Six awe-inspiring stargazing sites

Your first encounter with dark skies is a truly memorable experience. Away from light pollution, the Milky Way dominates the sky and the familiar constellations are filled with countless stars. But where to go to get the best views? Chris Bramley rounds up the UK's best starry-sky sites.

9th March 2017
Cumbrian dark sky ARUTTHAPHON POOLSAWASD

Some dark sky spots are small sites, such as the beach at Broadhaven South in Pembrokeshire, pictured opposite. Larger areas are recognised by the International Dark Skies Association (IDA).

Here are six further awe-inspiring stargazing sites to explore...

1. The Galloway Forest Park was the first area in the country to be recognised for its dark skies, in 2009 and, at 300 square miles, it’s the UK’s largest forest park.

2. Within easier reach of urban areas in the south, Exmoor National Park got IDA recognition for its dark skies in 2011. Here, moorland and ancient monuments provide a dramatic frame for the stars.

3. The small Channel Island community of Sark has pristine skies with a touch of adventure. Its dramatic coastline offers unblemished views of the stars, thanks to the absence of public lighting and cars (save for a handful of tractors).

4. From Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park, it is obvious how the Milky Way got its name. Regular stargazing evenings are held in this protected wilderness, with the modernist Kielder Observatory serving as a hub.

5. The rugged landscape of the Brecon Beacons National Park became a dark sky reserve in 2013. Its sandstone peaks and upland lakes offer a magical setting to discover galaxies.

6. Elan Valley, deep in the Cambrian Mountains, is the latest area to become a Dark Sky Park. The stars shine bright on this private estate, where the fragile nighttime environment is preserved in all its scintillating majesty.

It’s worth escaping light pollution to enjoy a pristine night sky. To find more dark sky locations near you,
visit www.darkskydiscovery.org.

Stargazing Live returns to BBC 2 on 28, 29 and 30 March.

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