9 views that are out of this world

Thursday 01 January 1970

Britain has scores of sites that are perfect for stargazing, including 4 of the world's 11 International Dark Sky Reserves. All 4 are ideal spots to enjoy pristine views of the Milky Way, and even other planets. So wrap up warm and celebrate the Dark Skies Festival (15 February - 3 March) and the 100th anniversary of Britain's National Parks at the best places in Britain for an out-of-this-world winter experience.

Become a stargazing expert at Northumberland International Dark Sky Park



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For clear views of the Milky Way and skies full of endless stars, head to Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, Europe's largest area of protected night sky. It's an ideal location to see the Andromeda Galaxy and shooting stars, and is home to the Kielder Observatory; a public astronomical observatory hosting events throughout the year. Enjoy a magical drive up to the Observatory through the national park, before discovering other worlds as you perch 1,200 feet above the forest and moorland.

Getting there: located in the north of England, near the Scottish border, the Kielder Observatory is a 90-minute drive from Newcastle upon Tyne.

Spy distant planets at the North York Moors National Park



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Found between Middlesborough and Scarborough, the North York Moors will be hosting special Dark Skies Festival events throughout February and early March, making it a perfect spot for budding stargazers. Listen to fascinating talks from astrologists and scientists about the night sky, or simply book into a Gaze and Graze session to enjoy a warm meal with your stargazing.

Getting there: Located on England's north east coast, the North York Moors are about 40 minutes from Middlesborough or York by car.

Learn about the wonders of our solar system at the South Downs National Park



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One of the best places to stargaze in southern England, the South Downs National Park is hosting its own selection of Dark Skies Festival events too. Learn more about the planets in the Solar System at a family-friendly show at the on-site planetarium, or enjoy spectacular views of the moon on a late night ramble through the park.

Getting there: Most events are being held at the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester, about 25 minutes from Portsmouth by car.

Stargaze by canoe at the Yorkshire Dales National Park



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One of the most unique Dark Skies Festival events is taking place in the Yorkshire Dales National Park; head out in a canoe and surround yourself in stunning otherworldly views! Prefer to keep your feet on dry land? Then pack a picnic and grab one of the many perfect spots on the slopes and rolling hills of the park.

Getting there: The Yorkshire Dales National Park is about two hours north of Leeds via car.

Reach for the sky at Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve, south-west England



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See the views once enjoyed by our ancestors (before light pollution lit up large portions of the night skies) at Exmoor National Park.  Located near the coast in the counties of Somerset and Devon in south-west England, the park is a frequent visit for keen stargazers, with spots such as Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Webbers Post, Haddon Hill and Wimbleball Lake boasting some of the best night-time views.

Getting there: located in the south-west of England, Exmoor National Park is less than 2 hours by car from Bristol.

Pack a picnic and star-spot by reservoirs in Brecon Beacons, Wales



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Granted International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2013, the Brecon Beacons in Wales offer a plethora of dark sky spots to get your astronomer juices flowing. From the beauty of Usk Reservoir (protected from the light pollution of the industrial South Wales Valleys) to the serene Pontsticill Reservoir (accessed from Merthyr Tydfil and boasting idyllic viewing spots along the banks of the water), there are plenty of opportunities to gaze at the stars in Wales.

Getting there: the Brecon Beacons are a 75-minute drive from Cardiff in Wales.

Discover other worlds in the Lake District, England



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Nestled within the beauty of the Lake District National Park, Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre is an official Dark Sky Discovery Site that runs special stargazing events throughout the year. If an evening of stargazing isn't enough, visitors can also stay over in their on-site accommodation, set within several 17th-century farm buildings.

Getting there: located in the Lake District National Park, the Lower Gillerthwaite Field Centre is a 3-hour drive from Harrogate near Leeds.

Get a tour of the universe at Greenwich Royal Observatory, south England



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Even with the twinkling lights of London, you can still see stars in the city, especially if you head to Greenwich Royal Observatory. Located within Greenwich Park, visitors can see out-of-this-world views at the Peter Harrison Planetarium; expect expert-guided tours of the universe and stunning views of the Milky Way.

Getting there: The Royal Observatory is located in Greenwich Park and is best reached via the Cutty Sark Docklands Light Railway station, or by overground (Greenwich or Maize Hill stations).

See the moons of Jupiter at Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, west Scotland



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Spanning 777 square kilometers of forested glens, lochs and the highest hills in southern Scotland, Galloway Forest Park has very few buildings and low levels of light pollution, helping it to become the very first national park awarded Dark Sky Park status. Grab your coat and binoculars, wrap up warm, and head to the Galloway Forest Park to experience some of the finest views of the solar system, including the moons of Jupiter and the cliffs on our own moon.

Getting there: located in the west of Scotland, Galloway Forest is a 75-minute drive from Glasgow.

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