Here in the UK we’re lucky to have some phenomenal Star-Gazing spots where we’re able to observe the wonders of the universe. Although its getting harder and harder to spot the stars in our towns and cities, a short trip into the countryside will give you the breath-taking views I’m sure we all know and love. Without further ado, here are some of the UK’s best star-gazing destinations to visit this summer.
NORTHUMBERLAND INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY PARK, ENGLAND
In the North-East of England lies one of the country’s largest counties, offering some stunning landscape and views. Northumberland is also home to the largest dark sky park in Europe, allowing visitors to witness millions of stars glistening in the clear night skies, as well as some of the most famous constellations to be seen from Planet Earth. Although the majority of these stars can be seen with the naked eye, Kielder Observatory is open all year round, offering a chance for the public to use some of the most impressive technologies and experience some interesting classes and talks about the universe that surrounds us. In 2013, the dark sky park was awarded Gold-Tier Status by the International Dark Sky Association, officially making it one of the best locations in the world to go star-gazing.
SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK, WALES
Snowdonia received it’s dark sky status 6 years ago, becoming the second protected area in Wales to receive such an accolade. On a clear night, visitors can often see the breath-taking Milky Way, multiple constellations, and shooting stars (make sure you’re ready to make a wish!). One of the most popular spots in the park for star-gazing is Llyn y Dywarchen, a hidden lake which is famed for being steeped in plenty of myths and legends…and some of the best night skies in the entire National Park!
OM DARK SKY PARK AND OBSERVATORY, NORTHERN IRELAND
OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory is a relatively new dark sky park, located near the ancient Beaghmore Stone Circles in County Tyrone. Visitors can benefit from the use of top-of-the-range telescopes and holographic installations, enabling them to truly experience the vast night skies. The only dark sky park in Northern Ireland, the area is also steeped in many a myth and legend, located in the heart of some of the most rugged, historical landscapes in the country.
EXMOOR NATIONAL PARK, ENGLAND
In 2011, Exmoor’s National Park became the very first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe. Due to the moor’s natural lack of artificial lighting and isolation from large inhabited areas, it offers some of the best views of the universe’s complex constellations, stars and solar systems. If you want to get a closer look at what’s going on in space, there are plenty of options for you to hire telescopes, stay in dark-sky friendly accommodations, and take part in demonstrations, talks and events which share information about the universe around us.
THE SOUTH DOWNS NATIONAL PARK, ENGLAND
Although it can be argued that The South Downs National Park is more famous for its glorious countryside and landscapes, it is surely rising in popularity for its gorgeous night skies. So much so that it too was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2016! Every year the reserve celebrates our night skies with a Dark Skies Festival, raising awareness on the importance of the sky above us and the damage that light and air pollution are causing to our atmosphere and access to the stars.
GALLOWAY DARK SKY PARK, SCOTLAND
Galloway’s Dark Sky Park was the very first park in the UK to be given dark-sky status in 2009. Located to the south of Glasgow, the park is home to very few people, meaning that on a clear night visitors can enjoy views of almost 7,000 stars, constellations, and planets with the naked eye. There are three separate visitors centres which overlook the park, as well as the option of booking a ranger for assistance who will help you spot the stars, give you information about the park and turn you into a true astronomer!
I love taking the time to watch our night skies, and appreciate the complexity of the universe that surrounds us. Although there are just six parks on this list, there are countless more locations where you can discover auroras, the Milky Way, and even a shooting star or two.