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Milky way majesty at stargazing campgrounds

Top 10 Best Campgrounds for Stargazing in the UK: Discover Dark Sky Sites

If you're yearning to escape everyday life and marvel at the cosmos, exploring the best campgrounds for stargazing in the UK is an adventure worth pursuing. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or just curious about the night sky, these locations offer some of the most breathtaking views of the stars.

Why Stargazing is the Perfect Getaway

Reconnect with Nature

Stargazing allows you to step away from city lights and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the natural world. It’s a unique experience that can be both awe-inspiring and humbling.

Explore Iconic Constellations

Orion: The Mighty Hunter

One of the most recognisable constellations, Orion, is a must-see for stargazers. Named after a hunter from Greek mythology, its distinctive pattern is visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Look for the three bright stars that form Orion’s Belt and let your imagination run wild as you trace the outline of this celestial giant.

Cassiopeia: The Queen's Throne

Cassiopeia is another prominent constellation, easily identified by its "W" or "M" shape, depending on its position in the sky. Located in the Northern Hemisphere, it never dips below the horizon, making it a reliable guide for your stargazing adventures.

Ursa Major: The Great Bear

Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, is one of the most iconic constellations in the night sky. Its most famous feature, the Big Dipper, has been a symbol of strength and endurance across cultures and has guided travelers for centuries. This constellation is a beautiful sight and a helpful navigation tool.

What Are Dark Sky Discovery Sites?

Dark Sky Discovery Sites are areas with minimal light pollution, allowing you to see thousands of stars without a telescope. The UK is home to many such sites, offering some of the darkest skies in Europe. These sites are designated specifically for their excellent stargazing conditions, often located in remote areas away from artificial light sources. This makes them ideal for anyone looking to experience the full splendour of the night sky.

Top Campgrounds for Stargazing in the UK

Brecon Beacons National Park

Why Visit: As Wales’ first International Dark Sky Reserve, Brecon Beacons offers stunning views of the Milky Way and meteor showers. The park’s dramatic mountain ranges and deep valleys provide a perfect backdrop for a night of stargazing.

Best Spots: Usk Reservoir, Llanthony Prior, Crai Reservoir. These locations are known for their exceptionally dark skies and minimal light pollution.

Nearest Campground: Rhandirmwyn Club Site. This campsite is ideally situated for exploring the stargazing spots in Brecon Beacons, offering comfortable facilities and beautiful surroundings.

Elan Valley

Why Visit: This Dark Sky Park boasts man-made reservoirs and rugged mountains, perfect for stargazing. The Elan Valley is a breath-taking vale of man-made reservoirs. Nestled among the rugged Cambrian Mountains, the Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park is a fantastic location to pitch up your tent and gaze at the stars.

Best Spots: Claerwen Dam, Craig Goch, Pont Ar Elan, Teifi Pools. These areas are protected against light pollution and offer some of the best stargazing opportunities in Wales.

Nearest Campground: Wyeside Club Site. Conveniently located near the Elan Valley, this campsite provides a great base for your stargazing adventures.

Exmoor National Park, Devon

Why Visit: Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, Exmoor offers some of the darkest skies in the UK. The area’s sparse population makes for some of the darkest skies in the UK - on a clear night, the naked eye can see over 3,000 stars!

Best Spots: Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Brendon Two Gates, Haddon Hill. These locations are known for their excellent visibility and minimal light pollution.

Nearest Campgrounds: Lynton Club Site, Minehead Club Site. Both campsites are well-equipped and provide easy access to Exmoor’s top stargazing spots.

Galloway Forest Park

Why Visit: The world’s first Dark Sky Park, with over 300 square miles of dark skies ideal for stargazing. Today, over 300 square miles of tranquil valleys, jagged rock faces and heather-clad hills fall within the Gold Tier Dark Skies Park.

Best Spots: Glentrool, Kirroughtree, Clatteringshaws. These visitor centres provide information and guided tours for stargazing enthusiasts.

Nearest Campground: Culzean Castle Club Site. Located on the edge of this ancient woodland, the campsite offers a secluded and peaceful setting for stargazing.

Northumberland National Park

Why Visit: Home to Europe’s largest area of protected night sky, this park offers unparalleled stargazing opportunities. The national park is also home to Europe’s largest area of protected night sky, with over 572 square miles of clear, starry skies.

Best Spots: Anywhere within the park’s 572 square miles of clear skies. Northumberland National Park is officially the best place to stargaze in England.

Nearest Campgrounds: Bellingham Club Site, Haltwhistle Club Site, Beadnell Bay Club Site, Dunstan Hill Club Site. These campsites are ideally located for stargazing and exploring the park.

North York Moors National Park

Why Visit: Home to three Dark Skies Discovery Sites, the North York Moors National Park compiles remote dales, moors and forests. On a clear night, pitch your tent in the national park, camp beneath the starry sky and watch as the iridescent Northern Lights dance above you.

Best Spots: The stretch of coastline between Saltburn and Scarborough offers some of the best stargazing conditions due to the dry climate and uninterrupted horizons.

Nearest Campgrounds: Slingsby Club Site, Scarborough Club Site. Both campsites provide excellent facilities and access to the park’s top stargazing spots.

Snowdonia (Eryri) National Park

Why Visit: Awarded Wales’ second Dark Sky Reserve status in December 2015, the Snowdonia National Park covers 800, thinly populated, square miles of North Wales. Everywhere in Snowdonia offers clear, starry skies, but for the best views, head to Llyn y Dywarchen, Tŷ Cipar or Bwlch y Groes.

Best Spots: Llyn y Dywarchen, Tŷ Cipar, Bwlch y Groes. These locations are known for their exceptionally dark skies and minimal light pollution.

Nearest Campgrounds: Bala Club Site, Llanystumdwy Club Site. These campsites are well-situated for exploring Snowdonia’s top stargazing spots.

South Downs National Park

Why Visit: Becoming a Dark Sky Reserve in May 2016, the South Downs National Park is home to beautiful rolling landscapes and clear, dark, gloomy skies. This is a great starry night sky to visit if you're camping in London and want to escape from the brightly lit capital.

Best Spots: Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium. Join one of the expert-led stargazing events in conjunction with the Hampshire Astronomical Group.

Nearest Campgrounds: Alton Club Site, Graffham Club Site. These campsites are ideally located for stargazing and exploring the South Downs.

Kielder Water and Forest Park

Why Visit: If you want to get a little bit closer to the stars, visit Kielder Water and Forest Park. The park is also home to the Kielder Observatory, one of the UK’s premier public astronomical observatories.

Best Spots: Kielder Observatory. The observatory is located in the largest forest in England and offers unparalleled views of the night sky.

Nearest Campgrounds: Bellingham Club Site, Haltwhistle Club Site. These campsites provide easy access to the observatory and the park’s top stargazing spots.

Isle of Coll

Why Visit: Visit the Isle of Coll, the Inner Hebrides’ only Dark Sky Community. The island’s flat terrain and lack of light pollution make it an ideal spot for stargazing.

Best Spots: Arinagour, the island’s main village, is a great place to set up for a night of stargazing.

Nearest Campgrounds: Coll Bunkhouse. The bunkhouse offers comfortable accommodation and is ideally situated for stargazing.

Essential Tips for Your Stargazing Adventure

What to Pack

When heading out for a night of stargazing, it’s essential to be well-prepared. Here are some items you should consider bringing:

  • Extra torches for navigating the campground after dark. It’s easy to trip over obstacles in the dark, so having a reliable light source is crucial.
  • Warm clothing to stay comfortable during cool nights. Even in the summer, temperatures can drop significantly after sunset.
  • A star map or stargazing app to help identify constellations. These tools can make your stargazing experience more educational and enjoyable.
  • Binoculars or a telescope for a closer look at celestial objects. While you can see many stars with the naked eye, optical aids can reveal much more detail.
  • A comfortable blanket or reclining chair for lying back and enjoying the view. Comfort is key when you’re planning to spend several hours outdoors.
  • Hot drinks and snacks to keep you warm and satisfied during your stargazing session. A thermos of hot chocolate or tea can make a big difference on a chilly night.

International Dark Sky Week: 15 - 22 April

Celebrate by turning off unnecessary lights and enjoying the beauty of the night sky. This campaign promotes better lighting practices to preserve our night skies for future generations. International Dark Sky Week is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about light pollution and its impact on our environment and health. By participating in this event, you can help to reduce light pollution and enjoy a clearer, more beautiful night sky.

FAQs About Stargazing and Campgrounds

What makes a good stargazing location?

A good stargazing location is far from city lights, with minimal light pollution and a clear, dark sky. Ideal spots include Dark Sky Discovery Sites and International Dark Sky Reserves.

What is the best month to stargaze?

The best months for stargazing are from September to April, when nights are longer and skies are clearer. Autumn and winter provide the darkest skies.

Can I see the Milky Way in the UK?

Yes, the Milky Way is visible in dark locations like Brecon Beacons and Northumberland National Park. The best time to see it is during the summer months.

Where is the clearest sky in the world?

The clearest skies can be found in the Atacama Desert (Chile), Mauna Kea (Hawaii), and the Namib Desert (Namibia). These areas have minimal light pollution and ideal atmospheric conditions.

Do I need special equipment to stargaze?

No, stargazing can be enjoyed with the naked eye, especially at Dark Sky Discovery Sites. Binoculars or a telescope and a star map or app enhance the experience.


Exploring the best campgrounds for stargazing in the UK offers a unique opportunity to reconnect with nature and marvel at the universe. From the rugged mountains of Wales to the tranquil valleys of Scotland, each location provides a magical backdrop for a night under the stars. Pack your bags, grab a torch, and embark on an unforgettable celestial adventure.

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