Night walks for dark skies

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.

If you're looking to open your eyes to something new then download one of our dark skies walking routes for one of these great stargazing spots:

    Black Down, Sussex

    Situated on the highest point of the South Downs, Black Down's sweeping skies make it an ideal spot for observing the stars. During the summer months Nightjars can be heard on the open heath, while Pippestrelle bats roost in the hill's Beech Hanger. A variety of rare species are now returning to the area, following the restoration of the heathland.

    Terrain and safety: Paths are fairly level once at the car park. Footpaths are generally wide, clear and level, but be aware that paths can be very uneven, with tree stumps and old stone digging pits. Please keep dogs under close control at all times, especially during bird nesting season. Be aware of cattle grazing.

    Location: Tennyson's Lane car park. Grid ref: SU921308.

    Friar's Crag, Lake District

    Looking down to Derwent Water, framed by fells and mountains, Friar's Crag offers a peaceful place to observe the night sky. Listen out for the distinctive 'toowhit-twhoo' of the Tawny owl and on a warm evening you'll be able to smell the Scots pines.

    Terrain and safety: An easily accessible flat and level route, but please be careful of the unprotected edge at the end of Friar's Crag.

    Facilities: WCs in the Lakeside car park.

    Location: The viewpoint (grid ref: NY263222) is about ½ mile from the centre of Keswick and 650 metres from the Lakeside car park, grid ref: NY265229.

    Mam Tor, Peak District

    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. Grid ref: SK123832.

    Penbryn Beach, Cardigan, Wales

    Almost a mile in length, the spacious, golden sands of Penbryn Beach are a perfect location for star gazing and are reached through the woods of a fern-clad valley. Dusk is a great time to see seals and barn owls in the area, and if you're lucky you may even spot some of the resident Bottlenose dolphins.

    Terrain and safety: The walk along the road is ¼ mile long, along a tarmac road, with a steep climb down to the beach and back up to the car park. The walk along the footpath in the woods is ½ mile with several steep steps and moderately rough terrain. The beach is over a mile long depending on the tide.

    Location: National Trust car park at Llanborth Farm, Penbryn. Grid ref: SN295521.

    Teign Valley, Devon

    The wide open skies above Piddledown Common in the Teign Valley provide a great location for star gazing. Located on the edge of Dartmoor, the area comes alive with wildlife at night, with badgers, Tawny owls and bats coming out to feed and hunt. At dusk or dawn, you may also catch a glimpse of deer.

    Terrain and safety: The terrain is essentially flat with grass and stony paths, with one slope. Please be aware of trip hazards in the dark.

    Location: National Trust car park at Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton. Grid ref: SX724902. There are two star gazing spots - 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile from the car park.

    Wicken Fen, Cambs

    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.

    Location: National Trust car park, Wicken Fen. Grid ref: TL565706. The star gazing spot is 800m from the car park, along a very accessible route.