Gazing up at the stars 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, remember this startling fact as you stare up: The European Space Agency (ESA) has just released a treasure trove of data on nearly two billion stars in the Milky Way. How insignificant does this make most everyday problems feel?
To see the stars in all their glory, there are a few simple things to keep in mind. Jonathan Knight, UK manager at outdoor accommodation provider Hipcamp says: “Your eyes need time to adjust fully to the darkness of the night sky, but your night vision can be ruined by a bright flash of light.
There are stunning constellations to be seen from all corners of Europe (Alamy/PA)
“Turn off your headlights, put out the campfire, and don’t use white-light flashlights. Instead, use a red-filter headlamp or 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 just observing with the naked eye or through a powerful telescope, your smartphone can guide you through the night sky, show you what you’re seeing, and help you find constellations like the Big Dipper and Orion.”
Inspired? Here are some of the best places in Europe, UK and Ireland to enjoy the beautiful stars in the 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 this is a place where light pollution is controlled and visitors should have excellent conditions for stargazing.
Lisa Francesca Nand, Travel Writer and Host of The Big Travel Podcast (thebigtravelpodcast.com) says: “With its lunar mountains and clear skies, inland Tenerife is one of the top stargazing destinations in the world.
“For breathtaking views of the constellations, there are several round trips with professional guides to help explore the stars, stories and myths of the universe. Or stay at the Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide, a mountain hut with spectacular views.”
Nand points out that wild camping isn’t allowed, but says, “There are several dedicated campgrounds in the area where you can put out your flashlight and sit back to enjoy one of the most awe-inspiring views on earth.”
2. One of the Scottish islands
There are stunning stargazing campsites all over Europe (Hipcamp/PA)
Scotland is the most remote part of the UK and will reward you with the darkest skies.
James Warner-Smith, Camping Expert at Hipcamp, advises: “Head out to the islands and shine in remote spots like Runach Arrain or try the Badrallach campsite, which is 8 miles from the nearest main road and 14 miles from the nearest shops away guarantee you minimal light pollution.”
A generic photo of the northern lights over northern Sweden. See PA Feature TRAVEL Stars. Photo credit should read: Alamy/PA. WARNING: This image may only be used to accompany PA Feature TRAVEL Stars.
Scandinavia is a great place to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. It has vast expanses of unpolluted land and sky. The Danish islands of Møn and Nyord have been named the best places in the world for stargazing by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Wild camping is severely restricted in Denmark, but there are campsites on both islands with tent and RV sites in beautiful rural areas.
Likewise, Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost city and is home to the Esrange Space Center, the Institute of Space Physics and Spaceport Sweden. There is a popular campsite in Kiruna called Camp Ripan that has an on-site restaurant and spa for a more luxurious experience.
4. Valentia Island, Ireland
Valentia Island off the south west coast of Ireland has very little light pollution and is a quiet spot for stargazing. As part of the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve, it’s one of the best places to see the night sky.
The guidebook The Irish Road Trip recommends checking the moon’s position before you visit, saying: “The moon’s cycle is 28 days, so each month has only seven dark nights with no moonlight interfering with your view of the sky. “
If you want to camp, visit Valentia Island Caravan & Camping Park. Perched at the top of the village of Knightstown, 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 by the International Dark Sky Association in 2013.
Warner-Smith says: “Walkmill Campsite is a great option there, nice and secluded and getting back to basics with no light pollution, but also a good campsite in its own right with easy access to Warkworth and the coast.”
Stargazers should head to the Kielder Observatory. In the summer you can see star clusters, shooting stars and the surface of the moon.
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