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The Pitch-Finders Guide To The Galaxy | The best campsites for stargazing

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The Pitch-Finders Guide To The Galaxy

There’s something really special about camping under the stars. But imagine pitching your tent under a night sky brimming with twinkling lights?

Although there are between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in our galaxy, we can only see around 3,500 and 4,500 of these on any given night, and even this needs to be under perfect conditions.

At Cool Camping, we’ve broken down the best areas in the UK to ‘sleep beneath the stars’ – quite literally. This stellar collection of campsites will help you choose one in an area where seeing the bright lights of the night sky is guaranteed.

Locations

Brecon Beacons National Park

A secluded utopia in the Welsh mountains, Brecon Beacons is a perfect place for stargazing and appreciating the natural nighttime environment. The national park is an International Dark Sky Reserve and its magical river valleys, rolling hills and dramatic peaks also make the Brecon Beacons an ideal camping destination.

Cairngorms National Park

Not only is this remote area one of the darkest skies in the UK, but the Cairngorms National Park is also the most northerly International Dark Sky Park in the world. The hills that shield the area from light pollution enable star-seekers to enjoy a twinkling night sky, with spectacular sights of the northern lights visible in autumn, winter and spring.

Cranborne Chase

Experience the radiance of the night sky at this area of outstanding natural beauty as more than half of its 380 square miles has some of the lowest light pollution in England. The International Dark Sky Reserve is also a landscape of national significance with the area being part of the chalk formation that covers much of southern Britain.

Elan Valley, Powys

The glacier-cut landscape of Elan Valley is captivating by day, but for many, it’s all about the views at night. The International Dark Sky Park offers dramatic views of the cosmos from its location right in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains.

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park enjoys some of the darkest skies in the country, yet offers relatively easy access from urban hubs. The International Dark Sky Reserve offers campers more than just stargazing though, as it is packed full of beautiful landscapes, wildlife and history to discover when the sun comes up.

Moore's Reserve in the South Downs National Park

Located less than 100km from London, it may be surprising that Moore’s Reserve is a top star-spotting location and even more so that it’s an International Dark Sky Reserve. The South Downs National Park also offers peaceful countryside with rolling hills and panoramic views to campers.

Northumberland National Park

Home to England’s largest International Dark Sky Park, Northumberland now holds its very own Dark Skies Festival that offers fireside chats with local astronomers, night sky guides, interactive live streams and more.

North Norfolk Coast

The wide skies of the Norfolk coast make walking its rugged beaches an enjoyable experience, but even more so when you’re strolling under a canopy of stars. Campers visit this area of outstanding natural beauty for its peacefulness, and the bright lights of the sky certainly play a key role in creating this tranquillity.

North York Moors National Park

The lack of light pollution in the North York Moors National Park means the night sky twinkles brightly, and with the right conditions, you might be lucky enough to experience the Northern Lights. Attractive to campers, this International Dark Sky Reserve boasts one the largest expanses of heather moorland and spans right out to the breathtaking cliffs of the North Sea.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia has a lot of things to shout about, and being an International Dark Sky Reserve is one of them. As well as being the largest National Park in Wales, Snowdonia also boasts the highest mountain in England and Wales so it may come as no surprise that it’s a hotspot for campers and stargazers alike.

Wasdale in the Lake District

Wasdale has a feeling of being rugged, remote and wild, and is home to England's deepest lake and highest mountain – a campers paradise. At night, the dramatic landscape comes alive. If you’ve looking for a feeling of isolation and a distinct lack of intrusive lighting, Wasdale is the perfect place.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

The incredibly vast, dark night sky is just one of the many things that make the Yorkshire Dales National Park so special. With the rugged hills, natural wildlife and labyrinth of caves, this International Dark Sky Reserve is a camper’s paradise.

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Astrological Events in 2021

2021 has a stellar calendar of astrological events coming up so we’ve pulled out a few that we’ll be looking out – and up – for. Most can be witnessed with an unaided eye, but a good pair of binoculars is definitely recommended for optimum viewing!

May 26th: Total Lunar Eclipse and Full Moon, Supermoon.

June 10th: Annular Solar Eclipse.

July 28th & 29th: Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower.

August 12th & 13th: Perseids Meteor Shower.

September 14th: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation and Neptune at Opposition.

October 7th: Draconids Meteor Shower.

November 19th: Full Moon.

December 4th: Total Solar Eclipse.


Top tips for stargazing

1. Be Prepared

Sitting out in the evening air can get pretty chilly so make sure you’re equipped with warm clothes and blankets. Torches are also pretty handy but make sure that you get a red-filtered one to provide light but not spoil the view.

2. Choose The Right Time

Keep an eye on the weather reports – a clear and crisp night is the best time for stargazing.

3. Get The Gear

To find your way around the night sky, download apps such as Star Rover or Sky Safari. These will help you to know what’s what with the stars, constellations and planets, simply by pointing your device to the sky.


What is light pollution?

Light pollution is the excessive or inappropriate use of artificial light, usually outdoors. It is the product of our industrial society, coming from both exterior and interior lighting, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues for example.

Light pollution has a dramatic effect on how we see the night sky. From a town or city, it is possible to see some 200 stars, yet in a Dark Sky Reserve or Park, this number can increase by around 2,000 stars.

However, CPRE, the countryside charity, recently reported a 10% reduction in light pollution levels within the UK compared with the start of 2020 – perhaps things are looking up after all.


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