A 4,500-star experience: best places for stargazing
You don’t need to leave Earth to explore the wonders of the cosmos
How many stars are there in the universe? It’s a question asked regularly by professional and amateur astronomers alike.
According to USBC Scienceline there are about ten billion galaxies and assuming there’s an average of 100 billion stars in each that means there’s about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one billion trillion) stars in the “observable universe”.
Sky & Telescope magazine says the number of stars you see in the night sky depends on several variables: your location’s light pollution and your own vision.
It’s thought the entire sky contains some 9,000 stars which are visible to the unaided eye and since you can only see half the sky at any time, that means there are as many as 4,500 stars visible.
With 4,500 sparkling attractions to see in the night sky, we pick out some of the best stargazing spots in the UK and across the world.
Stargazing Forest Dome, Finn Lough Resort, Northern Ireland
Visitors can enjoy the beauty of Northern Ireland from the comfort of a bespoke Stargazing Forest Dome at Finn Lough Resort in Enniskillen, a two-hour drive from Belfast. The unique back-to-nature domes resemble giant bubbles and are set within the woods on the banks of Lough Erne - the second biggest lake system in the country.
Offering a complete digital detox – there is no wifi or TV - the domes feature a four-poster bed, waterfall shower, vintage record player, under-floor heating and telescope. With Finn Lough’s new food delivery service, guests can make the most of total seclusion by enjoying a meal in their own private bubble dome under the stars.
Starting from £245 per night, the price includes one night in a forest dome including breakfast and complimentary bike hire; finnlough.com
Sperrinview Glamping, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland
This unique site is situated at the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, only metres away from Beaghmore Stone Circles. The pods are located in prime locations which have been recognised as one of Northern Ireland’s recommended Dark Sky Sites, making this the perfect place to stay for a stargazing break.
Each pod has its own “viewing window” so guests can lie back and gaze up at the starry night sky from the comfort of their own pod. The pods come complete with a kitchenette, shower room and sleep up to five people.
Sperrinview Glamping offers a night’s stay in one of the stargazing pods from £100 per night; sperrinviewglamping.com
Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland
This 17-bedroom luxurious Relais & Chateaux hotel is tucked away on the breathtaking Ayrshire coast in Scotland. The local Galloway Forest Park is one of the only four Dark Skies Parks in Europe, where clean air and lack of light pollution results in amazing clear nights perfect for stargazing.
Guests are fortunate to experience the same expansive skies from the comfort of the castle’s Victorian-walled garden. With a local astronomer on hand to guide you through the constellations, residents can use the castle’s telescopes to immerse themselves in some spectacular stargazing.
A two-night stay includes accommodation in a castle bedroom suite; three-course gourmet dinner; full Scottish breakfast; stargazing experience on one evening with an expert dark sky ranger; “Tiddly” hot chocolate; blankets; night binoculars and hand warmers.
Available between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021 from £229 per person per night; glenappcastle.com
The Hide at Lower Mill Estate, Cotswolds, England
Admire the starry night’s sky from The Hide which stands on stilts in total seclusion overlooking a 70-acre lake. The lodge is an elegant modernist steel-and-glass structure and has one bedroom with a super-king bed, an ensuite bathroom and separate kitchen.
From the large outdoor terrace or through the floor to ceiling glazing, couples can watch the sun set over the reed beds, spend a romantic evening stargazing through the Hide’s telescope and wake up to see birds flying low over the lake, all from the cosy comfort of this unique property.
Habitat Escapes offers a two-night stay in The Hide from £600, available on special request. The property sleeps two guests; habitatescapes.com
Aurora Dome, Lapland, Finland
Admire the breathtaking night sky and Northern Lights from within the comfort of a warm Aurora Dome while on a five-night adventure through the winter wilderness of Finnish Lapland with Aurora Zone.
Situated along the bank of Lake Jeris, the igloo-shaped tents have a large north-facing window, providing guests with the best possible views of the Nordic sky as they cosy up to the open fire.
Guests will enjoy three dedicated activities to get them further out into the wilds for optimum viewing conditions: on a reindeer-pulled sleigh Northern Lights experience, an Aurora Hunt on horseback and a visit to a prime lookout spot with an expert guide.
The Aurora Zone offers a five-night Torassieppi Eco Glamping and Aurora Horse riding package from £1,475 per person. This includes return flights from London Heathrow to Kittilä, transfers, accommodation, meals and activities; theaurorazone.com
Namibia with Wild Frontiers
Sleep under the night sky surrounded by wildlife in the peaceful Etosha National Park in Namibia.
In the centre of the park, guests will camp beside a waterhole where they can watch as black rhinoceros, elephants and lions congregate in the evenings before moving their attention to the incredible stars overhead.
Namibia is filled with geological wonders, spectacular landscapes, diverse game and plenty of unexplored regions. On this tour guests will also head up to the famous red sand dunes of the Namib Desert to enjoy the sunrise, visit quirky coastal towns, meet with members of the Himba tribe and admire the Epupa Falls in the Angolan borderlands.
Wild Frontiers’s 14-day “Namibia: Sands of Time” tour starts from £3,295 (land only price) which includes the overnight stay in Etosha National Park; wildfrontierstravel.com
Private night safari with astronomy, Dubai
Although many visitors to Dubai opt for a daytime desert safari, The Week recommends a private night safari which includes an astronomy experience.
Booked through Platinum Heritage, the safari features a night drive through the desert in a vintage Land Rover and a fantastic three-course dinner at a camp. The most memorable part of the safari, though, was a private lesson in stargazing with a professional astronomer.
This exclusive night desert safari and cosmic journey takes place in the heart of a private royal desert retreat.
The Platinum Heritage Private Night Safari and Astronomy tour starts from Dhs2,280 (£463) for two people and includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel in Dubai, desert night drive in a Land Rover and a three-course dinner; platinum-heritage.com