The starriest skies in Britain
A truly dark sky is a wonder to behold. There’s something indescribably magical about seeing thousands of shimmering stars, comets and even the Milky Way fill the skies above.
In the North of England and the South of Scotland, we’re lucky to have some of the largest dark skies in Britain. Taking the crowning glory for the starriest skies in the UK is the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. Spanning 572 square miles – the largest protected night sky in Europe – and with extremely low levels of light pollution, it’s the top spot for stargazing.
We are delighted to have a number of stellar properties located within the bounds of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, each one set up with a telescope or stargazing kit to help you take full advantage of the dazzling celestial show above. We also have plenty of properties in wonderfully rural locations outside the Dark Sky Park, which also offer fantastic stargazing opportunities.
Intrigued? We’ve gathered together our stargazing top tips and the pick of our holiday homes for superb star-studded stays.
- A Dark Sky Park is an area of land recognised as having exceptional night skies and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, educational and cultural heritage, and public enjoyment.
- Northumberland is the least populated county in England with just 64 people per square kilometre. In a stark contrast to urban areas where light pollution prevails, when you tilt your head back here, your eyes will be treated to a feast of up to 2,000 stars at any one time.
- The skies in the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park are so pristine that they have been awarded Gold Tier status by the International Dark Sky Association, the world authority on light pollution.
- Further south, the whole of the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been designated a Dark Sky Reserve thanks to its truly dazzling dark skies.
- You can help to keep light pollution to a minimum during your visit by bringing red torches to gently illuminate your path.
- Stargazing is something anyone can try – all you need is a dark sky above and few lights on the ground – so whether you’re travelling à deux or with the family in tow, everyone can get involved.
The greatest show from earth
Autumn and winter offer prime time viewing as the nights become truly dark. Wrap up warm, be sure to fill a flask with hot chocolate (or something a little stronger) and prepare to be dazzled. If you’re looking for a little more guidance, we know just the places:
We'd highly recommend making this outstanding local observatory your first port of call. Nestled in the heart of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, Kielder is prime position for spectacular starry experiences. They offer a varied events programme for all ages and promise you'll find "infinite inspiration" during your visit. It's important to note that booking is essential as their nightly events are highly regarded and tend to sell out in advance.
This accessible observatory offers talks, activities, stargazing and courses for complete beginners to seasoned professionals. We particularly like the sound of their Astrophotography where you'll unlock the secrets of night sky photography.
Dark Sky Discovery Sites
If you’d like to venture further afield than outside your holiday home, use the Dark Sky Discovery Sites map to find the best spots near you for stargazing, no matter where you are in the North of England or South of Scotland.
Beautifully remote, these cottages are almost 1,400ft above sea level, deep in the heart of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park - so high you feel as though you could reach out and touch the brightest stars. Rent a stargazing basket during your stay and you’ll have a telescope, binoculars, flasks for hot chocolates and snuggly blankets on hand for a midnight picnic under the stars.
Nestled high in the moors of the Yorkshire Dales, Roundhill Coach House offers blissful seclusion, surrounded by rolling green hills and overlooking the glassy waters of the Roundhill Reservoir. There are many stunning trails to explore during the day, either around the reservoir or into Upper Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and at night the vast skies open up to reveal thousands of twinkling stars shining overhead – made even more beautiful when you see them reflected in the smooth surface of the reservoir.
West Woodburn, Northumberland
Set right on the edge of the Northumberland National Park, these two exceptional homes on the Cragg Estate are beautifully remote, emanating tranquillity in a magical and rather undiscovered part of the English uplands. Spanning 1,000 acres, this sustainability-focused estate sits under vast skies, perfect for constellation spotting and moon-gazing. The estate's superb restored Bothy - boasting fantastic views - can be hired for a sumptuous private dinner before you head outside, full of delicious fare, to see what you can spot in the sky above.
Cocooned in perfect peace, these three cottages and dreamy barn conversion sit in splendid isolation high on the hillside on the edge of the Northumberland National Park, lying under big skies containing thousands of glittering stars. Located at the very end of a private road, you’ll find cosy interiors and fabulous views over the hills and valleys. The extensive gardens, terraces and outdoor seating spaces are made for stargazing most splendid.
If star-bathing isn’t already a trend then it soon will be. At Wagtail – a chic and sustainability-focused shepherd’s hut high in the Northumbrian hills – you can enjoy a sumptuous soak in the eye-catching copper bathtub while admiring the stars above. If you do want to venture outside to stargaze instead, Wagtail’s rural setting makes the perfect backdrop, plus there's a telescope and guide books at the hut to help you get started.
Spread across 1,000 acres of rolling countryside and lush river valleys, a stay at the The Barn & The Cowshed promises a luxury escape away from the madding crowd amidst beautiful surroundings. The lofty living space on the first floor of The Barn offers floor-to-ceiling windows – ideal for stargazing from the warmth of the house once darkness falls, just remember to turn the lights off inside so you can appreciate the full beauty of the skies.
Observatory images ©Kielder Observatory