There are a number of things to consider when deciding where to go stargazing and this depends on what you are looking to do.
If you are aiming to see the Milky Way arching overhead or wanting to observe dim and distant objects through a telescope you’ll need to travel to a location that is reasonably dark, free from the worst light pollution and on a moonless night outside of summer time.
If however you’d rather not travel too far, or if there is going to be moonlight illuminating the sky, the opportunity still exists from urban or suburban areas to observe the moon, planets and even some of the brighter deep-sky objects, all of which look fantastic through a telescope!
Determining where to go therefore depends what you are hoping to see, how far you are willing to travel and what time of the lunar cycle it is.
To see the skies at their very best you need to get away from our light polluted towns and cities, just driving a few miles out of town to semi-rural areas can make a huge difference. Getting the best views of our star-filled Milky Way galaxy requires finding a really dark sky site and for most people that means travelling some distance. We have assigned a light pollution category to each stargazing location on this website to give an estimate of what the skies might be like.
Dark Sky Discovery Sites
These are designated dark sky locations that are accessible by the public without charge. Some have facilities such as 24 hour access toilets, most have free overnight parking, all have restrictions on camping. The location of these sites can be viewed on our stargazing location map.
There are a surprising number of observatories across the country that open their doors to the public, some do so free of charge or with minimal cost, others take advantage of the boom in ‘astro-tourism’. Some observatories are quite remote and benefit from a dark sky location however most are located within reasonable travel distance from towns and cities where you can still get good views through their telescopes.
These locations tend to be meeting places or favourite observing spots for local astronomical societies all of which are very welcoming to members of the public. Attending a meeting is often free or for a negligible donation and almost always involve an observing session should the weather be favourable.
Finally, there are many stargazing venues which organise ad-hoc stargazing events and are accessible only during these events — these locations appear on the events map only when they have an event scheduled.