Whether you’re walking back from the pub or fancy stepping out over the dunes at night looking out to sea to do a spot of stargazing, there’s only one place to do it properly in the UK, and with officially the most pristine dark skies in England, Northumberland is it!
In 2013, Northumberland National Park became an official designated a Dark Sky Park – the largest gold-tier dark sky park in Europe! This means it is protected from artificial light pollution to promote astronomy in the region. Our cottage, Swallows Rest is the perfect spot for stargazing as it’s so rural and has all the glass windows.
The region covers an expansive area of 572 square miles and, as a result, 96% of the park benefits from very low levels of light pollution and some of the darkest locations in England. On completely moonless nights, the Milky Way can be seen stretching out across the clear night skies. It’s because of this that the region attracts amateur astronomers from across the country.
Where To Stargaze
Stargazing locations include official dark sky discovery sites and observatories (as well as our cottage, Swallows Rest!). There are some truly outstanding places in Northumberland that host stargazing experiences throughout the year. Here are some of our Little Hideaways favourites:
Open all year round, Kielder Observatory is located in the very heart of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. They run events all year round, you needn’t have any experience at all to enjoy the events they put on.
Twice Brewed Stargazing
This venue benefits from one of the very best locations, meaning you’ll have a clear view of the Milky Way arching across the sky and see thousands more stars than can normally be spotted. Plus, you get to do it alongside their expert astronomers from their Stargazing team!
Of all the locations, Stonehaugh Astronomy is located in the largest expanse of protected dark sky in the whole of Europe. Enthusiastic local astronomer Liam Reed organises stargazing events at this purpose-built observatory that will undoubtedly fuel your desire to learn more.
When to Stargaze
Don’t wait around, you can stargaze at any time of year! That said, there are times that are just a bit more special to appreciate Northumberland’s skies. Autumn and Winter nights when the evenings draw in early are darkest and best for viewing deep sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae, while in summer you can view star clusters, shooting stars and the moon and the sun’s surface.
But if you want to wait for the right moment there are amazing astronomical events happening all year round with more detailed information about specific dates on this site. From meteor showers and lunar eclipses to planets being at their most prominent, this calendar will help you see Northumberland’s clear skies at their absolute best.
Stargazing Apps To Help
You may wish to go it alone, and even for some of the most advanced stargazers among us, apps can provide a great helping hand when looking up at the night sky.
My Aurora Forecast is the best app for seeing the Northern Lights. Built with a sleek dark design, it appeals to both tourists and and serious aurora watchers and what we love about it, is that you don’t have to be waiting around in the hope of seeing some amazing Northern Lights – it has push alerts to let you know if there may be any visible or not!
This app provides an advanced augmented reality star chart that displays the stars and planets above you. In addition, it also includes detailed information on the history and mythology of the various constellations, stars and planets, as well as a coordinates. Very smart for android users!