Highlands and islands prepare for invasion of eclipse chasers and a once-in-a-lifetime event

Scotland's rugged northern coastline will provide the dramatic backdrop to a once in a lifetime chance to view an annular eclipse of the sun from British shores next month.

Thousands of eclipse chasers are expected to travel to the Highlands and Islands to view the phenomenon at sunrise on 31 May.

As the sun pokes above the horizon off the Caithness coast, crowds are expected to gather on the windswept beaches from Durness to Dunnet Head, the northernmost point on the Scottish mainland.

On Lewis, tour groups from Europe and North America have already laid plans to watch the eclipse from a circle of 12ft-high megaliths known as the Standing Stones of Callanish – a primitive astronomical calendar believed to have been erected by the inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides 4,000 years ago to chart the movements of the stars.

An annular eclipse occurs when the moon covers the centre of the sun but not its edges, so that a spectacular ring, or annulus, of light forms around the moon. The spectacle, which has not been seen from Britain since 1921, will not be visible here again until 2093.

Although a partial eclipse will be visible over parts of Europe, northern Asia and Russia, northern Canada, and Alaska, the eclipse will be best viewed in Scotland from the Orkneys, Shetlands, Lewis, and most of the Highlands, including the capital, Inverness.

Providing weather conditions are clear, watchers in Inverness should see an annular eclipse lasting 1 minute 13 seconds, right on the horizon; in Stornoway, the eclipse will last 2 minutes 24 seconds.

In Iceland, however, the eclipse will last over three and a half minutes, with the sun well clear of the horizon. Starting at about 3.45am and ending at about 5.45am, the path of the moon's antumbral shadow begins in northern Scotland, crosses Iceland and central Greenland, and ends at sunrise in Baffin Bay, Canada. Although annular eclipses occur with a slightly higher frequency than total solar eclipses, they are still quite rare in small islands such as Britain, which makes next month's event even more important.

The Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board is anticipating a busy end to May by encouraging local operators and guest-house owners to promote special packages to attract visitors. David Noble, the board's chief executive, said: "The north coast offers some of the most stunning coastal views with spectacular sunrises, 365 days a year. This is a special place to experience a special natural phenomenon which people won't want to miss."

Sandy Barton, of the Ben Corragh guest house in John O'Groats, was looking forward to the boost in tourism. "Most of the guest houses and hotels around here are full already and have been for some time," he said. "We've got people booked in from all over Britain and Europe and are having to turn more and more people away as each day passes.

"My greatest fear is that a lot of people will turn up without booking anywhere and find they have nowhere to stay."

"This eclipse is undoubtedly good for the area," said Jean Manson, who runs the post office near John O'Groats. "A lot of places have been taking bookings since last year and the number of people ringing up is increasing the closer we get to the event."

Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game