Whether you’re using your naked eye or extra equipment, these places are the best for stargazing in the UK.

When was the last time you looked up into the night sky and were truly dazzled by the innumerable shining stars and constellations above you? It’s probably been a while. It’s easy to get caught up in daily life, but if you can take an evening to put your phone away, and look up into the sky, do it. Gazing at the stars, distant galaxies and planets is one of the oldest and most relaxing pleasures, though many are hindered from seeing a truly dark night sky due to the smog, dust, pollution and more. There are places all throughout Europe that have been deemed by the International Dark Sky Association as spots that are dedicated to preserving high-quality night sky darkness. Grab a picnic blanket, a telescope and some friends and head to any of these UK stargazing hotspots for a night of getting lost among the stars and planets.

Brecon Beacons National Park, United Kingdom

Brecon Beacons National Park was designated in February of 2013 and for good reason. Amidst the dark of the national park, Mars and Jupiter stand out brightly in the sky making it easy to spot them, even without equipment. If you are coming with a telescope, you may be able to see the Galilean satellites—Jupiter’s four largest moons—named after the man who observed them over 400 years ago. Head to Sugar Loaf Mountain for the darkest skies on the reserve and get a view over the Usk Valley. For a mix of history and stargazing, head to Llanthony Priory to see its silhouette against the night sky.

Exmoor National Park, United Kingdom

Exmoor National Park was designated in October 2011 and was the very first International Dark Sky Reserve throughout all of Europe. On the clearest nights in this park, visitors can look up to the skies and see over 3,000 stars twinkling there. To plan for the darkest skies in the UK, try to get to the park in March and April. If meteors are more your goal, try to plan your trip during late summer for the best chances to catch a glimpse. Make your way to Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor for one of the best views of the night sky. You’ll be able to hang out by the lake and because it’s far away from all residential areas, the sky above is almost perfectly dark.

Northumberland Dark Sky Park, United Kingdom

The newest Dark Sky designation from the bunch, Northumberland Park is home to the largest sky viewing station in Britain—Kielder Observatory. In the depths of winter the sky is at its darkest and deep-sky objects are visible with the naked eye. The Andromeda Galaxy is just one example of the things you can see in winter. Winter isn’t the only season with treats for stargazers. If you head to Northumberland Park in summer, you can see the Milky Way, comets and meteors on a good night.

Galloway Forest Park, United Kingdom

Head to the Galloway Forest Park for a slightly different stargazing experience. Here, you’ll find the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory sitting on a hill right near the edge of Galloway Park. The two telescopes housed within will let visitors view objects that are deep-sky. Unlike the other parks where you can simply lay on your back and look upwards to see the stars, there aren’t as many constellations in view at this park outside the Observatory. The naked eye can see the Northern Lights and meteors, but the very best views and details can be made out with the telescopes.

This new definition of nightlife is catching on, and with so many places in your backyard that can create this unforgettable experience, it’s time to start planning your first (or next) stargazing session in the UK. Count on Cover-More Travel Insurance for protecting your holiday plans, and you can focus entirely on trying to point out the Big Dipper or the Milky Way instead of worrying about what could go wrong.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brian

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