Best stargazing spots in the UK including four International Dark Sky Reserves

The UK’s breathtaking landscapes and sprawling countryside lend themselves perfectly to ideal stargazing conditions.

The vast scenery means there are plenty of spots with minimal light pollution, making for the perfect dark sky backdrop.

In some cases, you can even see the Northern Lights in the UK.

In fact, out of the world’s 16 International Dark Sky Reserves, four are in the UK (Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, Snowdonia and South Downs National Park).

Meanwhile, astronomers and keen stargazers flock to the annual Dark Skies Festival which takes place across a number of national parks. Events span everything from guided night walks to stargazing sessions. (Next year’s event is currently scheduled for February 2021).

So, where are the best UK stargazing spots? We take a look at some popular regions…

Brecon Beacons, Wales

One of the UK’s four International Dark Sky Reserves, on a clear night stargazers can see the Milky Way, famous constellations and even meteor showers. Popular spots include the Usk Reservoir, Llanthony Priory, Hay Bluff and Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Find out more here.



The UK has some incredible stargazing spots

Exmoor, England

Whether you’re just looking to appreciate a star-filled night sky, or want to learn more about the constellations, Exmoor has heaps of brilliant stargazing spots. Popular areas include Haddon Hill, Webbers Post and Holdstone Hill.

The park, one of the UK’s International Dark Sky Reserves, is also hosts its own Dark Skies Festival – it’s set to take place from the 16th-31st October 2020. Find out more here.

South Downs National Park, England

This International Dark Sky Reserve has heaps of famous spots where you can stargaze to your heart’s content – Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium, Bignor Hill, Butser Hill and Buriton are well worth having on your radar.

The national park is also one of the locations for the annual Dark Skies Festival, and offers a jam-packed programme of activities from night walks to astronomy sessions. Find out more here.



Starry skies in South Downs National Park
Starry skies in South Downs National Park

Snowdonia, Wales

An International Dark Sky Reserve, Snowdonia is already a firm favourite with adventurers thanks to its beautiful walking trails and climbs. There are plenty of observatories and dark sky hotspots – popular ones include Llyn y Dywarchen, Bwlch y Groes and Llynnau Cregennen. Find out more here.

Northumberland, England

The Kielder Observatory in this park is one of the more popular locations for stargazing, not to mention it often hosts fun events and lectures for those who want to learn more about the star-filled skies.

The majority of the park boasts low levels of light pollution, so there are plenty of spots where you can enjoy dark sky views such as Cawfields Quarry, Elf Kirk Viewpoint and The Stell at Falstone. Find out more here.



Stars in the Milky Way pictured in clear skies at the Kielder observatory, Northumberland
Stars in the Milky Way pictured in clear skies at the Kielder observatory, Northumberland

Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Head to Cairngorms between October and March, and you’ll be treated to some epic dark sky views – and even the occasional Northern Lights sighting.

The skies above Tomintoul and Glenlivet have even been designated as a Dark Skies Park, with plenty of designated trails for getting the best night views. Find out more here.

North York Moors National Park

A park that boasts sightings of the Northern Lights and meteor showers was always going to be a hit with stargazers.

Hotspots such as Old Saltburn, Boulby Cliff and Kettleness all offer some great vantage points for watching the stars on a clear night. Find out more here.



Dark Skies festival in the North York Moors

Yorkshire Dales National Park

There are four Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the park – Hawes National Park Centre, Malham National Park Centre, Buckden National Park Car Park and Tan Hill Inn.

On a clear night, you can see thousands of stars, planets and even meteors. In some cases, there have even been sightings of the Northern Lights. Find out more here.

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