UK Stargazing Destinations
For thousands of years, people have looked up, wide-eyed, trying to make sense of the expansive universe above them. And, as the nights and days become shorter, stargazers across the country prepare to do just that. So, while the temperatures are still mild, why not make a trip or camp out in one of our carefully selected locations under a blanket of stars?
We’ve pulled together some of our favourite spots from around the UK, along with additional activities to explore.
When is the best time to stargaze?
The ideal times to go stargazing are the days before, during and soon after a new moon. Also, due to longer nights, you tend to get a better experience from when the clocks go back in October to when they go forward in March, as autumn, winter, and early spring make for optimal star gazing. What you wish to see depends on the time of year and where we are in the lunar cycle. For example, you have a far better chance of seeing Nebulae, star clusters and the Milky Way when stargazing around the new moon.
Where is best to stargaze?
Suppose you don't have access to a telescope. In that case, it's worth making the journey to a reasonably dark location free from light pollution, and with just the naked eye, you’ll be rewarded with a mesmerising experience.
The UK offers numerous places to see a glorious, starry night sky. However, to make things easier, we’ve narrowed down a list of locations recognised as 'Dark Sky Reserves' and, weather dependent, offer you the best stargazing adventures you could hope to see.
Dark Sky Reserves
Dark Sky Reserves are large expanses of land around the UK protected to reduce light pollution, so experienced astrologers and amateur stargazers alike enjoy the splendours of a clear, unspoilt starry sky.
Similarly, Dark Sky Discovery Sites are a nationwide network of places officially recognised for their low levels of light pollution and great views that everyone can access.
We believe stargazing is a perfect opportunity to get out outside and explore a new wild location, so we found a selection of places with outstanding natural beauty recognised as Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the UK. Plus, you can plan a multi-day camping trip and make the journey to these remote locations part of your next outdoor adventure.
Buckden National Park, Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Reserve
Great for the northern lights
The Yorkshire Dales is a prominent place to start. It's hard to beat the sense of magic when strolling over the endless rolling landscape of valleys offering waterfalls, shimmering lakes and gushing rivers. However, tranquillity can quickly transform into wild and windy, so whatever outdoor mood you’ are in for, make sure your kit matches it.
Hordes of people travel to Scandinavia to get a chance to see one of the most spectacular wonders of the natural world – The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. But, did you know that The Yorkshire Dales is also a great place to capture this colourful celestial light show?
In particular, Buckden National Park offers large areas with almost no artificial light, making it one of the few locations to marvel at this rare phenomenon. Viewing the Northern Lights can mean setting off within a moment's notice, so if your trip doesn’t quite align, don't worry; you’ll almost certainly see thousands of stars and the spectacular Milky Way.
Bwlch y Groes in Snowdonia Dark Sky Reserve, Wales
Great for nocturnal wildlife
Wales is home to some of the most stunning locations in the world to go stargazing. In fact, nearly two-thirds of its land have low levels of light pollution. Taking up 10% of the country, Snowdonia National Park was awarded its Dark Sky Reserve Status in 2015 and is now famous for its highly preserved remote locations to view a clear night's sky.
For the more adventurous, Bwlch y Groes - located on one of the highest vantage points in the park - gives you an unobstructed view of The Milky Way and most major constellations. Without artificial light, the park's wildlife thrives. And, if you're lucky, you may spot owls, bats and various bird species as they depend on the darkness to hunt and navigate.
Looking to stretch your legs during daylight hours? Explore the extensive network of trails within the park to familiarise yourself with your surroundings before a blanket of darkness alters the landscape.
Bruce's Stone, Loch Trool, Scotland
Great for history
Bruce's Stone overlooks the northern bank of Loch Trool and the spectacular rolling hills beyond. Known for its breath taking and rare stargazing conditions, you can see over 7000 stars and planets without special equipment. This mysterious granite boulder commemorates Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, whose significant victory at the battle of Glen Trool now marks a popular place to enjoy a stomp during the day and a peaceful gaze at night.
Once a bloody battlefield, visitors make the journey here to enjoy the peaceful serenity, walk, camp and, in particular, stargaze. During the day, Bruce's Stone is a starting point for a challenging walk up Merrick, the highest mountain in Southern Scotland.
Stonehaugh, Northumberland National Park, England
Great for camping
Stonehaugh (pronounced Stone – hoff) is located in the largest expanse of protected dark sky in Europe and is renowned for its tranquillity and natural beauty. Roughly 4 miles north of Hadrian's Wall, Stonehaugh is home to numerous wildflower meadows, lakes and brooks crisscrossed by ancient bridges.
Built in 2014, a hand-crafted circular pavilion named 'The Star Dome' performs as a shelter for stargazers and bird watchers, protecting them from the elements, day and night.
Carrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland
Great for a coastal adventure
Carrick-a-Rede, translated from the Scottish Gaelic 'Carraig-a-Rade' means 'The Rock in the Road' - a rocky island at the far northern tip of Northern Ireland named for being an obstacle in the path of the migrating salmon.
A narrow rope bridge suspends across a 30-metre deep and 20-metre -wide canyon with rugged land and a deep ocean on either side. Primarily used as early as 1755, it connects salmon fishermen to the island. Tourists now enjoy the heart-pumping journey across the bridge to enjoy its spectacular views.
Due to its remote location, Carrick-a-Rede is one of the best stargazing spots you can find in Northern Ireland and achieved a 'Dark Sky Discovery' status in 2014. Sustained by generations of locals from the fishing industry, you'll encounter a mixture of centuries-old stories, wild coastal hikes and, of course, memorable stargazing experiences.
Get Kitted Up For Stargazing
To get the best stargazing experiences, you need a clear sky and quite often, clear skies can mean crisp, chilly evenings. So, make sure you have enough warm layers to keep you cosy when admiring constellations but can be easily removed when hiking through the wilderness.
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