Go star gazing in the South West

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.

Take a look below at our suggestions for great stargazing spots, or why not download one of our Dark Skies walking guides and accompanying star map?

Perfect for families and anyone unfamiliar with astronomy, these guides include information about the phases of the moon, key constellations for August and nocturnal wildlife to listen out for.

    Dunkery Beacon, Holnicote, Somerset

    Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor

    Get closer to the stars from the highest point on Exmoor, with sweeping skies and very little light pollution. Listen out for red deer and the churring sound of the nightjar, and keep an eye out for bats too.

    Terrain and safety: The star gazing spot is 800m from the car park along a rough track. Bring a torch, sturdy boots and warm clothing.
    Location: Dunkery Beacon car park is within Exmoor National Park.
    Grid ref: SS905410

    Godolphin Hill, Godolphin, Cornwall

    Godolphin House

    This conical hill offers 360 degree views with no artificial lights close by. Nocturnal wildlife includes nightjars, which have been heard here on the hill in the past.

    Terrain and safety: The path is rocky and is approximately 750 metres from the car park to the top of the hill. The area is currently grazed by red Devon cattle. Please keep your dog under close control.
    Location: Great Work car park, on the Godolphin Estate, NW of Helston.
    Grid ref: SW596307

    Rinsey Cliff, Cornwall

    Remains of Wheal Rinsey Engine House at Rinsey, Cornwall

    Featuring a southerly aspect with no artificial lights, this cliff offers two possible star gazing locations. Either view the stars from the car park or walk approximately 500 metres down a gently sloping track to the engine house platform.

    Terrain and safety: Keep to the path and stay away from cliff edges.
    Location: Between Porthleven and Penzance.
    Grid ref: SW593272

    South Milton Sands, South Devon

    South Milton Sands Beach, Devon

    A fantastic, peaceful spot away from the intrusion of lights, where you can watch the sunset looking out to sea and enjoy the wildlife in the wetlands behind. Look out for a variety of bats, including lesser horseshoe, Daubenton's, noctule and common pipistrelle. Home to little owls and barn owls too.

    Terrain and safety: Accessible spot with board walks crossing the dunes.
    Facilities: Toilets on site, café open until 8.30pm in the summer months and in good weather.
    Location: About 50 to 100 metres from South Milton Sands car park to the star gazing spot.
    Grid ref: SX677415

    Staple Plain, Quantocks, Somerset

    Views from Staple Plain, Somerset

    The car park at Staple Plain offers a great place to view the stars, with little light pollution. Get here early and you might be lucky enough to see a fantastic sunset over the Bristol Channel. Listen out for red deer, tawny owls and the churring song of the nightjar.

    Terrain and safety: The star gazing spot is in the car park, but if you head further afield you'll find the tracks are well-maintained with some steep inclines.
    Location: Staple Plain car park is between Bridgewater and Taunton.
    Grid ref: ST116410

    Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire

    Sunset over Stonehenge Down

    Situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the prehistoric ceremonial landscape of Stonehenge occupies a large, sparsely populated area of ancient downland ideal for star gazing. The monuments here are directly connected to the skies above, with stones aligned to moonrises and moonsets, in addition to the Midsummer and Midwinter solstices. Keep an ear out for the stone curlew's haunting 'coo-ree' bird call, particularly in autumn.

    Terrain and safety: The route to the star-gazing spot follows regular tracks through the fields. Grassy areas are fairly smooth; off the worn route grass can be tall and tussocky. Be aware that the Cursus Barrows field is grazed by cattle. Byway 12 has some large potholes, becoming deep puddles after rain.
    Location: 2 miles west of Amesbury, near the junction of the A303 and A344.  Stonehenge car park closes in the evening, but it is possible to park nearby.
    Grid ref: SU120420

    Download the star map

    Stonehenge dark skies walk

    Teign Valley, Devon

    Castle Drogo and Teign Valley, South 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 - ¼ mile and ½ mile from the car park.

    Download the star map

    Teign valley summer star gazing walk

    Trelissick Park, Trelissick Garden, Cornwall

    Beautifully positioned at the head of the Fal estuary, the estate 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.

    Location: Trelissick Gardens car park, 4 miles south of Truro, on B3289 above King Harry Ferry.
    Grid ref: SW837396