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  • Chris Willocks

THE BEST DARK SKY SITES IN THE UK

Discover the most captivating astronomical dark sky sites that allow you to experience the darkest and most star-studded skies in the UK.

Milky Way Over Terrain

Introduction


The United Kingdom, with its rich history, vibrant culture and stunning landscapes, has long been a popular tourist destination. But the UK also offers some of the best astronomical dark sky sites. These locations, far from the light pollution of urban areas, provide unobstructed views of the night sky, making them perfect for amateur astronomers and astrophotographers.


In this blog post, I will list and give a brief overview of some of the best dark sky sites in the UK:


Dartmoor National Park, England

Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park (Stock Image)

Dartmoor National Park, nestled in the heart of Devon, is an excellent location for amateur astronomy. Known for its vast moorlands, granite tors, and ancient woodlands, Dartmoor offers a unique and dramatic setting for observing the night sky. The park features several Dark Sky Discovery Sites, such as Bellever Forest, Meldon Reservoir, and Haytor, each providing ideal conditions.


Dartmoor National Park often hosts stargazing events and workshops in collaboration with local astronomical societies, allowing visitors to learn more about the cosmos and hone their observation skills. Additionally, the park's Dark Sky Ambassadors offer expert guidance and support, ensuring a memorable experience.


Visit https://dartmoorskies.org for more information.


Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

Galloway Forest Park
Galloway Forest Park (Stock Image)

Galloway Forest Park, located in southwest Scotland, was the UK's first Dark Sky Park, designated in 2009. Covering an area of 777 square kilometers, it offers truly dark skies for exceptional observation and astrophotography. The park's three visitor centers - Clatteringshaws, Glentrool, and Kirroughtree - serve as excellent starting points.


Visit www.gallowayastro.com for more information.


Kielder Water & Forest Park, England

Kielder Water & Forest Park
Kielder Water & Forest Park (Stock Image)

Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland, England, boasts the largest area of protected night sky in Europe. Designated as a Dark Sky Park in 2013, it offers over 250 square miles of pristine darkness. The park is home to Kielder Observatory, a state-of-the-art facility that hosts numerous astronomy events and workshops for visitors of all ages.


The observatory features several high-powered telescopes, including a 20-inch Planewave CDK20 telescope, which allows for detailed observation of deep-sky objects. Visitors can also attend the annual Kielder Star Camp, where they can participate in guided stargazing sessions and learn more about the universe from experienced astronomers.


Visit https://kielderobservatory.org for more information.


Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park
Brecon Beacons National Park (Stock Image)

Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales became an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2013. The park's diverse landscape, featuring rugged mountains, expansive moorlands, and lush valleys, provides a breathtaking backdrop for astronomy. Its four main Dark Sky Discovery Sites - Llangorse Lake, Usk Reservoir, Pontsticill Reservoir, and Crai Reservoir - each offer unique opportunities for astronomical observation.


The park regularly hosts public stargazing events, where you can learn about the constellations, planets, and other celestial objects from knowledgeable guides. Additionally, the Brecon Beacons Observatory at the National Park Visitor Centre features a 12-inch Dobsonian telescope, providing an excellent opportunity for visitors to observe the wonders of the night sky.



Exmoor National Park, England

Exmoor National Park
Exmoor National Park (Stock Image)

Exmoor National Park, located in southwest England, was granted International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2011. The park offers 267 square miles of unspoiled night skies. Its two primary Dark Sky Discovery Sites - Holdstone Hill and Wimbleball ake - provide easy access and ample parking.


The park also offers a range of guided events, such as the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, which takes place every October. This annual event includes family-friendly activities, workshops, and presentations by astronomers and astrophotographers, making it an excellent opportunity for both beginners and experienced amateur astronomers to immerse themselves.



North York Moors National Park, England

North York Moors National Park
North York Moors National Park (Stock Image)

North York Moors National Park, situated in the northeast of England, is another fantastic site. Its remote location and vast moorlands make it an ideal escape from light pollution. The park features three Dark Sky Discovery Sites - Sutton Bank, The Moors National Park Centre, and Dalby Observatory - each offering unique opportunities to observe the night sky.

Dalby Observatory, located in the heart of Dalby Forest, is home to the Scarborough & Ryedale Astronomical Society. The observatory hosts public events and workshops, allowing visitors to learn about astronomy and use their telescopes to explore the universe. North York Moors National Park also hosts the annual Dark Skies Festival, which includes a variety of astronomy events, lectures, and hands-on activities.



Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park (Stock Image)

Snowdonia National Park, in northwest Wales, is known for its dramatic mountains, picturesque valleys, and rugged coastline. Designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2015, the park offers pristine dark skies. Some of the park's top locations include Llyn Geirionydd, Llyn y Dywarchen, and Bwlch y Groes.


Snowdonia National Park regularly hosts events, such as guided night walks and astronomy workshops, allowing visitors to learn more about the night sky and experience its beauty first-hand. Moreover, the park's Dark Sky Rangers provide expert guidance, ensuring that you have an unforgettable experience.



The United Kingdom is home to numerous dark sky sites, each offering an amazing and unique experience. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced astronomer, these locations provide the perfect setting to immerse yourself in the beauty of the night sky at its best.

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