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Make the most of Dark Skies in The Lake District, Cumbria

As the UK gives way to darker nights, the Lake District is an ideal location from which to spend the days exploring the famous landscape; and the nights admiring the beauty of the heavens.

Now the clocks have gone back by an hour, why not embrace the change right here in Cumbria, which enjoys some of the largest areas of dark sky across Europe?

According to light pollution maps issued by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Lake District, Cumbria is one of the best places in England for a star-gazing getaway. The National Park and surrounding areas have several locations perfect for a night of stargazing.

The Lake District easily outshines the city lights for a memorable autumn or winter holiday, with more than 1,000 stars visible on a clear night – complimented by part of our own galaxy The Milky Way, which majestically stretches across the night sky.

Meanwhile, vantage points near large towns or cities serve-up just an average of around 100 stars visible to the naked eye thanks to the intrusive nature of countless streetlamps and other urban light sources.

Dark Skies Cumbria

Handy Tips

Many accommodation providers and attractions are ‘Dark Sky Friendly’, but of course you can create your very own dark skies winter break here by following a few simple, handy tips!
  • Equipment: All you need to get started is a pair of binoculars and some basic information on stargazing, including star maps and charts. It doesn’t have to be expensive or top of the range!
  • Internet: Make sure your business offers good Wi-Fi, so guests can upload their best photos to their favourite night sky social media sites in an instant.
  • Friendly advice: Imagine yourself taking part in a stargazing trip. What else might you need during your magical night under the stars? Scarves, gloves, a warm hat, a head torch, red-light torch for map reading and your favourite flask, for example. Just pack items to help you stay warm and embrace this cooler time of year as the starting point for a holiday with a difference!
  • Little extras: Bring your iPad and load your mobile phone with great apps like Sky View, which is available as a free download from Google Play and Apple’s App Store. If you’re bringing a laptop, try Stellarium - a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.
  • The stargazing community: Do a little research into other stargazing activities and events that may be taking place near your accommodation. Dark sky breaks are a great time for peace and quiet – but also great fun with other people who are as equally enamoured with star gazing as you are. There are several astronomy clubs in Cumbria which set up their telescopes and invite everybody to come and take a peek!
  • The weather: Keep an eye on the weather forecast, but also on the moon! A perfect night to go stargazing is on a cloudless night when the moon is either out of sight of in full shadow. Bright moonlight is magical – but you can see many more stars without it!

Dark Skies-Friendly Accommodation

The places below offer some great opportunities for grabbing a dark skies break in superb locations for seeing the best of the sky at night!

Dark Skies Discovery Sites

There are several Dark Sky Discovery Sites across the Lake District, Cumbria.

Best sights to observe:

• Meteor showers: Key showers are the Quadrantids in January, Perseids in August, Leonids in November and Geminids in December.
• Stars: Popular stars to gaze-up at include Auriga, Gemini, Winter Hexagon, North - Polaris (the pole star), Cassiopeia South – Orion, Gemini Sirius and the Pleiades - Leo (the Lion).

• Constellations: Orion’s Belt is one of the easiest constellations to spot. Look to the south-west for three bright stars close together and almost in a straight line. The two stars to the north are his shoulders and the two to the south are his feet. The Plough is also an easy constellation to spot, visible all year from the UK and if you imagine a line rising up from the last two stars in the Plough it will lead up to the North Star.'

• Satellites: If you get the timing right you can see the International Space Station. There are people up there so don’t forget to wave.’ If a light is moving slowly across the sky and it isn’t flashing, then it is likely to be a satellite. Look online to find out when the Space Station will pass over your business.
• Planets: Believe it or not, planets are often the easiest things to spot with the naked eye. Venus can be incredibly bright. It’s been known as the Evening Star or the Morning Star as it is often the first ‘star’ to appear or the last one to fade.

• The Milky Way: If you can get somewhere with very little light pollution you can easily make out our galaxy: The Milky Way. This is a flat spiral but from our perspective it looks like a bright band across the sky.

Further information:

Forestry England offer some great Stargazing experiences at their sites, including Grizedale Forest.

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