Five top places to observe the stars
One of the most ravishing sights on Earth is the night sky. On a clear night you can see some 4,000 stars sparkling in our universe. Following the news that Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve – the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world – VisitEngland pinpoints the nation’s best stargazing locations, where you can join the hunt for solar storms and catch a true glimpse of celestial glory.
International Dark Sky Reserve, Exmoor
The rugged interior and dramatic coast inspired Coleridge and Wordsworth, Exmoor National Park is home to some of the darkest skies in the country, so it's a great place to gaze at the stars. Good spots are Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Brendon Two Gates, Webbers Post, Anstey Gate and Haddon Hill. On a clear night many astronomical sights can be seen with the naked eye and even more can be discovered through a telescope.
Kielder Observatory, Northumberland
Kielder Forest is officially the darkest place in England, with over 250 square miles of wooded beauty where Northumberland brushes against Scotland. It has its own state-of-the-art, wood-clad observatory on the slopes of Black Fell above Kielder Water. The Observatory, designed by Charles Barclay Architects, is Kielder's most recent art and architecture project, developed to provide a permanent base for amateur astronomers.
Bignor car park, Slindon Estate, West Sussex
One of England’s more unique stargazing locations, Bignor car park occupies a high point on top of the South Downs. Free from light pollution, the Milky Way is clearly visible and the view is awe-inspiring during daylight too. There are also plenty of footpaths nearby and a variety of wildlife can be spotted in the area; glow worms often flit around the car park, particularly on top of the nearby burial mounds.
Stonehenge landscape, Wiltshire
Stonehenge has long been associated with astronomy. Situated on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the prehistoric ceremonial landscape of Stonehenge occupies a large, sparsely populated area that is ideal for star gazing. At one time it was thought to be an astronomical computer, as the monuments are directly connected to the skies above, with stones aligned to moonrises and moonsets.
Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Explore the secret lives of stars at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Home to the UK’s largest telescope, you can explore the fascinating life history of the stars, from the smallest red dwarf to the largest blue giant. Using state-of-the art digital simulation, the lifespans of stars are charted from birth through to death and beyond. The Observatory is also the home of Greenwich Mean Time, the Prime Meridian of the world, making it the official starting point for each new day.