs together to provide visitors with a look into the cosmos unlike they’ve ever seen before! The solar system, the Milky Way, and planets are at your fingertips without worrying about light pollution or weather permitting outside.
Ensure you check the availability of the Cosmos Planetarium, and a show may take place while you visit the Isle of Coll.
Stop by a Designated Dark Skies Discovery Site
While the light pollution on the Isle of Coll is much less, there are designated Dark Sky points that travellers to the Isle should make a point to stop by and enjoy the clear, uninterrupted view of the night sky from.
There are three designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites on the Isle of Coll – one in Arinagour, one in the Cliad Football Pitch, and one in the RSPB Totronald. Each location was chosen because of its minimal light pollution and clear vistas to see the skies.
While you can see the stars from most places on the Isle, the discovery sites give you the best opportunity to see the bright band of the Milky Way with your naked eye, as well as stunning star clusters like the ‘Beehive’ double cluster.
While the Isle of Coll is tiny, there are still plenty of accommodation options on the island. We’ve mentioned the Coll Bunkhouse, a 5-star hotel accommodation that offers guests to be in the heart of the action.
Otherwise, the nearby Isle of Mull and Isle of Skye offer an excellent selection of accommodation. Choose from luxurious hotels, cosy self-catering homes or homely bed and breakfasts without compromising on the beautiful coastline view that the Scottish Highlands are known for.
Nearby Things to Do
The Isle of Coll harbours a wealth of attractions and a fantastic location for stargazing. One of the best features of the Isle of Coll is its tranquillity, thanks to its minimal population (although it drastically increases during summer).
And while your nights may be filled with stargazing, the beaches, abundant nature reserves, and trail course await you during the day! Whether you’re planning to go kayaking along the pristine beach, survey the fauna and flora as your hike across the Isle, or take a trip through the cosy town of Arinagour, there’s always something to do.
The Isle of Coll is also excellent for historical monuments, like the towering Breachacha Castle. The Castle comprises two smaller structures, one from the 15th century and another ‘newer’ castle built in 1750.
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