The skies of the Lake District and Cumbria are some of the darkest in England, meaning there are plenty of wonderful opportunities for stargazing. Away from the artificial light of towns and cities, dark skies not only offer an amazing chance to observe billions of stars but increase your chances of seeing shy nocturnal animals in their natural habitat!
You will find fabulous stargazing opportunities throughout most of Cumbria and the Lake District, but we have put together some of our favourite places where you will get the best views. Stargazing can be done throughout the year but is often best during the colder months when there’s a full moon.
Whenever and wherever you’re stargazing, don’t forget to wrap up warm with plenty of layers including a good coat, gloves, and a woolly hat. Take a warm drink and energy snacks to keep you going. Dependent on where you visit, you may also need a map, compass and torch (red light is better than white light when walking at night). Binoculars and a folding chair are also great options for making the most of stargazing! Take extra care for hazards and paths when walking at night.
Don’t forget to take a look at our holiday cottages – from many of them, you will be able to stargaze from the windows!
Ennerdale Water is the remotest lake in the whole of the Lake District and the valley in which it sits is the least inhabited. It's also the most westerly of the lakes and the only one without a public road running alongside it! Altogether, this makes it a fabulous location for stargazing.
Head east from Ennerdale Water, further into the valley, and you will find Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre, an accredited Dark Sky Discovery Site for Cumbria and the first in North West England. They hold free stargazing events a few times a year, which include talks for both adults and children. Its position away from towns and within the mountains means it is perfect for observing the night skies.
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2. St Bees Beach
St Bees Beach
The west coast of Cumbria is a hidden gem and has many quiet spots where you can enjoy a bit of stargazing with the gentle lapping of the sea as background music. Talk about tranquil! St. Bees is the most westerly point of Cumbria and, especially when the tide is out, the long stretch of beach makes for a wonderful nighttime walk. Saunter along the sand (wellies are recommended!) gazing into the heavens and admiring the sheer number of stars that are visible.
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3. Friar's Crag on Derwentwater
Friar’s Crag on the shores of Derwentwater is a popular spot for a photo, whatever the time of day. Its position looking straight into the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ means that, at night, you get a breathtaking panorama of twinkling stars over the beautiful, craggy peaks of the Borrowdale valley.
It’s just a short walk along an easy path from Keswick to Friar’s Crag. You will pass through some woodland, so keep a sharp eye and ear for the snufflings of nighttime creatures including hedgehogs and badgers!
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Dockray sits above Ullswater, and is often described as the most beautiful of the Lake District lakes. Its night skies are breathtaking, too, and have been the source of scientific and artistic inspiration for years. Cockley Moor, noted in Alfred Wainwright’s walking guides as being the highest inhabited house in the Lake District, was once owned by patron of the arts, Helen Sutherland, and hosted eminent guests such as T. S. Eliot and Norman Nicholson. Imagine gazing up at the same starry skies that these great poets may have been inspired by!
You can find your own inspiration here with a stay at Cockley Moor Cottage, originally the servants’ quarters of the main house and now an elegant self-catering holiday cottage.
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5. Grizedale Forest
Sitting between the lakes of Coniston and Windermere, Grizedale Forest covers over 24 kilometres of woodland, hills and tarns. Thanks to its expanse away from the lights of the surrounding towns, you can get wonderful views of the starry skies through the trees. There are regular stargazing events with guided talks where you will learn how to spot the different constellations and identify various celestial objects, as well as have an opportunity to look at the skies through a powerful telescope.
Cottages near Grizedale Forest
6. Blea Tarn, Little Langdale
The car park at Blea Tarn in the Langdale Valley is a Go Stargazing Site, recognised for its safe but remote location away from local light pollution. Whilst the car park itself is surrounded by trees, a short walk will take you to the open space around the tarn. The craggy scenery encircling this area make the stargazing here even more special!
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Wasdale is a record-breaker, boasting England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike), deepest lake (Wastwater) and smallest church (St. Olaf’s). It’s maybe no surprise then, that this impressive valley also hosts fabulous night skies! You can enjoy stargazing from the vast valley bottom or, if you’re an experienced night-time hiker, from the surrounding peaks such as Great Gable and Yewbarrow
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8. Whinlatter Forest
Whinlatter Forest is England’s only true mountain forest and sits above Bassenthwaite Lake. Its hilly position brings you closer to the stars and, on clear nights with a full moon, you may even be able to spot the Milky Way – an impossibility from many lighter locations!
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9. Allan Bank, Grasmere
Once home to the famous Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley, Allan Bank in Grasmere is one of only two Dark Sky Discovery Sites in Cumbria. The historic house is surrounded by wooded grounds and is perched on a hill. Away from surrounding buildings and sources of unnatural light, it is a perfect location for stargazing. There are events throughout the year to help you make the most of the night sky spectacles!
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Wherever you decide to observe the skies, take a deep breath and enjoy a tranquil moment just for yourself. You can find your perfect holiday cottage with our cottage search. Pick somewhere close to these fabulous dark sites to truly enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the night skies.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.