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Top forests and events for stargazing in England

Whether you want to share the experience of stargazing with your family, or seek out the silence and solitude of a solo expedition, our forests provide the best places in England to experience the night sky in all its wonder.

All these forests are Dark Sky Discovery rated with Milky Way status, meaning the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye.

Kielder Forest and stars1. Kielder Forest

Sky Quality Meter: 20.3Mag/ArcSec average. Mag 4.5 Visual average
Location details: Access to the observatory by vehicle is only permitted for those attending events. You can view the observatory by parking in a small car park off the C200 (one mile from Kielder Castle) and walking the remaining distance (approximately 1.5 miles) on a forest road.

Kielder Forest joins with Northumberland National Park to form part of England's first and only Official Dark Sky Park - Northumberland Dark Sky Park was awarded its status by the International Dark Sky Association on 9 December 2013, making it England’s top forest location for stargazing.

The Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society run over 100 events per year at the award winning Kielder Observatory to help beginners and serious stargazers study the skies.

Forest and stars2. Dalby Forest

Sky Quality Meter: n/a
Location details: YO18 7LT is the forest centre postcode.

Yorkshire’s Dalby Forest was awarded the Milky Way Class of the Dark Sky Discovery award in January 2013. Domes are located adjacent to the main visitor centre. Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society offer public observing events. Visit their website for details.


Forest and stars3. Hamsterley Forest

Sky Quality Meter: n/a
Location details: DL13 3NL is the forest centre postcode

Hamsterley Forest is County Durham's largest forest located in the North Pennines AONB. The Dark Sky Site is near the start of the Riverside Trail located by the bridge. 

Forest and stars4. Queen Elizabeth Country Park

Sky Quality Meter: 20.3Mag/ArcSec average. Mag 4.5 Visual average
Location details: OS reference is SU712201 (Car park)

Head up to Butser Hill located within the borders of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park to view the night sky. 

Forest and stars5. Gisburn Forest

Sky Quality Meter: n/a
Location details: BB7 4TS is the forest centre postcode

Gisburn Forest is Dark Sky Discovery Site and is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is an accessible site, with good sightlines, giving people the best possible conditions to just turn up and see the stars on a clear night. During the spring see glittering star clusters and magnificent constellations like Orion grace the sky, and in the autumn the Milky Way is overhead and meteor showers can put on an amazing show. 

Look on the Gisburn website for more information on its Dark Sky status.

Find out more about the Sky Quality Meter reading listed for each forest.

Plan your visit

    • Are you a beginner to stargazing? An event at one of our sites may be the best way to kick-start your new interest.
    • If you are not attending a specific stargazing event, set out before nightfall with a route and location in mind.
    • The quality of the night sky (and the weather) in your chosen location will have an impact on the stars you can see, use the Met Office stargazing weather map to help plan your night.
    • Check forest opening times:  Some Forestry Commission car parks or sites are not open at night – check out your location before you leave home through the forest’s relevant webpage at www.forestry.gov.uk/visit
    • Remember to pack a torch: Pack warm clothing and torches – with plenty of batteries, and take binoculars if you have them. It is good practice to have a red filter on your torch to reduce light pollution.
Last updated: 17th November 2017

What's of interest

Check forest opening times before you plan your stargazing trip. 

International Dark Sky Association   

BBC: The night sky in spring and summer

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.