Dark skies and stargazing holidays in the UK

3rd February 2023

There’s nothing quite like gazing up at a clear night’s sky that twinkles with stars and celestial beauty. Think of it as a spectacular show with no need for tickets – just pure, unfiltered nature at its majestic best. 


And you can enjoy the wonders of the cosmos right here in the UK, courtesy of its many official Dark Sky areas. 


To celebrate the upcoming Dark Skies Festival, we’ve rounded up the best ones to visit. For optimum viewing, it’s recommended you head between October and March when the days are shorter and the colder weather brings clearer skies. 


Taking the train? Make a dark skies holiday cheaper with a Railcard.  


South Downs National Park 

There are 10 great spots to stargaze in the South Downs: Winchester Science Centre; Old Winchester Hill; Butser Hill; Buriton; Harting Down; Iping Common; Bignor Hill; Devil’s Dyke; Ditchling Beacon; and Birling Gap. 


Besides the stars, the park is a brilliant place for wildlife, including blue butterflies and barn owls. 


Nearest train stations: Winchester, Lewes 


Northumberland National Park  

With Gold Tier status for its Dark Skies, Northumberland is one of the best stargazing spots in the UK. 


Battlesteads Observatory, Kielder Observatory, The Twice Brewed Inn and the entire coastline offer some of the best viewing. 


Be sure to make time for Hadrian’s Wall, an ancient Roman battlement that cuts through the English countryside. 


Nearest train stations: Wylam, Prudhoe, Stocksfield, Riding Mill, Corbridge, Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle 


North York Moors National Park 

Head to the park centres at Sutton Bank and Danby, as well as Dalby Observatory, to see the best of the North York Moors’ clear night skies. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the Milky Way and maybe even the Northern Lights. 


While you’re here, consider a trip to the seaside with a stay in historic Whitby. 


Nearest train stations: Danby, Whitby 


West Penwith 

Cornwall’s West Penwith is one of the UK’s newest Dark Sky Parks, earning the title in 2021. 


St Just, Sennen, Mousehole, Trethewey, Sancreed and New Mill are among the top spots to stargaze. The best times to go are autumn and winter. 


Of course, no trip to Cornwall is complete without a visit to Land’s End, famous for being the most south-westerly spot in England. 


Nearest train station: Penzance 


Snowdonia National Park 

More than just mountains, Snowdonia is a prime spot for stargazing. The most recommended spot in the park is Llyn y Dywarchen, while the best time to go is between September and March. 


Once you’ve had your fill of dark skies, pay a visit to the lovely stone town of Dolgellau and hike the lesser-visited peak of Cadair Idris. 


Nearest train stations: Porthmadog, Penrhyn, Tanygrisiau 


Galloway Forest Park

Another Gold Tier area for stargazing, Galloway Forest Park is well worth a visit. On a clear night, 7,000 stars can be seen, with the Milky Way a common sight. 


Head to visitor centres at Glentrool, Clatteringshaws and Blackcraig for more information on prime spots. 


The forest also has tons of great walking trails, so don’t forget your hiking boots. 


Nearest train station: Barrhill  


Exmoor National Park 

Take the park’s Dark Sky Discovery Trail for a whistlestop tour of some of the best stargazing spots. The route is 2 miles long and mostly even. 


Other things of interest in Exmoor include the many walking trails and cycling routes, as well as the lovely towns of Porlock Weir and Dunster. 


Nearest train station: Minehead 


Brecon Beacons National Park 

Keep your eyes peeled for the Milky Way at this Welsh wonder. The best stargazing spots include Usk Reservoir, Crai Reservoir, Pen Rhiw Ddu, Llanthony Priory, Hay Bluff, National Park Visitor Centre, Carreg Cennen and Sugar Loaf Mountain. 


Like Snowdonia, the viewing season is slightly longer here, running from September to March. 


During your days, enjoy the great outdoors. From walking and cycling to rock-climbing and kayaking, there’s something for everyone. 


Nearest train stations: Brecon, Abergavenny 


Yorkshire Dales National Park 

Thousands of sparkling stars await in the vast Yorkshire Dales. The park has 4 designated Dark Sky sites, at Hawes and Malham National Park Visitor Centres, Buckden National Park Car Park and Tan Hill Inn. 


Nearest train stations: Leyburn, Finghall, Bedale, Leeds, Garsdale, Ribblehead 


Planning a stargazing holiday soon? Save up to a 1/3 on your train fare with a Railcard.