Let’s make the Lakes a dark skies reserve!
The Lake District is home to some of the darkest skies in Britain, drawing avid stargazers from all over the world. And what better place to enjoy watching the heavens, than surrounded by the rugged beauty that is the Lake District!
Dark skies are not only important for Stargazers; British wildlife is reliant on our island having dark skies. 50% of wildlife in the United Kingdom is nocturnal, meaning that they rely on darkness; the moon and stars to both feed and breed.
The Friends of the Lake District are actively seeking ‘Dark Skies Reserve’ status for the Lake District, in the hope that it will help to maintain or even improve our standing as one of the darkest places in the UK. Emma Marington from The Campaign to Protect Rural England notes - “We’ve found that National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) play a vital role in protecting dark skies, with 53% of England’s very darkest skies above these places.”
With so many people living within areas of constant ambient light, it is estimated that 70% of us have never even seen the Milky Way!
So, head out into the wild places of the Lake District National Park and discover for yourself why it’s so important to protect our dark skies!
Best places to stargaze in the Lake District
Shielded from lights by mountains in all directions, Thirlmere sits in a little basin of lovely darkness. With only one building sitting on the lake (Dale Head Hall, Lakeside Hotel), it’s the perfect place to escape from ambient light and admire the glorious sky.
2. Grizedale Forest
Grizedale forest is well known for its many stargazing events. Shielded by thousands of trees and far from ambient light of any kind, you can’t get a much darker place in the Lake District than Grizedale!
A small, rural valley at the base of some of England’s highest mountains, Scafell Pike and Great Gable, Wasdale is in the perfectly shielded position for amazing stargazing adventures! If you’re very lucky, you can occasionally catch the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in the Lake District too! Check out Wasdale Head car park as a potential stargazing spot!
4. The Langdales
Another rugged Lake District landscape with little to no ambient light. The Langdale pikes rise up on both sides of the Langdale valley, creating the perfect dark-sky funnel. Head for Blea Tarn Carpark in Little Langdale for the perfect stargazing spot. Just a short walk to the tarn for those wanting a truly immersive experience.
Top tips for stargazing in the Lake District:
1- Always take a head-torch! When we say dark sky spot, we mean REALLY dark! There is no way you can go out to a secluded dark sky area and be able to see the ground in front of you! See more tips for staying safe when Winter walking.
2- use red light for map-reading. Red light plays a lot less havoc with your pupils and will keep your night vision clearer.
3- take binoculars or a telescope to get even closer to those wonderful stars!
4- Keep warm! The best time for stargazing is unfortunately also the coldest time. Take extra blankets, jackets and maybe even a sneaky hip-flask of brandy to warm you up on a cold, starry night.
5- don’t wander too far off path. Unless you’ve fully planned an overnight or are well versed in night navigation (which is no easy feat!), try not to trek out too far. As tempting as it may be- you’ll surely regret it when you’re still trying to get down at 2am, especially if the weather turns.