14 July 2016

If it’s the thousands of stars in the night time sky you want to see, then you need to get away from the inner cities and villages. Head out if you can into the countryside, far away from the intrusive light polluted skies of our cities - the ones that turn the clouds orange at night.

It is a little known fact that over 70% of the UK adult population have never seen the Milky Way, or the thousands of stars that fill our skies night after night. I’d like to change that by giving a little advice on where best to go.

Here are the best locations to go and get a glimpse of the night sky in the UK.

Kielder Observatory

Of course this has to be the Kielder Observatory; where else? Nestled in the Northumberland hills lies this stargazer’s retreat, with thousands flocking to visit the largest expanse of protected dark skies in Europe.

kielder observatory

Kielder Observatory

Isle of Sark

The world’s first dark sky island. With no street lights these skies are completely dark, and as the island is in the channel, in late summer or autumn you will get a superb glimpse of the galactic center.

Galloway Forest Park  

Just over the border form Kielder Observatory, this dark sky park offers great views of the northern skies.

Galloway Forest Park

Galloway Forest Park

The Lake District

With its huge expanses of unspoilt countryside, a spot can be found anywhere in this region. Minimal light pollution ensures a great view of the night sky, with glimpses of meteors and planets as well as stars.

Exmoor National Park

In 2011 it was granted dark sky reserve status, so again a good southern spot for stargazing.

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park

North Norfolk

Around Cromer the skies are very dry and normally very clear. From here I used to travel to the Starcamps organised by Norwich astronomical society.

Washington Wetlands Centre

Here you will find the Cygnus observatory where the Sunderland astronomical society operates. They are without doubt the finest group of amateur astronomers out there, so go visit them!

Mid Wales

Around the Powys region is the best as it has one of the lowest readings of light pollution levels in the UK.

North Yorkshire Moors

Scarborough and Rydale astronomical society run the equinox star camp from Dalby forest in the spring and autumn; it’s a vast forest and very dark.

North Yorkshire Moors

North Yorkshire Moors

Romney Marsh

Famed for its churches and villages, this region has great dark skies and is not too far a commute. It’s a definite choice for stargazing for me.

  • An Astronomer's Tale

  • A Bricklayer's Guide to the Galaxy . . .

    The inspirational memoir of a former brickie who followed his passion for the stars and built his own observatory.

    Perfect for readers of Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald and James Rebanks - as well as fans of Brian Cox and the BBC’s Sky at Night


    Gary Fildes left school at sixteen, got a trade like most of his mates and was soon married with four kids. His life seemed set. But he had a secret. Something he only practised late at night with a few like-minded friends. Then one day, middle age approaching alarmingly, he acted on his lifelong passion. He finally came out. As an astronomer.

    Today, Gary is the founder and lead astronomer of Kielder Observatory, one of the top ten stargazing sites in the world, which he also helped to build. Situated in the beautiful forests of Kielder, Northumberland, within Europe’s largest protected dark sky park, it offers some of the UK's most spectacular views of stars, planets and galaxies.

    An Astronomer’s Tale is Gary’s inspirational story: part memoir, part nature writing, part seasonal guide to the night sky. It is a book brimming with passion; and at a time when the world is captivated by space, it will leave you ready to get out there and explore the wonders of the skies for yourself.

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