Starry, starry nights
As winter draws in around us, it brings longer evenings and plenty of opportunities to admire inky black skies studded with twinkling stars. In the North of England and the South of Scotland, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to brilliant stargazing spots.
Of course, there’s the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park - where we’re lucky to have a stellar collection of stargazing properties each fitted with telescopes and binoculars so you can admire the pristine stars above – but there’s also a plethora of other must-visit areas which lie beyond its boundary.
Whether you’re a family of budding astronomers, you’re serious about stars or you wish to whisk your loved one away for a romantic weekend that’s sure to leave them starry-eyed, be inspired by our pick of rural escapes where you can reconnect with the cosmos beneath glittering skies. From the Dark Sky Reserve of the Yorkshire National Park to the remote hills of the Scottish Borders and the awe-inspiring Northumbrian coastline, keep reading to discover our pick of must-visit areas for stargazers.
The skies above the rolling hills and rugged moorland of rural Northumberland are the darkest and most pristine in the whole of Europe. Far from the bright lights of the city, they come alive every evening with dazzling stars and the pearly haze of the milky way. Home to the largest Dark Sky Park in the country, it’s no surprise that the superb Kielder Observatory is located here. Visit after dark for illuminating talks by their team of experts or study the galaxies from the comfort of your C&C holiday home.
Stay at: We have several stylish properties nestled near the boundary of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park which are perfect bases for stargazing. Stay in the remote Redesdale Valley at Risingham House to enjoy spotless skies from the warmth of the glass-fronted bothy, just a stone’s throw away, and book an exclusive stargazing supper for a night to remember. Led by a local astronomer, you will enjoy a guided stargazing session combined with a delicious a three-course 'dinner in the dark' menu.
These suppers and the dark skies can also be enjoyed from the grounds of the picturesque Eslington estate where you can stay in the grand East Wing and dine in style or cosy up at the Lodge warmed by the cheery red AGA. The nearby Stable Cottage at Glanton Pyke is a sophisticated choice for those that want to balance impressive skies with equally gorgeous interiors. It lies within easy reach of both Kielder Observatory and the Ingram Valley where you can embark on a fascinating stargazing safari, so there’s plenty for you to explore during the moonlight hours.
You and your loved one can truly get away from it all in a peaceful hideaway for two. Blessed by stellar skies and sweeping countryside, these bijou escapes are ideal for date nights spent sipping fizz and catching shooting stars.
Stay at: For a Scandi-style retreat, the Railway Carriage near Melrose provides idyllic seclusion as well as an inviting hot tub, perfect for kicking back as you take in the pristine skies of the Southern Uplands of Scotland. The hot tub at The Treehouse near Dunbar is equally tempting for spa-like star-spotting experience, lying in a picturesque spot between the East Lothian coastline and Dunglass woods. For a coastal stay beyond the border, why not hunker down in the charming Cow Parsley Shepherd’s Hut. Just four miles from the Northumberland coastline, this cosy bolthole is a pretty little getaway where you can cuddle up and stargaze beside a crackling fire pit.
Kitted out with stellar features from star-centric viewing windows to your own dedicated telescopes, these properties have everything you need to make the most of clear skies bejeweled by astronomical spectacles.
Stay at: In the heart of ancient Elliot Clan lands, The Bothy At Redheugh is a beautifully restored historic retreat which is equipped with its own telescope for studying the night sky. Guests at the charismatic Walltown Byre also have their own telescope to hand, or simply study the dark sky in ultimate comfort in the spa hot tub. At the effortlessly stylish Poppy House, the master bedroom boasts a unique stargazing ceiling so you can admire the skies above as you drift away to sleep – perhaps you’ll even be lucky enough to catch the aurora borealis glimmering overhead.
Stay at: The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors both became International Dark Sky Reserves in 2020 and promise spectacular stargazing opportunities in their secluded moors and valleys. With the North York Moors Dark Skies Fringe Festival taking place from 27th October - 5th November and the Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival from 9th - 25th February, there’s plenty to get involved in throughout the season. Heatherdene, a gorgeous traditional cottage in the middle of the Dales, is ideal for taking in the vast night sky due to its rural and elevated position. For the best of both the Dales and Moors, the stylishly converted barn of East Lodge in Lower Wensleydale is perfectly placed between the two parks.
Meanwhile, in the tranquil reaches of the Scottish Borders, the elegant Mossfennan House lies in glorious isolation high in the hills of Tweeddale – perfect for taking in the night skies from your own sprawling gardens or from the large picture windows in the cosy upstairs sitting room.
For a historic stargazing getaway, experience the inky-black skies which surround the iconic castles of Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Lindisfarne on the Northumbrian coastline. From time to time the aurora borealis glows above these magical sites and although the lights tend to be elusive, be reassured that the sun is reaching the peak of its 11-year cycle – due at the end of 2024 or early in 2025 – so they’re only increasing in frequency. We have already enjoyed numerous spectacular nights in the autumn of 2023, so now couldn’t be a better time to book in a trip to catch them yourself.
Stay at: For a front-row seat when the northern lights shine above Bamburgh Castle stay at the luxurious North Star House, or to catch them glimmering above Dunstanburgh escape to the chic Sea Breeze. In a picturesque spot with panoramic coastal views, Bee Cottage is ideal for experiencing an ethereal starry night above the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
Observatory image ©Kielder Observatory
Wagtail feature image ©Dan Monk