10 Best Stargazing Locations in the UK
Pitch your tent beneath a starry night sky, lie on your back and gaze at the wondrous spectacle above you. Keep an eye out for the various stars, planets and constellations visible from our countryside. Find inspiration for your next trip from our list of the best locations for stargazing in the UK.
1. Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
Nearest campsite: Rhandirmwyn Club Site
Wales’ first International Dark Sky Reserve, the Brecon Beacons National Park is a dramatic mountain range stretching across South Wales. The local community works tirelessly to ensure the region’s light pollution is minimal, allowing for clear views of the starry night-time sky.
The Brecon Beacons’ best spots for stargazing include the Usk Reservoir, Llanthony Prior and Crai Reservoir. Look up at the sky and keep an eye out for the Milky Way, bright nebulas, meteor showers and major constellations.
2. Elan Valley, Wales
Nearest campsite: Wyeside Club Site
Achieving Dark Sky Park status in 2015, the Elan Valley is a breath-taking vale of man-made reservoirs. Nestled among the rugged Cambrian Mountains, the Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park is a fantastic location to pitch your tent and gaze at the stars.
Over 45,000 acres of the Elan Valley is protected by law against light pollution, providing sanctuary for an abundance of wildlife and nature. For the best stargazing views, head to Claerwen Dam, Craig Goch, Pont Ar Elan or Teifi Pools.
3. Exmoor National Park, Devon
Nearest campsite: Lynton Club Site and Minehead Club Site
Awarded Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve in 2011, the Exmoor National Park is a diverse area of untamed moorland in North Devon. The area’s sparse population makes for some of the darkest skies in the UK - on a clear night, the naked eye can see over 3,000 stars!
The Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve covers over 32 square miles, including some fantastic stargazing locations, such as Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Brendon Two Gates and Haddon Hill.
4. Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
Nearest campsite: Culzean Castle Club Site
In 2009, Scotland’s Galloway Forest Park became the UK and the world’s very first Dark Sky Park. Today, over 300 square miles of tranquil valleys, jagged rock faces and heather-clad hills fall within the Gold Tier Dark Skies Park.
Pitch your tent on the edge of this ancient, secluded woodland, and gaze at the arching Milky Way and over 7,000 stars and planets. Visit one of the three visitor centres at Glentrool, Kiroughtree or Clatteringshaws for best views in the forest.
5. North Pennines AONB
Nearest campsite: Barnard Castle Club Site
Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1988, the North Pennines has more Dark Sky Discovery Sites than anywhere else in the UK. Hosting the North Pennines Stargazing Festival from the 23rd October until the 3rd November, this area of mountainous moorland is an ideal location for stargazing.
Pay a visit to the observatory at Allenheads Contemporary Arts, learn about the local astronomical community and marvel at the Milky Way and the constellation of Orion.
6. Northumberland National Park
Nearest campsite: Bellingham Club Site & Haltwhistle Club Site
Unveiled as an International Dark Sky Park in December 2013, the Northumberland National Park is over 1,000 square kilometres of sloping valleys, glistening lakes and fascinating history. The national park is also home to Europe’s largest area of protected night sky, with over 572 square miles of clear, starry skies.
Having been awarded Gold Tier standard by the International Dark-Sky Association, the Northumberland National Park is officially the best place to stargaze in England. Marvel at over 2,000 stars at any one time, the furthest of which is Andromeda Galaxy, over 2,500,000 light-years away.
7. North York Moors National Park, Yorkshire
Nearest campsite: Slingsby Club Site and Scarborough Club Site
Home to three Dark Skies Discovery Sites, the North York Moors National Park compiles remote dales, moors and forests. On a clear night, pitch your tent in the national park, camp beneath the starry sky and watch as the iridescent Northern Lights dance above you.
According to respected astronomer Richard Darn, the North East’s dry climate and uninterrupted horizons make the stretch of coastline between Saltburn and Scarborough the perfect location for stargazing.
8. Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Nearest campsite: Bala Club Site and Llanystumdwy Club Site
Awarded Wales’ second Dark Sky Reserve status in December 2015, the Snowdonia National Park covers 800, thinly populated, square miles of North Wales. Pitch your tent in this national park and look out for iconic constellations such as Orion the Hunter, Gemini, the Seven Sisters and the Square of Pegasus.
Everywhere in Snowdonia offers clear, starry skies, but for the best views, head to Llyn y Dywarchen, Tŷ Cipar or Bwlch y Groes. The Dark-Sky Association, based in Arizona, have been incredibly impressed with Wales’ commitment to protecting its skies, stating: “Wales now leads the world in the percentage of its territory enjoying protected status for its night skies”.
9. South Downs National Park
Nearest campsite: Graffham Club Site and Slindon Club Site
Becoming the world’s newest International Dark Sky Reserve in May 2016, the South Downs National Park is home to beautiful rolling landscapes and clear, dark, gloomy skies. Being in such close proximity to London, the South Downs is a popular place to escape the city and gaze up at the stars.
For the clearest stargazing views, head to Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, Bignor Hill, Devil’s Dyke or Buriton. There are approximately 2,700 streetlights in the South Downs; local authorities are now gradually replacing these to comply with Dark Sky standards.
10. Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire
Nearest campsite: Kendal Club Site
With four designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites, the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a fantastic place to pitch your tent if you want to sleep beneath the stars. Watch daylight turn to night, as over 2,000 stars and planets hang down from the night sky.
If the conditions are good and the activity is right, you may catch one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders in the Northern Lights. Also, keep an eye out for the International Space Station, travelling overhead at over 17,000mph. In the Yorkshire Dales, you’re always guaranteed a starry sky, however for the best views, pay a trip to Hawes, the Malham National Park Centres or the Tan Hill Inn.
Want to seek more nature when you are camping? Read our guide to the best locations for Birdwatching. Take a look at some more Holiday Ideas if you need more inspiration for your next camping trip.