North Ronaldsay Dark Skies

North Ronaldsay Dark Skies

The northernmost island in the Orkney Islands, North Ronaldsay, is a small isle with a stunning night sky for visitors to enjoy. At most, 70 permanent residents live on North Ronaldsay throughout the year, meaning there is minimal light pollution on the Isle. Astronomers and night sky watchers will find the dark skies of North Ronaldsay an absolute treat, and it’s possible to see the Aurora Borealis and the Milky Way too!

History of North Ronaldsay Dark Sky

Since the 19th century, the permanent population on the remote island of North Ronaldsay has been slowly dwindling. And while about 500 people lived on the island by the end of the 19th century, there are now less than 70 year-round residents.

Because of its remoteness, it has been called the “dark sky island” due to minimal atmospheric pollution and exquisitely dark winter months. The local community have made extraordinary efforts to prevent light pollution and preserve the dark skies for more than a decade. Thanks to their diligence, the North Ronaldsay Community Association secured the island’s dark sky status in 2021 from the International Dark Sky Association! Today, you can reap the rewards of Orkney’s northernmost island and visit the International Dark Sky Community that made it possible.

Highlights of North Ronaldsay Dark Sky

Dark sky enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to when seeing the dark skies status of North Ronaldsay, but here are the highlights that need to be on your bucket list!

See the Northern Lights

Northern Lights

Thanks to its northern skies and remote location, North Ronaldsay is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights! One of the most gorgeous cosmic wonders, the Northern Lights, is caused by the Sun’s rays hitting the Earth’s atmosphere.

This elusive phenomenon is not easy to behold, though, and it’s recommended that you set aside a couple of nights to give you the best chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis. It’s also best to come as close to the winter months as possible, as the summer skies aren’t dark enough even at night!

Attend the North Ronaldsay Science Show

The North Ronaldsay Dark Sky Science Show is an annual exhibition offering the best science and nature presentations that North Ronaldsay has! The show takes place from the 10th – 12th of March, and its three days cover everything from birds, conservation, and the Northern Sky!

Local astronomer enthusiasts will cover everything you need to know about the night skies above you, from the planets making their way through their orbit, the bright band of the Milky Way, and the wealth of constellations and stars you can see.

There’s even a walk through the frosty night to the lighthouse, so pack your jumper!

Go Stargazing

While obvious, there are plenty of opportunities to stargaze with your friends and family throughout North Ronaldsay. If you are coming alone, don’t underestimate the warm welcome the local astronomers will give you – they’re always more than happy to advise you on a great path to see the stars shine.

It’s best to bring a telescope with you if you want a closer look at some of the most stunning night sky objects or take dark sky measurements.

Enjoy a Night Sky Walk

There’s no better way to see the beautiful colours the stars and northern lights paint the sky than going for a night skywalk. Even if you need binoculars or telescopes, it’s still an incredible way to see the night sky.

There are multiple unique hot spots to walk to if you want to go on a night skywalk, including the North Ronaldsay Lighthouse.


While accommodation options can be sparse in North Ronaldsay, the Isle still sees its fair share of tourists during the busy summer months. There are several homely bed and breakfasts and self-catering options, all run by encouraging residents who are happy to chat with you about their island.

Otherwise, staying within the Orkney accommodation is another option, and the Mainland has more than enough great places to visit.

Things to Do Nearby

There are amazing things to do in North Ronaldsay, including the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory, one of a few officially recognised bird observatories in the UK! Otherwise, the Isle is home to plenty of cultural and historical attractions.

The Quoyness Chambered Cairn is a free, fantastic piece of history created over 2000 years ago! One wonders how Neolithic residents of Scotland even reached North Ronaldsay, nevertheless creating a fantastic monument like this.

North Ronaldsay is also one of a few islands in Scotland with seaweed-eating sheep, which are a delightful sight as you wander the coastline of the Isle.


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