While light pollution in the UK often prevents us witnessing the magic of the night sky, you don't have to venture far to see what lays beyond the haze. For a sustainable getaway in the UK, and the twinkliest views of the stars, visit a Dark Sky Park, where light pollution is low enough to reveal the delights above, and the facilities offer plenty of opportunities to learn about the cosmos. Here are some of the best places to stargaze in the UK.
Northumberland National Park
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is the largest area of protected night sky in Europe, making it one of the primary destinations in the UK for aspiring astronomers. Grab a picnic blanket (and maybe a bottle of wine) and check out more than 2,000 stars winking at you from the heavens. Kielder Observatory is an absolute must for talks, workshops and stargazing sessions no matter the time of year.
Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
Galloway Forest Park was the first place to be granted Dark Sky Park status in all of the UK back in 2009. No need to pack your telescope. Here, amongst 300 square miles of hills and forest, stargazers can marvel at the Milky Way and over 7,000 stars visible to the naked eye. This is a dreamy spot to catch a meteor shower, or a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights, which have been known to make an appearance on particularly clear nights. Check out the park's three visitor centres, and the hilltop Scottish Dark Sky Observatory for public stargazing events.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales
After a day of hiking some of the most picturesque coastal hiking trails in the UK, pay a visit to this National Park's network of Dark Sky Discovery sites, which have been established alongside the National Trust. From top spots like Newgale Beach, Poppit Sands and Skrinkle Haven, you can see the Milky Way without the need for fancy equipment. Also, some of the best hotels in Pembrokeshire are just down the road.
For planet spotting and wishing upon a (shooting) star, head to Yorkshire. Brush up on your knowledge of the constellations with visits to three Dark Sky Discovery Sites - Dalby Observatories, Sutton Bank and The Moors National Park, or attend the Dark Skies Festival, held in February, where attendees can enjoy star parties, camping under the night sky and astronomy workshops.
Snowdonia National Park
Stargazers in Snowdonia are regularly treated to quite the show from the stars above, with nebulas, meteor showers, major constellations, and the Milky Way all visible in the pristine skies. The best locations within the park to channel your inner Galileo are Llyn y Dywarchen, Llyn Geirionydd; Llynnau Cregennen; Bwlch y Groes and Tŷ Cipar.
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Boasting the title of most-northerly Dark Sky Park in the World, Cairngorms National Park is the best place to chase the Aurora Borealis within the UK. The park is one of the darkest spots in the UK and has three Dark Sky Discovery Sites, including the Dark Sky Parks of Tomintoul and Glenlivet. Cairngorms Astronomy Group hold regular events designed to gets novice stargazers excited about astronomy. The range of hotels near Cairngorms National Park are also charming, and perfect for snuggling up after a romantic night under one of the seven natural wonders of the world (hopefully!)
Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Incredibly low light-pollution makes Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve perfect for viewing the Milky Way and star clusters. The National Park offers meteor-spotting and stargazing events, or attend an event hosted by Cardiff Astronomical Society to get a closer look at the constellations above through powerful telescopes.
Elan Valley, Wales
An incredible 45,000 acres of Wales' Elan Valley in the Cambrian Mountains is protected from light pollution due to the region's Dark Sky Park status. The locals know they're a lucky bunch and they share the wealth via regular talks and festivals, which combine music and astronomy, and offer the perfect backdrop for dancing beneath the stars.
What are you waiting for? Book your stargazing trip today!