Stargazing Weekend Breaks at The Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown-on-spey

The Highlands of Scotland are home to some of the darkest skies in Europe with Milky Way class observing from dozens of natural and rugged wilderness locations.


Following the success of the last Cairngorms Stargazing break, Highland Astronomy Tours is offering two further weekend astronomy breaks in the Scottish Highlands at The Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown-on-Spey.

2018 Weekend Dates:   January 19th & 20th and February 16th & 17th.

The weekends will be hosted by astronomer Stephen Mackintosh, who will be on hand during both evenings of your stay for talks, informal Q&A and professional outdoor excursions under the stars.  Stephen’s guiding will teach you how to navigate your way through the heavens with the naked eye, binoculars and with a sophisticated 200mm GOTO telescope, allowing audiences to peer at distant galaxies, planets and glistening star clusters.

“I had such a wonderful and magical evening with wonderful people”


The excellent 3* gold Grant Arms Hotel, situated in Grantown-on-Spey and the heart of the Cairngorms national park.

The Grant Arms hotel, is situated in the quaint setting of Grantown-on-Spey and in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, offering access to some of the darkest and least light polluted skies in the whole of Scotland.  The hotel also hosts the BWWC bird watching and wildlife club. offering excellent daytime walks and tours with local guides.  This is an excellent base in the Scottish Cairngorms for daytime adventure and evenings spent appreciating the heavens.


The Cairngorms is the biggest national park in the UK with nearly 1500 square miles of dark skies.

Weekend Itinerary

Arrive at the Grant Arms on Friday for check-in.  Stephen will meet guests for introductions before dinner at 6.30pm, and will setup while you enjoy your evening meal.

After dinner Stephen will kick off in the lecture theatre with an introductory talk on navigating the night sky, before the party is driven into the national park to a secret dark sky location for naked eye, binocular and (if conditions are settled) telescope viewing of the heavens.  In the event of poor weather, Stephen will instead present an informative lecture and Q&A on astronomy or take guests on a backup night tour of the ancient Clava Cairns (see below), with the hope of clearer skies the following evening.

On Saturday you have the day to yourself to explore some of the excellent attractions of the Cairngorms National Park, join in with various BWWC walks and tours, or just relax in the well provided confines of the Grant Arms and explore the historic town of Grantown-on-Spey.  Stephen will join the party again on Saturday evening after dinner for more talks, or excursions under the stars.

Depending on sky conditions and the appetite of guests, Stephen will also host a backup night time tour of the ancient Neolithic site at Clava Cairns.  These mysterious passaged cairns have some fascinating astronomical significance which will be revealed under darkness with head torches and laser pointer.

If sky conditions are poor Stephen will take guests on a night tour to the mysterious and astronomically significant Clava Cairns – one of the neolithic treasures of northern Scotland.

During any outdoor stargazing excursion hot chocolate will be served either in the field on your return to the Grant Arms.

At the conclusion of both evenings, Stephen will host an open Q&A session where he hopes to answer as many of your questions as possible.


Full package cost is £239 per person, including two nights dinner bed & breakfast at The Grant Arms + all talks and outings with Stephen.  Discounted child rate at £100 for the weekend.

To keep the weekend manageable and intimate in nature, availability of rooms is limited, so please book early to avoid dissapointment.

Getting There

Grant own-on-Spey is a 40 minute drive from the Highland capital Inverness.  Inverness itself is well connected by road, rail and air to the rest of the UK and Western Europe.  Inverness airport is regularly serviced with flights by British Airways, FlyBe, easyjet and KLM.  There are over 38 weekly flights from London to Inverness alone, and many other connections from UK hub airports.


Please email or call Stephen (tel:  07414 964 965) to book a place, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have about the weekend.


Professional guiding and talks from local astronomer Stephen Mackintosh

You can read a writeup of a previous Cairngorms Stargazing Weekend in this article printed in the BWWC Wildlife magazine.


“I had such a wonderful and magical evening with wonderful people. I learned a lot from that tour Stephen. I like it how you explain things in a way that everyone could easily understand it. Like it better when you relate baking with how the universe is expanding, i so like that. Ive seen my favorite star cluster Pleiades and now i am getting interested with the double stars. Thank you very much.” — Chen from London, guest at one of the Cairngorm Stargazing breaks.

“Stephen is an articulate and nuanced astronomer, with a real flair for communicating complex concepts in a way that people can understand. His video telescope work is excellent, revealing details of the cosmos on a computer screen for all to see, allowing audiences to marvel at Jupiter’s moons, faint nebulae, and distant giant galaxies.”Steve Owens, author of “Stargazing for Dummies’ @darkskyman.

“I’d thoroughly recommend Stephen Mackintosh to host an astronomy event. As well as being extremely knowledgeable, he is a good communicator that is well able to hold the attention of a large group. I look forward to working with him again and to what I’ll learn about and see in the night sky” — Caroline Snow, Project Manager, Merkinch Local Nature Reserve, Inverness.

“I have spent many a happy but chilly night alongside Stephen Mackintosh, enjoying a guided tour of the night sky. He has shown me planets, galaxies, clusters and nebulae. Every sighting has been accompanied with informative commentary about their discovery and historical background. Wrap up warm and bring a flask of hot chocolate. You will be in for an unforgettable night.”Gavin Macfie, Writer and Outdoorsman at Living Mountain.

Scotland’s outstanding dark skies