A COMMUNITY that bought a former Cold War radar base from the Ministry of Defence will mark its first year as a landowner with a Burns Night ceilidh and torchlit procession today.

Activists took charge of the derelict RAF station at Aird Uig on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The buyout allowed locals to access remote Gallan Head, the most north-westerly headland in the UK, for the first time in more than 60 years.

In the 12 months since, the Gallan Head Community Trust has bought and converted a house on the edge of the site into a restaurant, craft shop and local hub, also raising funds for land remediation and hiring a part-time development officer. The trust aims to develop a major tourist attraction on the land, creating a “ground-breaking, multi-purpose” observatory space for watching the skies, observing the weather, spotting and listening to whales and studying nature and science.

The Cetus Observatory will include robotic and manual telescopes plus radar, a planetarium, exhibitions, webcams and educational facilities.

John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland and patron of the Cetus Observatory, said: “We seem to be on track toward opening the observatory to the public by 2020.

“I look forward to visiting Gallan Head again in the next few months.

“I am sorry to be missing the Burns Night and bonfire, but my thoughts will be with Gallan Head and I will be raising a glass to the project on the day at the New Cumnock Burns Club, with one of whose members I am working on a cosmic poetry project.”

Jill Smith, chairwoman of the Gallan Head Community Trust, said: “We as trustees are working hard to be sensitive, considerate custodians of this magical landscape.

“The Cetus Observatory will inspire and invigorate its visitors, and will bring life back to our community, jobs to our area and will attract young people back to our villages.

“This weekend, we are celebrating both what we have achieved so far, and the great potential we have to make a real difference to our island community.”