The best stargazing spots in the UK (all year round!)
To celebrate the 2023 Dark Skies Festivals, holidaycottages.co.uk share the best places to stay in the UK to soak up those starry nights
Few things are more magical than gazing at the enormity of the heavens above us, which paint a picture of the universe as it once was. But now, more than ever, stars are becoming harder to see. According to the findings of an 11-year study, light pollution is increasing rapidly, making it more difficult for would-be stargazers to experience the phenomenon. In fact, data from more than 50,000 observations between 2011 and 2022 found that the night sky is getting brighter by an average of 9.6 per cent every year.
Despite this, enthusiasm for stargazing is on the rise among Brits. Holidaycottages.co.uk reports that Google searches for the "best stargazing spots in the UK" have actually risen by 900 per cent in the last three months—meaning more of us than ever are keen to experience the magic of the night sky. Thankfully, the UK is home to a wealth of natural beauty spots and national parks where you can catch sight of galaxies, constellations, meteors and even planets with the naked eye. Better still, Dark Skies Festivals bring some of these magical destinations together with a wide range of events for people of all ages from now until March 2024.
"More of us than ever are keen to experience the magic of the night sky"
The first of these takes place in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, which has been dubbed a "stargazer’s paradise". Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Northumberland festival takes place between now and March next year. Other Dark Skies Festivals are set to take place at national parks, over the next couple of months including Exmoor (October 13–29), North York Moors (October 27–November 5) and Cumbria (October 28–November 18), with further festivals planned for 2024.
But for those unable to make the Dark Skies Festivals, worry not, holidaycottages.co.uk has compiled an extended round-up of the best places to visit for stargazing in the UK that are ideal for nature lovers to witness the canopy of stars. The holiday company has also shared a handy guide that covers what constellations to look out for and the best time to go, along with expert comments from Dr Robert Massey, Deputy Director of the Royal Astronomical Society, who gives his top tips for "stargazing beginners".
When talking about where to begin with stargazing, Dr Massey says: “You need a cloudless sky, but you can stargaze any time of year. As long as you have a clear sky and there’s no moon, you might see a couple of thousand stars, the Milky Way, comets and meteor showers, and all of it is really accessible.”
Talking about his favourite constellations, he adds: “Most astronomers would say Saturn, as the rings are amazing, but Orion in the winter sky is dazzling bright.”
For those looking to book a fully-fledged cosmic adventure, holidaycottages.co.uk has provided a round-up of the best places to stay in Northumberland, Exmoor, Cumbria and the North York Moors, which are perfect for soaking up those starry skies, slow down and connect with the world around you—no matter the time of year.
Blinkers Stables, Allendale (sleeps eight, one dog)
Nestled in the Northumberland countryside, this beautifully renovated barn conversion boasts sweeping views of the rolling hills. A modern telescope as well as a private hot tub from which to unwind and watch the stars make this every stargazer’s dream, as one visitor comments: “The location of the cottage was splendid…we have seen the stars and part of the Milky Way!”
A testament to the property’s rich character, some of the original beams and red windows still remain, making your stay even more unique.
Red Lion House, Rothbury and Coquetdale (sleeps eleven, three dogs)
Stacked with charm, this three-storey home, set in the heart of Northumberland National Park, comprises six bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a detached orangery with underfloor heating. Each of the individually styled rooms feature a seamless blend of period and contemporary décor for a grand sense of living, while the large, landscaped garden is the perfect space to admire the constellations as the night draws in. Those wishing to catch a close-up of the starry splendour can do so using the telescope provided in the orangery.
When not stargazing, guests can choose from a host of nearby walks and bike trails or take a trip to the National Trust’s Cragside, the former home of Victorian inventor, Lord Armstrong.
Exmoor Farm Cottages, Swallows Nest, Wheddon Cross (sleeps two, one dog)
Set in Exmoor National Park near to the Southwest Coast, Swallows Nest is a great choice for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle and unwind under the Milky Way. Overlooking a small farm, its cosy lounge complete with a wood burner offers a warm and inviting space for guests to curl up and recharge their batteries.
From the top of the farm, guests can take a leisurely stroll to the summit of Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor’s highest point, and marvel at the far-reaching views or witness the night sky in all its glory.
The Cowshed, Draydon Cottages, Dulverton (sleeps four, four dogs)
Mere moments from Dulverton and its wealth of eateries and independent traders, The Cowshed has been carefully designed to maximise the far-reaching views of Exmoor National Park so that star spotters can make the most of the night skies.
Features include a well-equipped kitchen, master king-size bedroom with en-suite, and an attractive shared garden. Outside, guests will find a raised veranda to admire the clear nights and watch the stars appear. For a day out, guests can explore the seaside town of Minehead or take a trip to Porlock or the village of Dunster, where they can get lost in history.
North York Moors
Paddy Waddells Rest, Glaisdale (sleeps two, two dogs)
A hop and a skip from the North York Moors, this charming barn conversion is just the spot for a romantic stargazing escape, with its patioed area providing sweeping views of the valley.
Step inside and you’ll discover a spacious lounge area with stylish features, including a vaulted, beamed ceiling and Yorkshire stone wall. Head upstairs to find the bedroom, where you can admire the traditional A-frame beams or peek out of the window for a glimpse of the idyllic scenery.
The Wesleyan Chapel, Danby (sleeps two, two dogs)
Steeped in history, the former Methodist chapel has since been converted into a romantic rural retreat with a beautifully presented double bedroom that overlooks the stunning Danby Dales.
Staying true to its Victorian origins, the entrance hall features an original church pew for guests to rest their feet after a day of exploring. Outside, there is a built-in bench, where you can sit and listen to the babbling brook and spot the wild salmon and trout by day and enjoy uninterrupted 360-degree views under the sparkling sky by night. Sitting nearby is Goathland, where the popular TV drama Heartbeat was filmed, and Goathland Station, which Harry Potter fans may recognise as "Hogsmeade Station" from the first film.
Somewhere, Coniston, Lake District (sleeps two)
For starry starry skies, look no further than this lovely single-storey cottage that sleeps two. This idyllic couples’ retreat is on an exclusive country estate and offers a spacious private garden, complete with a relaxing hot tub—the perfect place to unwind and marvel at the night sky. Offering glorious views to the Swirl Crag, part of the Coniston Mountain Range, it’s located within walking distance of the north-east shore of Coniston Water, and just 1.5 miles from the shops, pubs and boating centre at Coniston Village.
To discover a whole host of tempting escapes, visit www.holidaycottages.co.uk.
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