Night-time adventures in Britain

From spying nocturnal native wildlife to marvelling at the galaxy from stargazing hotspots, adventures in Britain don’t have to end at sunset! Whether you’re seeking a romantic evening cruise past London’s illuminated landmarks or hankering for a 4x4 night-time adventure in the heart of Scotland, here are a few stellar ideas, ready for when we can travel again.

Northern Lights and starry skies

Kielder Observatory in Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

 

The northern-most edges of Britain are home to a bucket-list classic: the Northern Lights. The skies over Shetland and The Cairngorms National Park come alive during autumn and winter and if the Aurora Borealis are really strong, they can even be seen over Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Visit Scotland has a comprehensive guide on some of the best places to see this natural marvel.

The Kielder Water & Forest Park, in Northumberland, offers dazzling views of the night sky thanks to low levels of light pollution. Located in the heart of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, the Kielder Observatory is a year-round night-time attraction that brings galaxies, shooting stars and even the Milky Way into view with the help of powerful telescopes. If you’re thinking of planning a future trip, you should check the events page before travelling to book a place at one of the Observatory’s many evening and late night events. You can also look forward to enjoying water sports and cycle paths through England’s largest forest.

Dunkery Beacon in Exmoor National Park. Man stands on rock summit looking at star-filled sky.

If you’re dreaming of an autumnal adventure in Britain, you can plan a future visit to Exmoor National Park.  Home to some of the darkest skies in England, the park’s nocturnal glory is revealed during the annual Exmoor Dark Skies Festival, which is set to take place from 22 October until 7 November. Marking the festival’s fifth year, 2021 promises a variety of celestial activities, with previous events including highlights such as dusk safaris, planetarium sessions and an astro-photography exhibition.

Kielder Observatory

Animal magic and native species

Animal lovers can look forward to an evening of bat watching in one of London’s Royal Parks. British bats are most active at dusk in the spring and summer months, when they emerge to hunt for insects, and on this twilight adventure you can spy several types of bats in the capital’s green spaces. Battersea Park and Hampstead Heath are additional hubs of bat activity, with more information available from The London Bat Group.

London’s Royal Parks are also home to majestic native deer, although many of the most impressive herds are found in Scotland, especially during rutting season (September to November). In the West Highlands, you can look forward to embarking on a Twilight Tour, a three-hour trip in a 4X4 following roe and fallow deer in addition to otters, pine martens and badgers. If you’re a night owl, you might also want to add the Night Time Tour to your wish list, a four-hour adventure that uses thermal imagery and night vision equipment to encounter local wildlife, including the chance to spot rare Scottish wildcats!

Hyde Park

City sights and romantic rivers

London landmarks, Big Ben clock tower and the Houses of Parliament, view from above at dusk. Westminster Abbey and the River Thames. The London Eye in the background.

Keen photographers can imagine capturing London’s most notable landmarks while on an evening walk through the capital. One photogenic route goes from Westminster Abbey through Parliament Square and across the River Thames via Westminster Bridge. With the London Eye in front and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben behind, you’ll enjoy a floodlit view of the city’s icons away from the day-time crowds.

For a quirkier way to sightsee, there’s Secret Adventures’ captivating night kayak trip. Operating tours from Battersea to Greenwich, the journey will see you gliding beneath the twinkling lights of London’s cityscape, floating past St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Old Royal Naval College en route.

If you have romance on your mind, you can look forward to an evening voyage with River Thames Cruises. Complete with an open panoramic viewing deck and cosy saloon, the tour takes in the capital’s icons as they are framed by the setting sun, for a picture-postcard end to the day.

Illuminated River Project. Overhead view of London's bridges, illuminated as part of the art project.

Alternatively, there’s Illuminated River. First established in 2016, the project will add Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth Bridges to its ranks this year.  Celebrating the diverse communities living along London’s riverbanks, the four iconic bridges are set to sparkle with LED light installations come spring, giving you a uniquely modern view of these historic landmarks.

Further north in Liverpool, you can look forward to a dinner with a difference aboard the city’s only restaurant boat, the Floating Grace. Gliding along the River Mersey, you can soak up the sights as you cruise past the historic Albert Docks along the city’s UNESCO World Heritage waterfront, accompanied by a glass of bubbly and traditional three-course meal.

Westminster Abbey

You are encouraged to always check individual attraction and event websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.

26 Jan 2021(last updated)