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The Night Sky | © Alejandro Benėt / Unsplash
The Night Sky | © Alejandro Benėt / Unsplash
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The Best Places to Watch Shooting Stars in the UK

Picture of Emma Lavelle
Updated: 8 August 2017
Once of the celestial highlights of the year is about to occur above our skies with the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on Friday night. Every August, cloud cover permitting, hundreds of shooting stars soar above the UK, creating a natural light show that’s worth staying up late to watch. If you want to get technical, the Perseids are actually small pieces of a comet which pass through the Earth’s atmosphere at the same time each year, as we pass through the debris left from the comet’s tail. Anyone can watch the meteors and if you’re lucky you could see up to 200 an hour. If you’re going to make it your mission to spot as many as possible this weekend, or if you fancy your chances at any other time of year – here are the best places in the UK to watch the skies.
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Brecon Beacons National Park

To watch shooting stars in their full glory, you need to get far away from light pollution and where better than in the middle of these picturesque Welsh mountains? The Brecon Beacons were awarded the title of the UK’s first International Dark Sky Reserve back in 2012 (there are only 11 sites to hold this title in the entire world). To fully appreciate the spectacle, take your tent and a couple of blankets and simply lie on the ground and wait for the sun to set. With a new moon and clear skies you could see over a hundred meteors here during the peak of the Perseids.

Brecon Beacons National Park

Watching Meteors

Watching Meteors | © Joshua Earle / Unsplash

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South Downs National Park

Based in London? You don’t have to travel far to find the dark skies necessary for watching meteors. The South Downs joined the Brecon Beacons as an International Dark Sky Reserve just last year, meaning that you can even see the Milky Way on a clear night. There are seven hotspots for star gazing in the park – take your pick from Devil’s Dyke, Birling Gap, Winchester Science Centre, Old Winchester Hill, Ditchling Beacon, Butser Hill and Iping Common. Don’t forget to wrap up warm; to see the shooting stars at their best you will have to wait until the skies are completely dark from 11pm onwards.

South Downs National Park

Stargazing

Stargazing | © Thomas Shellberg / Unsplash

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North York Moors National Park

Did you think that you had to travel to Australia to see the Milky Way? While you can’t look into the middle of the galaxy from the UK (because of our position in the Northern Hemisphere), you can still gaze at the outer limits from a Dark Sky Discovery Site such as the three situated in the North York Moors. Choose from Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest and time your visit to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower to enjoy not one but two incredible celestial sights.

North York Moors National Park

Beautiful Night Sky

Beautiful Night Sky | © Vincentiu Solomon/ Unsplash

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Yorkshire Dales National Park

If you can’t coordinate your stargazing experience for mid-August, why not join in the celebrations at one of the three Dark Skies Festivals across the UK? Every February, the Yorkshire Dales are one of three hosts to the festival with stargazing parties and midnight hikes planned around the four dark sky discover sites in the park. Head to Malham, Hawes or Buckden to admire the skies – or alternatively, book a night at the Tan Hill Inn, wrap up warm and leave your cosy room to sit outside and gaze upwards.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Meteors

Meteors | © Paul Morris / Unsplash

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Northumberland National Park

One of the very best places to watch shooting stars in the UK, Northumberland National Park has gold-tier status, meaning that not only shooting stars and the Milky Way, but even the Northern Lights, airglow and zodiacal light can be seen from the 12 dark sky discovery sites scattered around the area. For an immersive experience, Kielder Observatory offers night sky safaris and other night sky related events all year round. Book a stay in one of the exclusive lodges at the Waterside Park to enjoy the luxury of your very own stargazing pod.

Northumberland National Park

The Milky Way

The Milky Way | © Clemente Ruiz Abenza / Unsplash

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Galloway Forest Park

The very first UK location to be deemed a Dark Sky Park, Galloway Forest Park offers incredible opportunities to watch shooting stars, weather permitting. For the very best stargazing, you need a cloudless sky, something that can be hard to come across in this part of the UK. Most of the park offers uninterrupted views of the night sky, but for optimum viewing conditions, head to Clatteringshaw visitor centre or the Scottish Dark Sky observatory in Dalmellington.

Galloway Forest Park

Shooting Star

Shooting Star | © Alan Chen / Unsplash