Best places for stargazing in the UK

Activity, Nature, Holidays with more heart

Posted by Hannah Jury on 11th June 2021

Best places for stargazing in the UK

In step with our Holidays with more Heart series, why not soak up the remarkable beauty of the night sky on your next holiday? Discover where to find the darkest skies in the UK for prime stargazing locations.

With some of the clearest skies in Europe, there are many amazing places for stargazing in the UK. Free from or low in light pollution, these places offer great opportunities for truly unspoilt views of the endless night sky above us. 

Stargazing in the UK with a telescope

Designated as Dark Sky Parks or Reserves, these are truly the best places across the UK to see the stars, perfect for exploring the stars, galaxies and the Milky Way on a clear night in the British Isles.

Bring your telescope and torches with you on your holidays and stay at one of self-catering properties. Some of our holiday cottages are close to the UK's Dark Sky Parks and Reserves so you can spend every night staring up into the cosmos. 

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Galloway Forest Park

Galloway Forest Park

Scotland has some of the darkest skies in Europe. Galloway Forest Park is renowned as one of the darkest places in Scotland, making it perfect for exploring the skies. It was the UK’s first designated Dark Sky Park. Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye from the park and The Milky Way can also be seen here.

Set in around 75,000 hectares of land, you’re guaranteed to find a quiet spot to enjoy the stunning display. Being this far north, you may even be able to see the Northern Lights when they're set to make a rare appearance. Find Galloway Forest's starry skies on your doorstep at our cottages in South Scotland.

South Scotland

Cairngorms National Park

Image credit: Instagram @astro_a22 (right) 

Cairngorms National Park

The immense mountainous landscape of the Cairngorms National Park has always been a top destination for travellers due to the snow-capped peaks ideal for skiing in winter, and the abundance of nature waiting to be spotted throughout spring and summer.

But when the sun dips below the horizon and the night sky appears, this remote nature of this wilderness comes into its own with a fantastically dark sky far away from light pollution. Pack a blanket and head out into the lovely landscape or take a look out of your cottage window at the star-sprinkled sky.

Cairngorms cottages

North York Moors National Park

North York Moors National Park

The further away from street lights and brightly lit buildings you stray, the clearer the views of the stars and the North York Moors hides many remote places perfect for stargazing on a clear night.

While there are numerous Dark Sky Parks across the world there are only 18 IDA International Dark Sky Reserves and the North York Moors is part of this exclusive club. Look out for the shimmering river of light that is one arm of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, or if you time your trip to Yorkshire right, you might even catch sight of the colourful Northern Lights.

North York Moors cottages


Image courtesy of @jsimpson1992

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park achieved International Dark Sky Reserve status back in 2011. Exmoor is home to some of the darkest skies in the country and makes a perfect spot to gaze at the stars. Recommended spots include Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Brendon Two Gates, Webbers Post, Anstey Gate, Haddon Hill and Wimbleball Lake. On a clear night, many sights can be enjoyed through the naked eye and even more with a telescope or binoculars. Enjoy the stunning scenery of Exmoor both by day and by night from the comfort of our Exmoor holiday cottages.

Exmoor holiday cottages

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park achieved International Dark Sky Reserve status in December 2015, and is the 10th site in the world. Its spectacular night skies are perfect for exploring and stargazing and, with its new accolade, the Snowdonia National Park Authority hopes to continue to improve the area's wildlife and environmental quality. Head to Llyn Geirionnydd to see the stars reflecting in the waters of a lake, or admire the night skies from Bwlch y Groes, one of the highest passes in Wales. Look up to the stars of Snowdonia from our collection of Snowdonia holiday cottages.

Snowdonia holiday cottages

Northumberland National Park

Image credit: Instagram @northumberland_astro (top and bottom left), @geoffdade1 (bottom right)

Northumberland National Park

At 572 square miles,  Northumberland National Park  is Europe’s largest area of the protected night sky. Having achieved International Dark Sky Park status in December 2013, the park offers spectacular displays of the Andromeda Galaxy and The Milky Way.

To learn even more about the stars that lie out there, head to Battlesteads Dark Sky Observatory near Hexham, open to the public with a variety of activities and sessions, or Kielder Observatory, set in the neighbouring Kielder Water and Forest Park, under one of the darkest skies in Europe. 

Northumberland cottages

Elan Valley

Elan Valley

The Elan Valley in central Wales is another hub for stargazers. Its wild, rugged landscape makes the perfect backdrop for watching the night skies and made it the first International Dark Sky Park in Wales. This 72-mile estate offers dams, reservoirs and ever-changing scenery, the perfect foreground for any starry shots you're planning on taking. Our Mid Wales cottages place you in a great place for stargazing at Elan Valley.

Mid Wales cottages

South Downs National Park

Image credit: Instagram @joshuaroveschi (top left), @awhitbourn (top right and bottom images)

South Downs National Park

Recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2016, the South Downs National Park is perhaps one of the easier to reach areas of the UK for amazing dark skies. Climb Old Winchester Hill or Bignor Hill for far-reaching views from the top, or for a stretch of stars that dazzle over the sea, head to the Birling Gap in the east of the National Park. Stare up at the stars in Sussex - our South Downs cottages are waiting!

South Downs cottages

Brecon Beacons

Image courtesy of @visitbreconbeacons and @adamtattonreid 

Brecon Beacons National Park

The entire Brecon Beacons National Park is now an International Dark Sky Reserve. With large areas of the park free from light pollution, this is a great place to view the night sky. On a clear night in the Brecon Beacons, you can see The Milky Way, major constellations, bright nebulae and meteor showers. Back in 2012, this park was the fifth destination in the world to become an International Dark Sky Reserve. Among its best spots for stargazing are Sugar Loaf Mountain, Llangorse Lake and Llanthony Priory. Discover the National Park's starry skies from our Brecon Beacons cottages.

Brecon Beacons cottages

Bodmin Moor

Image credit: Instagram @karen_mc.hugh (left), @darencox (right)

Bodmin Moor

Just as atmospheric by night as it is by day, Bodmin Moor is a designated Dark Sky Park and the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to be awarded the status. Craggy hills and sweeping moors are the perfect foregrounds for the completely unspoilt skies - among the best spots are the Colliford Lake Park and Crowdy Reservoir. The starry skies of Bodmin Moor and beyond are just a stone's throw from our collection of cottages in Cornwall.

Cornwall cottages

Stay in a holiday cottage

With many of the UK's starriest night skies found in the country's National Parks, a National Park may be the perfect place to base your next holiday. Each has so much to offer - find out more about the experiences the UK's National Parks have to offer. For even more inspiration read our RSPB guide to all the stargazing basics. 

Choose one of our self-catering holiday cottages located all across the UK, some of which are situated close to Dark Sky Reserves and in other remote countryside spots where the sky is pure and illuminated by the moon and the stars alone. Book your dream escape to a cottage under a clear starry sky today.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.