The Planet Trail

In 2004 the Balgay Planet Trail was opened by Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland. The Planet trail is a scale model of the Solar System. The planets are represented by standing stones set out at distances which represent the true distances of the planets from the Sun, at a scale of approximately 1:20,000,000,000.

Pictured right: Opening the Planet Trail, Hilda Spear, Professor John Brown and Cllr Charles Farquhar

The trail can be walked in either direction; the ‘Sun’ being situated on the east summit of Balgay Hill, (see photo left) and Pluto is represented by the Mills Observatory itself. Each standing stone has an oval plaque set into it, with a description of the planet it represents.

Walking the trail from one end to the other provides the walker with a good impression of the scale of the solar system, and in particular how distant the outer planets are from the Sun, compared to the inner planets. Indeed, from the distance of Neptune, the Sun simply looks like a very bright star, rather than the substantial disk that we see from Earth.  As well as that, of course, the walker has the opportunity to learn about the planets and their various characteristics.

The planet trail on Balgay Hill is the largest purpose-built planet trail in Scotland.