Seize the night: expert tips for stargazing in the UK

Seize the night: expert tips for stargazing in the UK

Cranborne Chase AONB

In Cranborne Chase AONB, night-sky visibility in this vast swathe of Southern England is so good that it was the first AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in the UK to be designated an International Dark-Sky Reserve, in October 2019. More than half of its 380sq miles has some of the lowest light pollution in England ,which means, on cloudless nights, the sky heaves with stars. Cley Hill, near Warminster, is one the best spots for stellar views, and you might spot something else, too — it’s supposedly also a UFO hotspot. 

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Wales’s rural and rugged southwest coast is perfect for enjoying the night skies, partly due to its distance from big towns and cities. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the National Trust have picked out a string of sites throughout the National Park where visitors can discover the night sky, including Broadhaven South beach, near Stackpole, and Poppit Sands, on Cardigan Bay. 

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

The county’s unspoilt, rambling landscapes are always a dramatic backdrop, but it’s the heavens that steal the show after dark. Awarded ‘gold’ status by the International Dark Sky Association, the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park has the darkest skies in England. There’s no shortage of places to admire the skies here, but Cawfield Quarry, beside Hadrian’s Wall, is a safe bet — pull over and keep your eyes trained for our neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, 2.5 million light years away. 

Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park

A sparse population means this woodland in southwest Scotland is a haven for astronomers. It was the UK’s first Dark Sky Park in 2009 — the first outside the US — and careful steps have been taken to ensure light remains at a minimum. Head out on a clear night along the A712 from Newton Stewart to New Galloway — the open road winds through heathland and woodland beneath a spectacularly clear night sky, full of planets and stars, as well as the glittering arc of the Milky Way. 

South Downs National Park

Truly escaping light pollution in the South East can be a challenge, but the UK’s newest national park offers some of the best spots to stargaze in this corner of England. Particularly good for stargazing is Butser Hill in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, given its status as one of the highest points in Hampshire. Alternatively, head to the coast and to Birling Gap near Eastbourne, where, when visibility is good, the sky shimmers with stars over the English Channel.  

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