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Sandra MacGregor

Contributing writer

Sandra MacGregor is a freelance travel writer who estimates she has over 400 pint-sized hotel toiletries underneath her bathroom sink. She’s been published in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, National Geographic Travel and AFAR.

If you’re looking to put a bit of star-power into your autumn escape plans, then you may want to look no further than Canada’s fantastical Fogo Island Inn. Set in one of the four corners of the earth on a tiny island off the coast of Newfoundland, the property has been widely celebrated for its luxe appeal, unique ethos, singular amenities (like homemade quilts) and incomparable outings.

This year the Inn has instituted a new program for those who love pondering all things celestial: Stargazing with Skipper Jim Gillard.

Jim Gillard, a resident of nearby island Twillingate, is a passionate amateur astronomer. He has his own unique backyard observatory thanks to a splurge on a powerful (and gigantic) telescope. After lugging the massive telescope back and forth between his home to his outdoor deck became too much of a chore, he and his wife, Audrey, built a dome-walled permanent home for his beloved stargazing machine. The couple then opened their homemade observatory to the public, allowing Jim to share his passion for planets with all.

Jim is also an experienced boat skipper, giving guided tours on Iceberg Alley. As such, he knows the stars and seas of the North Atlantic intimately. As the property’s website notes: “We’re honoured—and a little star struck—here at Fogo Island Inn to be welcoming Jim as our astronomer-in-residence, the weekend of November 30 to December 2, 2018.” (Other stargazing dates are planned for a weekend in March, as well as on request when available.) Situated in a far-flung (but accessible) area of the province’s Northeast Coast near the legendary Iceberg Alley, the region’s remoteness and lack of urban (or even much rural) infrastructure nearly guarantees bright, clear stargazing on cloudless nights.

The stargazing program schedule starts on Friday evening with a reception and meet-and-greet in the lobby, followed by a delicious supper featuring island ingredients. Afterwards, Jim will offer an introduction to the astronomical wonders that are observable from Fogo Island.

On Saturday, guests have free time to explore the island on their own or with Community Hosts (locals who will take you on an individualized, intimate exploration of the island tailored to their specialities and your interests). Later, there are screenings of solar-system-centric movies. The weekend finishes with a big bang, when guests join Jim on a dark-sky adventure in Tilting, a historic Irish community set on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you’re looking for more earth-bound activities, fear not. The Inn has a bevy of outings for every season to get your spirit soaring. Another popular autumn activity is berry picking. This outing features specially planned weekends centered around picking blueberries, raspberries, marsh berries and partridgeberries and then making them into jam back at the Inn.

(Photo courtesy of Fogo Island Inn)

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