Glen Lyon Astronomy Weekend 2004

By Bob Bower

The Association of Falkirk Astronomers (AFA) observing weekend in Glen Lyon took place (8/9/10th Oct) and I decided to go. It has been held every year for the past five years at the Meggernie Scout Centre in Glen Lyon in the Perthshire. This year attendance was a total of 16, with representatives from the Astronomical Societies of Edinburgh, Stirling and myself, as well as the main core of AFA members. I wasn't able to get there until the Sat afternoon, whereas the rest of the party all arrived on the Friday night and on that night, they told me, they were treated to a fantastic view of the really dark night sky for about an hour before the clouds rolled in. Inevitably, it was cloudy by the time I arrived on the Saturday and it stayed that way throughout the rest of the weekend. This was a shame, because I naturally took some observing equipment with me. Originally I had toyed with the idea of taking my 12 inch reflector, but I reasoned that Glen Lyon is somewhat off the beaten track, and the thought of driving 100 miles into the highlands, including single-track country roads, with the scope swaying about in the back deterred me. In the end I took my binos, my small refractor and the AAS solar scope. However, none of them got used, mind you, if I had taken the big scope instead I would have been a bit more miffed!

The Meggernie Centre is set in glorious scenery halfway along Glen Lyon. Unlike the other more well known highland glens, this one is served by one single-track road from Aberfeldy, or, if you are feeling brave, another single track road which winds precariously up the side of Ben Lawers and down into the Glen, reaching 1500 ft in the process. I chose the latter route, primarily because it was shorter and after a couple of miles I was beginning to wonder where I was going to end up, wonderful views, but steep ditches on either side of the road, tight bends and highland cattle standing in the middle of the road concentrates the mind wonderfully.

The Meggernie Centre was originally a farm, positioned close to the river in the Glen. Unlike some of the other glens, Lyon is quite sheltered. The lower slopes of Ben Lawers are to the south of the Centre, a peaceful secluded site, miles from any real areas of population, and well protected by the hills in any case. It has been converted to provide accommodation in bunkhouse style, with meeting room and kitchen. I made it just in time for dinner and an excellent one it was too. The AFA are really well organised and very welcoming, I was made to feel a part of the group straightaway.

Since observing was out of the question, a quiz night took place, great fun and a real ice-breaker. This was followed by a talk given by Douglas Cooper on the trip he made to Egypt to view the Venus transit in June, along with Diane Cherry and Martin Russell of the AFA.

AFA brought along their own equipment for the talk, they have their own PC and data projector, just like we do, except that they acquired theirs through a lottery grant, rather than the route we took. They also have a 10 inch Meade LX200GPS scope as well, which they got through a second lottery grant.

Since I had arrived last, I had the privilege of sleeping on a top bunk, halfway through the night I realised that the wine offered to me in the evening which I had gladly consumed was about to cause a logistical problem trying to climb down from my bunk to go to the loo without disturbing anyone was quite a challenge. Sunday morning dawned grey, no chance of using the solar scope, so after a hearty breakfast we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

In retrospect, I wish it would have possible for me to have got there on the Friday night not only would I have done some serious astronomy, but the Glen Lyon/Ben Lawers area is tailor-made for hill walking during the day (or strolling along the glen if you prefer, the wildlife is prolific.

I have every intention of going for the full weekend next year. I can thoroughly recommend it to all. The cost for the whole weekend including all food from Fri night to Sun morning and accommodation was a very reasonable £35. Walter Scott of the AFA, who is one of the organisers, brought his whole family along so if you have kids there is no reason to feel that this necessarily precludes you from attending.

My thanks go to Walter Scott and all the other members of the AFA I met who were responsible for organising, doing the cooking and everything else needed to make an event like this so enjoyable.