Go stargazing and discover the wonderful night sky
Big, open skies are a defining feature of the countryside and on a clear night you can see some 4,000 stars sparkling in our universe all year round.
Light pollution is a growing issue for amateur astronomers, but with many of our sites far away from towns and streetlights you can still get a wonderfully clear view of the night sky.
Some of these spots have recently been awarded Dark Sky Discovery status and are now part of The Dark Sky Discovery network, an online map of all the fantastic places that more and more people have easy access to, for a good view of the night sky.
Tips for budding astronomers
- Stargazing is best done before the moon is full, so it might be worth looking at the next new moon dates before you book your trip.
- See if you can spot the glow of the Andromeda Galaxy. Two million light years away, this is the most distant object the human eye can see. If you use binoculars you should be able to see Andromeda’s elliptical shape.
- Make sure you take warm clothes. Even on a balmy summer evening, with clear skies above, stargazing can get chilly all year round. A hot drink is never amiss either.
- Follow in Galileo’s footsteps, with some free seasonal stargazing guides to spotting constellations during spring, summer, autumn and winter.
- Stargazing is also perfect for kids and one of the '50 things’ activities. Many of our places are holding stargazing events for all of the family throughout the year.
- Want to stargaze and camp? Why not find a wonderful place to sleep under the stars?
Take a look below at our suggestions for great stargazing spots.
A Dark Sky Discovery Site, Allan Bank is a place to relax in front of a warm fire with a cup of tea or enjoy the fresh air outside. Once home to William Wordsworth and National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley, the house allows you to see and touch the home’s fascinating history, whilst the woodland offers the chance to explore and soak up the stunning views.
More stargazing spots in the North West:
* All three Lake District campsites in Cumbria lie in unique locations. Low Wray, Langdale and Wasdale campsites are wild and natural, dark at night and are perfect spots for viewing meteor showers.
Stackpole is a perfect Dark Sky Discovery spot for stargazing. This former grand estate stretches down to some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Cliffs, sand dunes and tiny coves alternate along eight miles of coastline. This secluded bay can only be reached by a cliff path walk from Stackpole Quay, which is a beautiful tiny harbour, home to local fishing vessels and small pleasure boats.
Officially accredited with Dark Sky Discovery status, Carnewas is one of the most popular destinations on the Cornish coast. This piece of coastline keeps itself hidden as you first enter the car park. However, take a short walk along the paths and you will be rewarded with views that are arguably some of the most impressive in Cornwall and a perfect spot for stargazing.
A beautiful haven on Bristol’s doorstep, Leigh Woods offers diverse woodland and wonderful views of Avon Gorge. Officially awarded with Dark Sky status, the woods are perfect not only for stargazing but cycling, walking and orienteering as well.
Awarded Dark Sky Discovery status, St Agnes and Chapel Porth offers a breathtaking coastal landscape, with panoramic views, plenty of heritage and wonderful wildlife to spot on your visit. A vast low tide beach and a sea of glowing heather make it hard to believe this area once had an industrial past.
More stargazing spots in the South West:
* Get closer to the stars at Dunkery Beacon on the Holnicote estate, the highest point on Exmoor, with sweeping skies and very little light pollution.
*Godolphin Hill offers 360 degree views with no artificial lights close by and plenty of native wildlife.
*A fantastic, peaceful spot away from the intrusion of lights, South Milton Sands is a perfect place to watch the sunset whilst looking out to sea and enjoying the wildlife in the wetlands behind.
*Situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge Landscape occupies a large, sparsely populated area ideal for stargazing. There are regular stargazing and storytelling events held with Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group. For more information search on the events page, or phone the central box office on 0844 249 1895.
* Beautifully positioned at the head of the Fal estuary, Trelissick Park commands panoramic views over the area. It is far enough away from the glow of nearby Truro to make this a great star gazing spot.
Located on the northern edge of Belfast, reaching a height of 1,562ft (478m), this vantage point is located over the brow of the hill. There is little to obstruct your view of the sky and although you can see the city lights of Belfast twinkle below light pollution is minimal.
Terrain and safety: Be aware that horses and cattle are free to roam here.
Location: The Divis Mountain car park is open all year and provides a good place to star gaze.
An Edwardian estate, the beautiful garden at Emmetts was laid out in the late 19th century and contains many exotic and rare trees and shrubs from across the world. After exploring the rose and rock gardens, you can take in the wonderful views, enjoy the flowers or spot stars at night in this Dark Sky Discovery spot.
This is a popular spot with local astronomy groups, who consider Headley Heath to be one of the best places in Surrey for stargazing. Keep an eye out for deer, badgers, foxes and bats.
Terrain and safety: Well-maintained, flat terrain.
Location: Play area just beside Headley Heath car park, which is just outside the M25 with good links to London. Easy access to the car park from the main Headley Common Road.
More stargazing spots in London and the South East:
* Situated on the highest point of the South Downs, Black Down's sweeping skies make it an ideal spot for observing the stars.
*Free from light pollution, Bignor car park on the Slindon Estate offers a high point on the top of the South Downs.
*View the night sky from the highest point in south east England at Leith Hill Tower in Surrey.
*The top of Echo Mount as well as the car park at Knole offer great views of the night sky.
*Snug in its hilltop setting above the flatlands of the Sussex/Kent border, Winchelsea has very little light pollution, making it a great spot for stargazing.
*Morden Hall Park is a 125 acre oasis of dark skies on the edge of London. Get the tram to Phipps Bridge and you will find yourself right next to a big field that is perfect for stargazing.
This Bronze Age hill fort offers clear, unobstructed views of the night sky, with little light pollution. Keep an eye out for barn owls, especially at dusk, and you may catch a glimpse of bats too.
Terrain and safety: Strenuous ascent with steps and rough surfaces, good footwear and torches essential. Keep to the surfaced path as there are dangerous, steep drops on the edges of the hill - stay close to the trig point when star gazing. Be aware of sheep grazing.
Location: Mam Nick car park is on the western end of the Hope Valley, near Castleton.
Cambridgeshire is famous for its big skies and they don't come much bigger than at the ancient Wicken Fen. This habitat of ponds, reeds, and marshy fields is intersected by a network of waterways, rich in wildlife. Be sure to listen out for the calls of Barn owls and Muntjac deer. In June and July, Glow worms may also light your way, with Lapwing and Redshank calling from March to August.
Terrain and safety: The terrain is flat and generally follows a hard-surfaced path. Be aware the path is parallel to waterways and that there is a foot-bridge to cross.
We all have places that mean something special to us. It might be somewhere we go to watch the stars or a favourite camping spot. Share your special place on Facebook.