Contemplating a starry sky before falling asleep in your tent under the Milky Way is one of the true joys of summer.
And the next time you pitch your tent, consider this mind-boggling fact as you look up: The European Space Agency (ESA) has just released a treasure trove of data on almost two billion stars of the Milky Way. How insignificant does that make most everyday problems?
To see the stars in all their glory, there are a few simple things to remember. Jonathan Knight, UK manager of outdoor living provider Hipcamp, says: “Your eyes need time to fully adjust to the darkness of the night sky, but your night vision can be ruined by just one flash of bright light. .
“Turn off your headlights, put out that campfire, and avoid using a white-light flashlight. Instead, use a headlamp or red-filter flashlight to navigate in the dark and save your eyes from frequent adjustments.
Downloading a star map app might also be a good idea, he suggests. “Whether you’re simply observing with the naked eye or through a powerful telescope, your smartphone can guide you through the night sky, show you what you’re looking at, and help you find constellations like the Big Dipper and Orion.”
Inspired? Here are some of the best places in Europe, the UK and Ireland to see beautiful stars in clear skies.
1. Canary Islands, Teide National Park
Teide National Park in Tenerife has been recognized as a ‘Starlight Tourist Destination’ by the Starlight Foundation, an organization that aims to protect the night sky – meaning it is a place where light pollution is controlled and where visitors must have excellent stargazing conditions.
Lisa Francesca Nand, travel journalist and host of The Big Travel Podcast (thebigtravelpodcast.com) says: “With moonscape mountains and clear skies, the interior of Tenerife is one of the best stargazing destinations in the world.
“For breathtaking views of the constellations, there are several round-trip tours with professional guides to help you explore the stars, stories and myths of the universe. Or stay at Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide , a mountain lodge with spectacular views.
Nand points out that wild camping is not allowed, but says, “You’ll find several dedicated campsites in the area where you can turn off your torch and lay back for one of the most awe-inspiring views on earth.”
2. One of the Scottish Islands
Scotland is the most remote part of the UK and gives you the darkest skies.
James Warner-Smith, camping expert at Hipcamp, advises: “Head to the islands and glamp in a secluded spot like Runach Arrain or try Badrallach campsite, which is eight miles from the nearest main road and a 22 km from the nearest shops. guarantee you minimal light pollution.
A great place to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, Scandinavia has vast expanses of unpolluted land and skies. The Danish islands of Møn and Nyord have been named among the best places in the world for stargazing by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Wild camping is very limited in Denmark, but there are campsites on both islands with tent and van sites in beautiful rural locations.
Similarly, Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden and is home to the Esrange Space Center, the Institute of Space Physics, and Sweden’s Spaceport. There is a popular campsite in Kiruna called Camp Ripan which has an on-site restaurant and spa for a more luxurious experience.
4. Valentia Island, Ireland
Valentia Island, off the southwest coast of Ireland, has very low light pollution and is a quiet place to see the stars. Part of the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve, it is one of the best places to view the night sky.
Travel guide The Irish Road Trip advises checking the position of the moon before your visit, saying: “The moon’s cycle is 28 days, so each month has just seven dark nights with no moonlight to interfere with your view of the heavens above.”
For camping, check out Valentia Island Caravan & Camping Park. Located at the top of the village of Knightstown, you will wake up to views of the Kerry Mountains and Valentia Harbour.5.Northumberland
Northumberland National Park was named England’s first international dark sky park in 2013 by the International Dark Sky Association.
Warner-Smith says: “Walkmill campsite is a great option there, nice and secluded and back to basics with no light pollution, but also a good campsite in its own right with good access to Warkworth and the coast.”
Stargazers should head to Kielder Observatory. In summer, you can see star clusters, shooting stars, and the surface of the moon.
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