Press Release: National Science Council Supports Highland ‘Star Stories’

19th July 2018


Abriachan’s Clelland McCallum recounts a starry folk tale around the campfire.  Picture rights Abriachan Forest Trust

An innovative programme of astronomy outreach has been awarded funding from the UK based Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The ‘Star Stories’ programme of events will bring together culture, landscape and astronomical learning through the medium of storytelling and night sky observing.  A successful pilot was run over the previous winter at the Abriachan Forest Trust dark sky site, 12 miles SW of Inverness, which will host the ongoing events.

The grant funds will buy essential observing equipment like plinth mounted binoculars and clear space for the construction of astronomical landscape props, including a wooden henge and polar aligned sundial.  It will also support transportation costs to and from the events for families from targeted areas who may lack access to cars.

Stephen Mackintosh, the project astronomer who initiated the bid, said:

“These events will be unique because they’ll link astronomical observing with landscape in a format accessible to all ages, not just technical hobbyists.  Astronomy isn’t only about looking through telescopes, people are fascinated by the broad sweep of the night sky and things like ancient timekeeping.  In building landscape props like a wooden henge people can get a real feel for how the Sun, Moon and stars were tracked by our ancestors, which is an excellent gateway into modern astronomical learning.  It will also leave a lasting legacy at the Abriachan site itself.”

Suzann Bar, learning co-ordinator at Abriachan Forest Trust said:

We have no doubt the Star Stories events will be inspirational for ourselves and, more importantly engage and inspire our pupils, young people and their families.  We eagerly anticipate getting involved.

The bid was also enthusiastically supported by Professor Martin Hendry, head of the school of Physics and Astronomy at Glasgow University and Steve Owens, Dark Sky Consultant and author of Stargazing For Dummies, who will both deliver guest talks during the programme.

Professor Martin Hendry said:

I was really pleased to hear about this award.  The skies in the forest are among the darkest in the UK and the outreach programme is highly engaging, with a strong storytelling component that resonates so strongly with the cultural traditions of the Highlands

Steve Owens said:

This is a fabulous opportunity to get people from all walks of life looking up into the dark skies of the Scottish Highlands, and directly connecting with their natural and cultural heritage


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About the STFC

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe’s largest multidisciplinary research organisations. It funds and supports research in particle and nuclear physics, astronomy, gravitational research and astrophysics, and space science.

STFC is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit


About Abriachan Forest Trust

Abriachan Forest Trust is a 540 Ha community woodland located 25 miles from Inverness and established twenty years ago with the following aims: to encourage outdoor learning and recreation, to support access to the countryside, to improve the biodiversity of the area through woodland management, and to create local employment opportunities.


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