Top 5 Dark Sky locations in Great Britain

Dark Sky locationsThe bright lights of big city living are a huge attraction to many, but those of us who want stars in our eyes find them a little frustrating. In today’s permanently switched-on world, it can be hard to spot exactly what’s out there when we gaze into the night sky; so many people don’t even bother.

Look a little harder, though, and you’ll find there are dozens of amazing locations in Britain to set up your telescope and get starry-eyed. The UK contains some of the darkest skies in the world, so where should you go if you want a view of the entire solar system?

Kielder, Northumberland

Where better to start than with officially the darkest place in England? The dense skies above the area comprising Kielder Water and Forest Park, Kielder Observatory and Northumberland National Park were recognised as the darkest by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). Moreover, the location is one of only six to have been awarded ‘Dark Sky Status’ by the International Dark Skies Association (some others featured in this list have the same accolade).

With 250 square miles of stunning sprawling woodland and the aforementioned observatory right amongst it on the Black Fell slopes, this really is a fantastic place to get away from the smog and gaze up at the stars above. Naturally, unless you live locally, you’ll want to spend the night, and the nearby 17th Century Pheasant Inn is a charming place to rest up.

Exmoor, North Devon

Another great spot with International Dark Sky recognition lies in Exmoor, with local authorities taking great measures to ensure that light is managed and the area is appealing to astronomers. On clear nights you don’t even need a telescope – many astronomical wonders are visible through the naked eye.

County Gate; Webbers Post; Holdstone Hill; Wimbleball Lake – these are just some of the fantastic spots you could pitch up for a night under the stars. If you don’t have your own telescopic equipment you can hire all you’ll need from one of the National Park Centres. For a great stay, we recommend The Old Rectory Hotel close to the coast – it was recently voted ‘Best Small Hotel’ by Visit England.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

As the first UK national park to gain the coveted Dark Sky Status in 2009, Galloway Forest Park is known worldwide for its impressive technology, roll-off-roof observatory, and most importantly, its deep dark skies. With approximately 75,000 hectares of land, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a great spot (although Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre, Bruce’s Stone and Caldons woodlands are recommended by

While your nights are focused on Orion’s belt, the Plough, Cassiopeia, and other constellations, you’ll also find plenty to keep you busy in the daytime too. As one of the biggest forest parks in the UK, Galloway is a prime location for mountain biking, boasting more than 450 miles of marked routes. You’ll see plenty of wildlife and historic attractions along the way, making Galloway Forest Park an all-round gem.

Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

The only Dark-Sky preserve in Wales is situated in the Brecon Beacons. You’d be hard pressed to find a community which goes to such great lengths to ensure light pollution is reduced. The hard work is obviously paying off – on a clear night you can see just about everything from anywhere.

Dark Sky Wales manager Allan Trow told that his favourite stargazing spots in the Beacons are Usk Reservoir, Crai Reservoir, the National Park Visitor Centre, Pontsticill Reservoir, and Llangorse Lakes.

Lake District, Cumbria

Well known for its beautiful scenery down here on Earth, the Lake District is equally renowned for the breathtaking views above it. Stargazing at night is the perfect end to your days here; with some of the darkest skies in the county, you don’t even need equipment. Grizedale Forest Park is the place to be, drawing in thousands of visitors every year.

If you’re planning your trip but haven’t decided where to stay yet, we recommend the Grizedale Lodge in Hawkshead. With easy access to the Grizedale trails, it’s the perfect base for your Lake District stay.

21st Century twist on a Victorian geographical melodrama

Gary PDr Gary Priestnall, at Nottingham University’s School of Geography, is aiming to recapture the sense of wonder which an extraordinary 15-foot by 14 foot, 3D, sculpted model of the Lake District inspired when it was unveiled in Keswick in the 1870’s. It has spawned a new exhibition opening at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery on Monday February 9 which runs until May. It’s part historical detective story, and part 21st Century, technological success story and Ordnance Survey has helped Gary every step of the way. Here is his story. 

A unique 3-D model of the Lake District which would have offered Victorian tourists their first bird’s eye view of the Lake District has been known about since it caused such a stir in 1875. So when the one last surviving, beautifully hand-painted piece of the model, as well as 140 of the original plaster moulds used to create it, fell in to my hands the chance to celebrate the event in 2015 with an exhibition became my cause celebre.

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5 winter walks to try around Great Britain

Couple Walking Dog Through Winter WoodlandFor some, winter is a time of hibernation, staying in and never straying too far from the fireplace. For many others, though, it’s a time to get out the scarves, gloves, earmuffs and woolly hats which themselves have been hibernating for most of the year, and head out into the fresh chill outside.

Keen walkers know that the some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes really come into their own in the colder season. A touch of frost here, a layer of snow there; it all adds up to make some of Britain’s most stunning scenery. So if you’ve got your layers on and fancy a stroll, here are some of our favourite winter walks around the country. Continue reading “5 winter walks to try around Great Britain”

Walk of the week: Scenic Windermere walk and boat tour

Today’s walk is a guest blog from Digital Outdoors, a network of over 60 camping and outdoor holiday websites. Their mission is to connect UK campers with great campsites and inspire and nurture a love for the Great British Outdoors.

Length of route: 3.1 m
Starting point: SD 413 987
Suitable for: Walking
Maps: OS Explorer Map OL7 The English Lakes: South-Eastern area
Download our OS MapFinder app and record your route
Use OS getamap


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Plan a visit to a National Park

This week is National Parks Week, a seven-day celebration of Britain’s wildlife. It sees events organised across Britain’s 15 National Parks and encourages all Brits to head out and explore open areas right on their doorstep. There will also be a photography competition (on the theme ‘Space to Grow’) and overnight stays to show off the Parks’ dark skies.

So for those planning a visit to one of Britain’s National Parks for the big week ahead, here are some of the goings on you can look forward to.

Brecon Beacons

Brecon Beacons

Pen y Fan View To Cribyn, © Douglas Law

‘Take pART’ is an arts and crafts scheme aimed at allowing children to get creative, learn a new skill and make something tangible, especially if this can be done with natural materials. This year’s National Parks Week will coincide with two Take pART workshops: pottery and felt pictures.

Both workshops will take place at the National Park visitor centre, with pottery on the cards on July 29 and felt the following day. The cost for each will be £5 per child. Adults or families looking for more physical activities, meanwhile, may be tempted by the Walk, Talk and Tea stroll around Mynydd Illtud. The family-friendly four-mile stroll will take in industrial sites, spiritual centre and Iron Age hillfort (depending on time). Space on the walk cost £4 but this includes a cream tea. Continue reading “Plan a visit to a National Park”

Walk of the week: Ennerdale Water

Today’s walk is from Peter Naldrett, author of the Trigpoint Walks series of books, and now the Lake District Dog Walker’s Guide.

Length of route: 7 miles
Starting point: NY 085 153
Suitable for: Walking
Where to park: There is a free car park at Bleach Green car park, Ennerdale.
Maps: OS Explorer Map OL4 The English Lakes: North-Western Area
Download our OS MapFinder app and record your route
Use OS getamap
Download the GPX file


Dog factors
Road walking: None.
Livestock: A sensible approach is required and dogs should be kept under control as sheep may be encountered during this walk at the base of several fells.
Stiles: None.
Nearest vets: West Lakeland Veterinary Group, St Bridgets Lane, Egremont, CA22 2BB. Tel: 01946 820312
Nearby dog friendly pubs: The Fox and Hounds at Ennerdale Bridge is the nearest pub and is a lovely place to relax after a walk around this wonderful lake. The pub was bought by villagers in 2011 and the owners welcome walkers with muddy boots and dogs. Tel: 01946 861181 Postcode: CA23 3AR Meanwhile, The Brook Inn at Cleator is a small terraced pub a little further away with a warm welcome for dog owners. Tel: 01946 811635 Postcode: CA23 3DX. Continue reading “Walk of the week: Ennerdale Water”

A guide to Scafell Pike

Today’s guest blog comes from Doug Belchamber at – the website that provides a complete guide to England’s highest peak.

scafell pike viewPush yourself to your limit by conquering one of the greatest challenges in England – Scafell Pike! As England’s highest mountain – standing at 978 metres, this is a brilliant way of challenging yourself to beat your personal best. Located in the stunning Lake District National Park, Scafell Pike is steeped in beauty and history, and offers a fantastic experience for climbers of all ages. Continue reading “A guide to Scafell Pike”

Walk of the week – Hartsop

A guest post by Ordnance Survey’s Gwyn Hughes-Jones

This is a great walk to do on a crisp spring day. It has fantastic views over the Eastern Fells of the Lake District.  This walk is on Explorer map OL6 – The English Lakes North Eastern Area.

The walk starts at Hartsop, a small hamlet in the Patterdale Valley. There is plenty of parking available at Cow Bridge, a short 600m from Hartsop. To start the walk you go through Hartsop and take the right hand fork: this is signposted as a Bridleway up High Street. Stay on the left hand side of the river and follow the path as it starts to climb gently up towards Hayeswater. After 600 metres, cross the river and follow the path around the bottom of Gray Crag. After a kilometre you cross the river again just before reaching Hayeswater.

Once over the river, the path starts to zig zag slightly as you gain height.  The cairn on the Knott can be seen after about a kilometre of easy climbing. This is a great place to stop and appreciate the view towards Hartsop. There is a handy stone wall providing shelter (if required) and a place to rest your flask of tea.

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A walk around Grasmere and Elterwater

The Lake District is a beautiful area and there are countless different walks to follow to suit walkers of all abilities. When I was there last year, on an unseasonably warm and sunny March weekend, I had a lovely 6-mile walk around Grasmere and Elterwater that I’d like to share with you. There are some spectacular views from high above Grasmere and you also pass a pub or two along the way. You’ll need OS Explorer Map OL7 The English Lakes South-eastern area.

The starting point is Grasmere, a beautiful village to have a stroll round beforehand, or to enjoy a cream tea in afterwards. It was once home to the poet William Wordsworth and you can visit two of his former homes and see the Wordsworth family graves at St Oswalds Church.

The church is the starting point for the walk. With St Oswalds on your right, head along the road, taking the first left onto a small lane. You’ll pass the garden centre car park and should follow the lane for around three quarters of a mile. There are some lovely views over Grasmere as you follow the lane.

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