Re-connect with nature this season and make the most of the wintertime darkness with the UK’s best stargazing destinations
As winter draws nearer, there’s no better time to book a weekend break to enjoy a spot of stargazing at one of the UK’s international dark sky reserves. Away from the bright lights of the city, these parks offer the most spectacular views of the night sky in the country. With online booking website CampStead, stargazers can easily scroll through the UK & Ireland’s top camping, caravanning and holiday parks to find and book their next affordable Dark Sky staycation.
Whether it’s a break to see the Geminid Meteor shower in mid-December, or a last-minute booking to try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, these six sites selected by CampStead offer a front row seat for the best night sky action.
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park
At 572 square miles, Northumberland International Dark Sky Park boasts Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. The park has miles of footpaths where stargazers can find a quiet spot to observe the night sky, or head to one of the area’s most treasured attractions – The Kielder Observatory – which offers an exciting, year-round programme of astronomical events, including the Shooting Star spectacular on the 13 and 14 of December. Leekworth Camping and Caravan Park accommodates both caravans and motorhomes and also offers a self-catering character-infused Shepherd’s Cottage for glampers. Prices start from £18.
Also located in Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and less than a mile from the dark sky discovery site at Cawfields Quarry is Herding Hill Farm. The skies above this campsite are truly spectacular, with some 4,000 stars dazzling the skies on a clear night. Herding Hill Farm organises stargazing events throughout the year, which open with a brief overview of the solar system followed by some stargazing. Priced at £8 per child, £12 per adult or £28 for a family of up to five, the next event is on 10 and 11 November. The site offers a range of accommodation options; from caravans and heated wigwams to a luxurious 6-berth holiday lodge for those who want to stargaze in style. Prices start from £12.
South Downs National Park
Sumners Ponds Fishery Campsite is located just outside South Downs National Park, which became the world’s newest International Dark Sky Reserve in May 2016. The campsite offers three camping areas with a total of 90 pitches, all of which have electric hook-ups. For fishing or nature enthusiasts, Sumner has two charming lakeside log cabins with a private fishing veranda – an ideal location for a spot of stargazing. For romantic weekend breaks, handcrafted shepherd’s huts with wood burning stoves for warmth are available on the bank of Sumners Lake. For those looking for a bit more luxury, home comforts and serenity are promised in the site’s cosy safari tent. Prices start from £13.
Galloway Forest Park
Situated in Galloway Forest Park, which was named as the UK’s first Dark Sky Park in 2009, Barrhill offers the ideal countryside escape to witness winter’s best cosmic displays. Offering touring pitches with electric hookups the park also has three brand new Glamping Pods, each with bathroom and kitchen facilities as well as a picnic table and a fire pit so astronomy fans can keep warm and stargaze into the early hours. For those looking for something cultural to do during the day, the home of Scottish Poet Robert Burns is an hour’s drive away. Prices start from £16.
Snowdonia National Park
The mountainous region of Snowdonia was designated as an international dark sky reserve in 2015. Boasting amazing views all year round, the national park is the perfect 823 square mile patch for enjoying a spot of stargazing. Just a 40-minute drive from Snowdonia is Abbey Farm, which features all the hallmarks of an authentic Welsh country retreat and offers electric hook ups for caravans and motorhomes, spacious standard and family sized pods with electric sockets, lighting and heating, as well as three self-catering cottages. Prices start from £16.
Suffolk Coast National Nature Reserve
While not located in a dark sky reserve, Haw Wood Farm in Suffolk has been named a ‘Dark Sky Discovery Site’ due to its unusual lack of light pollution. The site will be hosting a family stargazing weekend from 20 – 23 October when all lighting in the park will be kept at a minimum level to ensure the most spectacular views of the night sky. Amateur stargazers will have the opportunity to learn from expert astronomers and borrow a telescope for a closer look at notable celestial bodies. Offering standard pitches for caravans and motorhomes, there’s also an onsite café serving cooked breakfasts on the weekend and fish and chips on Fridays. Prices start from £12.
For more information and to explore the full range of accommodation options available, please visit CampStead.com