Britain’s Dark Sky Discovery Sites are closer than you think. Pack a telescope, wrap up warm and discover the glittering night skies. Granted Dark Sky status by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), Britain’s ‘star’ parks, reserves and islands encourage visitors to rediscover the wonders of the night.
Kielder Observatory hosts public events – witness the magic of the night sky in Northumberland. Photo Visit Northumberland
GALLOWAY FOREST DARK SKY PARK, SCOTLAND
As the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, an accolade granted in 2009 for its unpolluted inky night skies, the 300sq-mile Galloway Forest leads the way in stargazing tourism. There’s always something new to admire in the skies – no telescope required. Regular Dark Sky Park events meet at the park’s visitor centres.
SARK DARK SKY ISLAND, CHANNEL ISLANDS
As the world’s first Dark Sky Island, Sark is IDA recognised for its bejewelled ebony skies. On a cloudless night, the galaxy reveals a canvas of stars and meteorites shedding their dazzling trails through the dark. Without street lighting or traffic (the only island transport being horse and carriage, bicycle and tractor), night-time here is as it should be, allowing clear views of the Milky Way. Check Sark’s tourism website for details of stargazing events.
EXMOOR DARK SKY RESERVE,DEVON/SOMERSET
In 2011, the National Park was designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe for its light pollution-free skies, and much has been done to promote night-sky tourism. A downloadable pocket guide packed with tips on when and whereabouts to go, is available on the park’s website. Look out for Orion, (best seen November to February) and the Plough (visible year round). Telescope hire is available from the National Park visitor centres.
BRECON BEACONS NATIONAL PARK, WALES
Accredited with International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2012, the park well caters for stargazers, with events held at the park visitor centre at Libanus. A presentation will be given by Martin Griffiths, senior lecturer in astronomy at the University of South Wales, and the team from Dark Sky Wales will be on hand to point out the wonders of the winter sky with the help of their mobile planetarium.
NORTHUMBERLAND DARK SKY PARK
Awarded Dark Sky Park status in 2013, this is the largest such park in Europe comprising almost 580sq miles of Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park. This winter, visitors can enjoy special family stargazing events until spring 2015.