England’s best spots for stargazing

When was the last time you saw a truly dark, star-filled night sky? There’s something very special about standing beneath the hundreds of points of light with their subtly different shapes and colours, the gently glowing Milky Way suspended above the landscape.

We think everyone should have the chance to experience the full wonder of the night sky, free from light pollution. That’s why we’ve created the most detailed ever maps of dark skies in England, and why we run an annual Star Count, helping to find the best stargazing spots in the country.

Here are some of the best places in England to enjoy our starry skies.

Exmoor National Park

 

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Exmoor became Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve in 2011, with its rugged moorland landscapes transforming at night into star-filled scenes. Top spots for stargazing include Brendon Two Gates, Webbers Post, Ansley Gate, Haddon Hill Wimblehall Lake and County Gate.

Northumberland National Park

 

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Northumberland National Park has been awarded gold tier status by the International Dark Sky Committee. This means that there’s a full range of amazing sights visible from the park, including the Milky Way, meteors and even, sometimes, the Northern Lights. Our Night Blight maps found that a remote hillside on the nearby East Kielder Moors is the least light polluted spot in England, with the starriest skies in the country.

 

South Downs National Park

 

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The South Downs is England’s newest national park and was awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2016. Two-thirds of the park has skies so dark that you’ll get brilliant views of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy. Stargazing hotspots include Devil’s Dyke, Ditchling Beacon, Birling Gap and Old Winchester Hill.

 

North York Moors National Park

 

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It’s said that the north east’s drier climate means clearer skies for stargazing, and the uninterrupted views from clifftops between Saltburn and Scarborough certainly provide panoramic views of the night sky. Other great sites for stargazing include Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.

 

Yorkshire Dales National Park

 

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There are four Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the national park: Tan Hill Inn, Buckden National Park car park and Hawes and Malham National Park Centres, so there’s no excuse not to look to the skies and get constellation spotting. Yorkshire Dales National Park is aiming to achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status by 2021.

Cranborne Chase AONB

 

 

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Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of the best places to stargaze in England. It’s also the first AONB to be designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in its entirety in October 2019! It’s amazing that more than 50% of the 380 square miles of the AONB still has the lowest levels of light pollution in England – and the rest of the Chase is not far behind.

Bodmin Moor, Cornwall AONB

 

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Bodmin Moor, which forms part of the Cornwall AONB, was awarded Dark Sky Landscape status by the International Dark Sky Association in July 2017 in recognition of its exceptional dark skies, commitment to reducing light pollution and promoting educational outreach. Siblyback Lake, which is managed by South West Lakes Trust, is considered a good place for a great view of the stars as it benefits from accessible visitor facilities.

Did you know?

Dark Sky Discovery Sites are places where you can get great views of the stars on a cloudless night, and they’re open to everyone! They are chosen by the UK Dark Sky Discovery Partnership if they’re away from the worst light pollution, give good sightlines of the sky and are accessible by the public, including wheelchair users.  The partnership rate them as either ‘Orion sites’, where the seven main stars are visible, or ‘Milky Way sites’, in more rural areas where this spectacular sight is visible to the naked eye. Find your nearest at: www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk 

A man and child look into a dark sky, with the man pointing up