Overnight Adventures: Meteors at Milngavie

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most prolific and reliable meteor showers in the northern hemisphere and you can view it easily from Glasgow’s northern neighbour, Milngavie.

Perseids by Kim MyoungSung licensed under CC-BY-2.0

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most prolific and reliable meteor showers in the northern hemisphere. This year the shower peaks on the night of 12th August, continuing through the morning. Luckily, this is around the time of a new moon so there will be no reflected solar light to block viewings. The hardest part is finding a place to see the shower without light pollution from urban areas. Since the meteors can only been seen in the north you may have to head north as well to get out of the glare of Glasgow’s bright lights. You can head east or west too, as long as the view to the north is clear. In this guide we’ll be going north, as it has easy transport links.

Get the train to the small town of Milngavie, just a few miles north of Murano Street halls. You can get on from Central Low Level, Queen Street, Charing Cross, Exhibition Centre, Partick or Hyndland. It’s pretty to easy to get there and it only takes about 15-25 minutes. Milngavie is also known as the starting point of the West Highland Way, another adventure that is fun to go on if you’re in Glasgow over summer. This path is only about 1 or 2% of the whole West Highland Way.

For getting to a good vantage point you’ll need to get to high ground that isn’t obstructed by light from Milngavie. The best place for this is the edge of Mugdock Country Park, which is just to the north of Milngavie. The easiest way to do this is to follow the start of the West Highland Way and then take the signs for Drumclog Moor. Take a torch if you’re setting out in the dark. The hiking path starts in the town centre, at the West Highland Way marker next to the Greggs bakery. From here, go down the steps and over the Allander Water, continuing to follow signs for the West Highland Way. You can walk along the Allander Water, but be extra careful not to fall in! Take any turns for Drumclog Moor or Mugdock Country Park. You’ll find plenty of open space to view north at the first field you come across. Turn south looking back to Milngavie and you’ll see all of Greater Glasgow occupying the entirety of the panorama. It’s quite a special view in itself.

The predictions this year are for around 100 meteors per hours, so almost 2 meteors per minute. This is really high compared to most other meteor showers, but only a little bit above average for the Perseids. The Perseids often have long streaking tails, and sometimes full fireballs. It’s a good time of the year to go view a meteor shower since you can stay outside without it getting too cold as well. All you have to do is look toward the radiant in the constellation of Perseus. Try using the Google SkyMap app to find the Perseids or Perseus. But for general guidance the Perseid radiant is directly north at 7pm on 12th August and continues toward the east so by around midnight it will be approximately north-east and very high in the sky.

Once you’ve found a nice spot, you’ll be there for a while, especially since public transport doesn’t run overnight from here. Bring some extra layers of clothing, just in case. Especially waterproofs. In Scotland you can walk and camp anywhere except someone’s garden, railways and military installations. So the fields at Drumclog Moor are fine. Bring a tent if you’re scared of sleeping out in the open.

If you continue along to the interior of Mugdock Country Park there are not one, but two castles! There is a ruined 14th century castle next to the moor, once owned by John Smith of the university bookshop fame and later by Hugh Fraser of the House of Fraser fame. In the daytime it is a visitor attraction. If you’re extra brave you can explore it at night! Or even camp in it if you’re not afraid of ghosts. The other castle is a ruin, but it is in such a state of disrepair that it is not safe to enter. You’ll find it fenced off so you will not get confused with the older castle.

So bring some friends, some food, some drink and something to sleep in and you’ll have a great adventure not so far from Glasgow. The bonus is that when you wake up in the morning and walk back to Milngavie everyone thinks you’ve just completed the West Highland Way.