Stargazing in the Lake District
Stargazing in our modern world
In today’s world, according to Royal Observatory astronomer, Marek Kukula, 90% of Britain’s population doesn’t get to see the amazing spectacle that is the night sky.
Light pollution has stolen from many of us one of the most extraordinary sights on Earth – the brightest stars from the billions in our Milky Way, the streak of meteors, our neighbouring planets such as Venus and Jupiter, and the glow of other galaxies like Andromeda.
“People have been looking at the night sky, telling stories, for the entirety of recorded human history. But when we moved into cities, we lost that deep connection with the universe.” – Marek Kukula
If you miss our swim sessions, you don’t need to go far to reconnect with the universe, Brian Cox style, and find the dark side. The Lake District National Park offers truly stunning stellar vistas with two designated sites that have been awarded Dark Sky Discovery status.
Dark sky discovery sites:
Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre
Class: Milky Way
SQM Reading: 23.6
The centre is endowed with a most spectacular night sky due to its remoteness, mountainous terrain and lack of light pollution.
NY 139 141. Proceed along forestry track alongside Ennerdale Water from Bowness Knott. Centre is the first property after two miles. Use turning circle at YHA.
There is no municipal lighting in the valley or at the centre other than that provided by our own generator. Visitors are advised to drive cautiously on narrow valley roads. Visitors are also advised to observe all site safety notices and carry a torch as the centres grounds are very dark.
Free, open access to all walkers and cyclists. Vehicular access is by event and arrangement with the warden.
Allan Bank, Grasmere
Class: Orion plus Events
SQM Reading: N/A
A historic house and woodland grounds perched on a hillside above the village of Grasmere. No street lights or surrounding buildings.
Allan Bank is a short walk up the hill from the centre of Grasmere Village. 437 yards from the Red Lion Hotel / Miller Howe Café in the centre of the village.
Access only available when organised events take place in the evenings.
You don’t need to know your Betelgeuse from your Orion’s Belt to enjoy the stars, all you need is a picnic blanket, a flask of something hot and a little patience. Here are some impressive meteor showers to watch out for this year:
Lyrid, predawn, April 21 to April 22
Eta Aquarid, predawn, May 4 to May 5
Delta Aquarid, predawn, July 28 to July 29
Perseid, predawn, August 11 to August 12
Draconid, late evening, October 8 to October 10
Orionid, predawn, October 20 to October 21
Northern Taurid, late evening, November 11 to November 12
Leonid, predawn, November 16 to November 17
Andromedid, late evening, November 25 to November 27
Geminid, all night, December 13 to December 14
Ursid, predawn, December 21 to December 22
At these sites, the seven main stars in the winter constellation Orion are visible to the naked eye. Typically, this means away from, or shielded from, bright lights such as street lights, security lights or approaching car lights.
At these sites the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye. They are much darker sites found only in more rural areas.
Top tips for stargazing:
Take hot drinks, wear warm clothing and take a chair if you can.
Binoculars and telescopes are great for stargazing, but use the naked eye alone when scanning the sky for meteors.
If you need to read from a map, use red light If possible as red light affects night vision much less than white light.
Plan ahead and check astronomy books and websites for information on the year’s recurring meteor showers and as a guide to what might be twinkling above your head.
Book to stay at The Lake and get starry-eyed beneath the night sky.
Advocates of dark skies, we want our guests to get outdoors and enjoy the night sky, even from the lake. Colin Hill, our resident open water swimming expert takes monthly full moon swims from our hotel jetty along the shores of Ullswater, as well as stargazing swims when the moon is less full and you can see more in the sky. Book online and join one during your stay.
Cumbria Dark Skies Festival
28 October-18 November 2023
Showcasing one of the best dark sky locations in the UK the Cumbria festival is a partnership of Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Tourism, Forestry England, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the Lake District National Park.
As well as the Another Place Ullswater stargazing night swims on 31 October, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 16 November, there are a range of different night sky events happening all over the Lake District. These include guided walks at Whinlatter, night canoeing at Coniston, astrophotography, workshops, online webinars and talks on the moon and the constellations.