Northumberland offers some of the most mesmerising dark skies in the whole of Europe. Far from the urban hustle, this region in northern England boasts unspoiled dark skies that reveal a breathtaking celestial panorama.
Northumberland’s Dark Skies and Dark Sky Status
Northumberland’s allure isn’t just confined to its historic castles and charming villages – it is the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe.
Almost 580 square miles of the region, comprising Kielder and the National Park, have earned the Gold Tier Dark Sky Park award by the International Dark Skies Association.
Efforts have been made to banish light pollution in the area, resulting in an uninterrupted view of the heavens above. Beyond the awe-inspiring beauty, these dark skies offer invaluable benefits to stargazers, providing a haven for astronomers and dreamers alike to explore the cosmos with unmatched clarity.
Best Time of Year for Stargazing in Northumberland
The celestial show in Northumberland changes its costume with the seasons. For the best stargazing experience, consider visiting between September and April when the skies are typically clearest. The crispness of the air in autumn and winter enhances visibility. When it comes to the best time of day to head into the forest to watch the stars, midnight is the prime time for stargazing as the night is the clearest, and the stars are the brightest.
Best Places to Experience the Dark Skies
Eager to discover the finest spots for embracing the cosmic wonder? Look no further than Northumberland National Park, where the tranquillity of the wilderness meets the splendour of the night sky. Traverse the park’s sweeping landscapes during the day and watch as it transforms into a celestial spectacle after nightfall. And if you’re yearning for an extraordinary observatory experience, Kielder Observatory awaits.
Kielder Observatory: Unveiling the Cosmos
The observatory is equipped with state-of-the-art telescopes and expert guidance – you can even capture the night sky with cutting edge astrophotography lenses.
Don’t miss the late-night events, where you can witness celestial wonders through powerful telescopes and engage with passionate astronomers who’ll unravel the mysteries of the universe. You’ll even be able to witness the ethereal glow of our awe-inspiring Milky Way galaxy from the Kielder Forest (with the naked eye), and you might even be lucky enough to see shadows cast by Jupiter!
Though rare, the Northern Lights can occasionally be spotted in Northumberland during periods of heightened solar activity and clear skies.
Northumberland Dark Sky Festival: A Cosmic Celebration
Northumberland’s minimal light pollution, coupled with its unique geographical and climatological factors such as the park’s natural high elevation and stabilising influence of the coast, creates an optimal environment for stargazing. These unique atmospheric conditions reveal the universe in its purest form. And each year, Northumberland hosts the Dark Sky Festival, a celebration of all things celestial.
Typically occurring in February, this festival brings together stargazing enthusiasts for a series of captivating events. Attend workshops, enjoy nocturnal nature walks, and participate in talks by acclaimed astronomers. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the cosmos and share your passion with fellow admirers of the night sky.
Equipment Needed: Elevating Your Stargazing Experience
Enhance your stargazing adventure with a few essentials. On a clear night, a standard set of binoculars can provide a closer look at distant planets and galaxies, while sky maps and stargazing apps like the NASA App, and Stellarium Mobile can identify the stars, constellations, and planets above you in just a few seconds. Bundle up in warm clothes to stay cosy during those long nights under the stars.
Holiday Apartments Made for Stargazers
As enthusiastic Northumbrians, we love staring up at Northumberland’s night sky as much as we love talking about it. That’s why we designed the ultimate Stargazer Hampers for guests to enjoy at each of our Beadnell holiday apartments.
When you stay with us, you won’t need to bring anything with you to experience the stars in full. In our hampers, you’ll find:
- 1x 10×50 binoculars, offering 10x magnification to bring the stars to you
- 1x red torch so your night vision won’t be disrupted
- A list of our favourite astronomy apps for Android and iOS
- 2x blankets to keep warm whilst outside
- 2x camping chairs
- 1x Thermos Flask – for warm drinks
Stargazing in Beadnell
While the purest night sky views will come from Northumberland’s International Dark Sky Park, there are Dark Sky Discovery Sites less than a 45-minute drive from our Beadnell apartments where you can set up with your stargazing hampers. These are:
- Wooler Common
- Ingram Village Hall
- Kirknewton Village Hall
Be mindful that phone signal isn’t great in these spots, however, they’re easy to access and will give you an amazing opportunity to spot the night sky, Milky Way and, if you’re lucky, Aurora Borealis.
If you really don’t want to venture far, head out onto the Northumberland coastal path and set up somewhere between Beadnell and Seahouses – this is just a short, 25-minute walk from our holiday stays. While it’s not a Dark Sky Site, you will get a stunning view of the night sky.
Get Starry-Eyed For A Dark Sky Experience
Northumberland beckons you to step into a world where the night sky isn’t just a backdrop, but the main attraction. With its internationally acclaimed dark skies, Kielder Observatory’s revelations, and the cosmic festivities of the Dark Sky Festival, this destination promises an escape like no other.