The UK’s Top 10 Stargazing Spots

Whether you're a newcomer eager to marvel at the Milky Way or simply seeking a break from city lights to admire the night sky's beauty, stargazing offers something special for everyone.

But where are the best stargazing spots in the UK?

To answer that question and help you decide on your next trip, we've compiled a list of the UK's dark sky parks, reserves, and islands. We've then ranked the top 10 stargazing locations based on the number of stargazing events, viewing locations across the region and accommodation.

For beginners to astronomy, we've also asked Product Specialist Lizzie James at Jessops for her expert stargazing tips and best telescope recommendations.


What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

The top 10 stargazing locations in the UK

Our expert tips for stargazing

Best telescopes for stargazing

Best for beginners

Best budget option

Best for astrophotography

What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

A Dark Sky Reserve is a protected area awarded by DarkSky International that restricts artificial light pollution to preserve the natural darkness and beauty of the sky. 

To qualify as a Dark Sky Reserve, an area must have effective lighting management plans to control light pollution and demonstrate a commitment to public education about the importance of dark skies.

These reserves are often located in remote locations, away from the bright lights of urban areas. This not only increases opportunities for astronomy but also supports the well-being of wildlife that can be affected by excessive artificial lighting.

As of May 2024, there are over 200 Dark Sky Places worldwide, with the UK being home to 19 of these, according to DarkSky.

The top 10 stargazing locations in the UK

Northumberland Dark Sky Park

With 20 observation points, 19 annual events, and plenty of stargazing-friendly accommodations, Northumberland Dark Sky Park claims the top spot for stargazing in the UK.

In 2013, Northumberland National Park and most of Kielder Water and Forest Park became a Dark Sky Park. 

The park spans 572 square miles, and 96% of it enjoys very low levels of light pollution, according to Go Stargazing, so you can observe the stars in all their glory. You can even see the Milky Way stretch across the sky on moonless nights!

Image by Charlie Seaman on Unsplash

South Downs Dark Sky Reserve

South Downs National Park, despite being just 90 minutes from the brightly lit city of London, is renowned for its clear, dark skies.

It was designated as a Dark Sky Reserve in 2016 and has since become a magnet for astronomers from all over the country. 

The park hosts 30 annual stargazing events and boasts 15 prime viewing locations across the region. One of the standout spots is Bignor Hill, known for being one of the darkest and highest points in the area, offering breathtaking views of the night sky.

Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve

Exmoor National Park, with its moorlands, woodlands, rivers, and coastal areas in west Somerset and north Devon, is stunning by day. But it’s at night that the magic truly happens, thanks to the incredibly dark skies and minimal light pollution.

The best time to visit is late October, when the skies are at their darkest. Plus, the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival usually runs throughout October and is packed with plenty of events and activities, like astrophotography walks and talks designed for beginners to stargazing.

The park offers 13 accommodation options, most of which have undergone dark skies training and have been accredited as Dark Sky Friendly businesses. This training is all about keeping light pollution low so you get the best possible views of the night sky.

North York Moors Dark Sky Reserve

North York Moors National Park was designated a Dark Sky Reserve in 2020, making it one of the best places in the country to see stars, moons, planets and more. You can see over 2,000 stars in the darkest parts of the park at any one time!

It has 21 observational spots for viewing and 10 stargazing-friendly accommodation to pick from.

Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Reserve

Yorkshire Dales National Park is the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the UK. To qualify as a Dark Sky Reserve, an area must ensure at least 67% of its properties are dark sky friendly. Impressively, 90% of residential properties in the Yorkshire Dales already met this criteria when it was designated in 2020.

There are 17 places to stay, making it perfect for a weekend getaway. Plus, there are five observation points where you can spot the Milky Way, meteor showers, and even the Northern Lights!

Image by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve

In 2012, Brecon Beacons National Park became the first location in Wales (and the fifth worldwide) to be recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve. It boasts 10 stargazing spots and hosts five events throughout the year.

Thanks to the local community's dedication to reducing light pollution, you can enjoy beautifully clear skies that offer fantastic opportunities for astrophotography.

Image by Marcus Woodbridge on Unsplash

Cranborne Chase Dark Sky Reserve

Cranborne Chase, awarded Dark Sky Reserve status in 2019, spans Dorset, Hampshire, and Wiltshire in central southern England. 

It features 10 prime stargazing locations. On a clear night, you can even see the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Bodmin Moor Dark Sky Landscape

Bodmin Moor in Cornwall is a beautiful granite moorland offering plenty of daytime activities like hiking, fishing, and rock climbing. But the magic doesn't fade when the sun sets. Nighttime on the moor draws tourists from all over Europe to observe the breathtaking night skies.

Designated as a Dark Sky Reserve in 2017, Bodmin Moor's celestial beauty is recognised and protected. Cornwall Council is working to inform locals about the economic and cultural importance of preserving the dark skies in this region.

Elan Valley Dark Sky Park

Elan Valley in Wales was awarded Dark Sky Park status in 2015. This means the whole 45,000 acres are protected against light pollution.

If you're looking for some of the darkest skies in the UK for stargazing, this is one of the best places to be!

Snowdonia Dark Sky Reserve

Snowdonia National Park, another gem in Wales, achieved its Dark Sky Reserve status in 2015. Its pristine landscape boasts minimal light pollution, ensuring enchantingly dark skies. On a clear night, you can marvel at all the major constellations, the Milky Way, and shooting stars.

With five designated observation spots, such as Llyn y Dywarchen and Llyn Geirionydd, you can enjoy stargazing from Snowdonia's majestic mountains and foothills. Plus, the park offers six stargazing-friendly accommodation, making it the ideal place to spend the night.

The national park is dedicated to preserving its dark skies by implementing practices like using lights only where necessary and directing them downward to minimise the impact on wildlife.

Image by Neil Mark Thomas on Unsplash

Our expert tips for stargazing

Find a dark spot

Darkness is your best friend when it comes to stargazing. Lizzie agrees: "For the best stargazing experience, venture away from the glow of city lights to a location with minimal light pollution. Look for places like national parks, rural areas, or designated Dark Sky Reserves where the night sky remains unpolluted by artificial lights.”

"Beaches, mountains, and open fields can also provide excellent points. Just remember to check the weather forecast beforehand and choose a clear night for the best visibility of the stars."

Choose the right time of year and plan for events

"Doing a bit of research on key astronomical events and aligning your stargazing trips can ensure you don't miss out," recommends Lizzie. 

"At different times of the year, you'll have better chances of spotting specific celestial wonders. That's why it's worth finding a calendar for your local area that details when to expect meteor showers, eclipses, the appearance of certain planets and more."

Invest in binoculars or a telescope

Lizzie says: "Binoculars with a decent magnification power of around x15 or higher provide a wider field of view, making it easier to spot stars, planets, and even some far-off galaxies. They let you see details you might miss with just your eyes."

"A telescope is a step up from binoculars for stargazing – they offer a sharper and clearer view of distant objects. They come in various sizes and designs, from compact models perfect for beginners to larger, more advanced ones for seasoned astronomers."

"When choosing binoculars or a telescope, consider factors such as aperture size, magnification power, portability, and ease of use."

"It's also a good idea to get to know the basic functions and adjustments of your chosen equipment before heading out with it. Take some time to practise in your back garden or another familiar setting – it'll help you feel more comfortable and confident once you're out under the stars."

To learn more, read our Binoculars Buying Guide.

Allow your eyes to adapt

"It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adapt, so avoid looking at bright lights during this time," says Lizzie. "Instead, find a comfortable spot to sit and let your eyes gradually become accustomed to the low light conditions. This patience will be rewarded with a clearer and more vibrant view of the night sky."

Use stargazing apps

"Downloading a stargazing app on your phone, like Stellarium or GoSkyWatch, can make your experience even better," explains Lizzie.

"These apps utilise GPS technology to provide real-time information about the night sky above you. With just a few taps, you can easily identify constellations, planets, and other celestial objects visible from your location."

Try out astrophotography

To share your experience with others, why not try out astrophotography? Capturing the beauty of the night sky can be incredibly rewarding and allows you to preserve your stargazing memories in stunning images.

Lizzie says: "DSLR cameras are a popular choice for astrophotography due to their versatility, interchangeable lenses, and relatively large image sensors. They offer manual controls for adjusting settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, allowing for greater creative control over your images."

"You should also consider investing in a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady during long exposure shots. A remote control shutter release or timer is also handy to minimise camera shake."

"Start with simple compositions, such as wide-angle shots of the night sky or close-up images of the moon and planets. As you gain experience, you can explore more advanced techniques, such as stacking multiple exposures to reduce noise and enhance details in your images."

To learn more, read our guide to getting started with astrophotography.

Best telescopes for stargazing

Lizzie says: "This Celestron telescope is ideal for beginners –Buy Celestron NexStar 4SE Computerized Telescope - Jessops it has a fully computerised operating system. It allows you to input commands and settings, which then translates into precise movements of the telescope's mount and optics."

"The built-in Sky Tour feature does all the hard work for you. It automatically finds the most interesting objects in the sky and moves between each one."

"Plus, with a massive database of nearly 40,000 objects, you'll never run out of things to explore. And if you happen to stumble upon something new that's not in the database, you can even program the telescope to find it again later."

"It features a 4-inch aperture, meaning excellent light-gathering ability and clearer images of distant objects in the night sky."

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"This telescope is an excellent pick for those on a budget, offering plenty of amazing features at a great price," says Lizzie.

"The fully coated glass optics ensure crystal-clear views, while its asymmetrical altazimuth mount guarantees stable tracking of celestial wonders. Plus, with a sturdy steel tripod that conveniently folds up and a handy accessory tray included, setting up is a breeze."

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"This telescope is one of the best for astrophotography," says Lizzie. "It's a real game-changer in capturing stunning shots of the stars, planets and more."

"With its impressive 6.2 MP image resolution, every photo you take is of the highest quality. And with the Unistellar app, you can easily connect your smartphone or tablet to save and share your photos."

"The app also allows you to effortlessly access and observe thousands of space objects with just a click, providing detailed information about each target. This technology makes space exploration accessible to everyone, regardless of expertise."

"Plus, the live image processing feature is pretty remarkable – it filters out city lights, giving you clear, real-time views."

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Shop telescopes at Jessops today

"While stargazing with the naked eye is incredible, having the right equipment can make a big difference," explains Lizzie.

Whether you're heading out to observe an astronomy event or planning your next trip to a dark sky park reserve, explore our wide range of telescopes and binoculars at Jessops.

If you need more advice and inspiration, check out our blog. If you have any questions or you're unsure about which product is right for you, contact us today.

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