The starriest night skies in England

With the clocks rolling back an hour at the end of the month and crisp nights closing in, now is the time to get ready for one of our favourite nocturnal spectacles; the starriest night skies to be seen anywhere in the country, viewed from the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park.

These 572 square miles of English countryside mark the largest area of protected night sky in Europe. With research showing that around 85% of the UK population has never seen a truly dark sky, this is a golden opportunity to visit Northumberland to witness the dazzling celestial show.

Intrigued? With local Dark Sky Events aplenty we have gathered our stargazing top tips and the pick of our holiday homes for superb star-studded stays.

The Milky Way awaits…

 

 

 

Fact-file

  • A Dark Sky Park is an area of land recognised as having exceptional starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, educational and cultural heritage, and public enjoyment.
  • Northumberland is the least populated county in England with just 62 people per square kilometre. In a stark contrast to urban areas where light pollution prevails, when you tilt your head back here, your eyes will be treated to a feast of up to 2,000 stars at any one time.
  • These skies are so pristine that they have been awarded Gold Tier status by the International Dark Sky Association, the world authority on light pollution.
  • You can help to keep light pollution to a minimum during your visit by bringing red torches to gently illuminate your path.

 

 

The greatest show from earth

Autumn is prime time viewing as the nights become truly dark. Wrap up warm, be sure to pack your binoculars and a hot chocolate (or hip flask) and prepare to be dazzled. If you’re looking for a little guidance we know just the places:

 

Kielder Observatory
We'd highly recommend making our outstanding local observatory your first port of call - the Dark Sky Park images in this blog have been kindly supplied by them and offer a glimpse of the starry wonders above.
They offer a varied events programme for all ages and promise you'll find "infinite inspiration" during your visit. It's important to note that booking is essential as their nightly events are highly regarded and tend to sell out in advance. 

 

 

Discover Dark Skies at Northumberland National Park
Our friends at Northumberland National Park offer a number of Dark Sky Discovery Sites in addition to regular events at The Sill. Whether you're searching for the Northern Lights or a specific meteor shower they'll point you in the right direction.
Battlesteads Observatory
An accessible observatory offering talks, activities, stargazing and courses for complete beginners to seasoned professionals. We particularly like the sound of their Astrophotography where you'll unlock the secrets of night sky photography.

 

 

Really Wild Stargazing
We have also teamed up with Northumbrian experts AstroVentures to offer Really Wild Stargazing Tours and late-night STAR-B-Qs (starry BBQs).
Their bespoke experiences are led by expert astronomer Roy Alexander and his team who will guide you off the beaten track to find the darkest skies, regaling you with stories of space and stars as you experience the dark skies firsthand. 

 

 

Stay and stargaze atop the hills

The Old Barn, Leyland Barn, Chaffinch Cottage and Dipper Cottage
Near Rothbury | Northumberland

Beautifully remote, the four cottages here are almost 1400ft above sea level, deep in the heart of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park - so high you feel as though you could reach out and touch the brightest stars. The ethos of sustainable living lies at the heart of these cottages; fires stocked from nearby forests, sustainable solar and wind power and the delicious freshwater from the bore hole offering a true off-grid experience - but with every creature comfort thrown in.

 

 

Dipper Cottage, Crookhouse, College Cottage, Crookhouse, Bowmont Cottage, Crookhouse and Crookhouse Mill, Crookhouse
Near Wooler | Northumberland

Lying under big skies and cocooned in perfect peace, our three cottages and dreamy barn conversion sit high on the hillside on the edge of the Northumberland National Park.  Located at the very end of a private road, you’ll find cosy interiors and fabulous views over the hills and valleys. The extensive gardens, terraces and outdoor seating spaces are made for stargazing most splendid.

 

 

The Barn at Reedsford and The Byre at Reedsford
Near Wooler | Northumberland

Sleeping two and four guests respectively, these newly renovated barn conversions lie amidst the foothills of the Cheviots, complete with wood burners, arched windows, artisan touches and underfloor heating. If you fancy an autumnal escape in cossetting comfort amid the great outdoors, you are assured a welcoming ambience here. A short drive inland will bring you to Northumberland’s National Park and Dark Sky Park.

 

 

Overthwarts Farmhouse
Near Alnwick | Northumberland

Overlooking the glorious landscape of Edlingham Vale, this five-bedroom farmhouse is perfect for together-time with family and friends amidst the rich tranquil beauty of the Northumbrian countryside. If you are a ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, the ethereal views here may feel familiar - they feature on posters for 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'.

 

 

The Barn & The Cowshed
Slaggyford | Northumberland

Spread across 1000 acres of rolling countryside and lush river valleys, a stay at the The Barn & The Cowshed promises a luxury escape away from the madding crowd amidst beautiful surroundings.  The lofty living space on the first floor offers floor-to-ceiling windows – ideal for stargazing from the warmth of the house once darkness falls.