Dark Skies

Top Tips for Stargazing on Exmoor

Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 16th - 31st October 2020

Exmoor National Park is home to some of the darkest skies in the country owing to its status as an International Dark Sky Reserve. On a clear night, the night sky of Exmoor is simply stunning. Many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye and even more can be discovered through a telescope or binoculars.
Now in its fourth year, the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival will be taking place on 16th-31st October 2020. This annual festival comprises a series of stargazing events all over Exmoor National Park. For full festival details please see: https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing/dark-skies-festival
Booking is essential for all activities taking place throughout the festival. Each activity will have either a booking link, contact phone number or email. Come and get involved in something truly magical this Autumn, experience the incredible dark skies of Exmoor! 

Stargazing Throughout the Year: Top Tips

Stargazing here on Exmoor is an all year-round activitiy, and any clear night will provide plenty to see! Aim to start observing at least 1.5 hrs after sunset to allow time for the sky to become properly dark. Check moonrise. As beautiful as it is, the best time for stargazing is when the moon isn’t in the sky.

Here are a few things you can do to help make your experience really special...


Spring - The often crisp clear nights of March and April can be particularly good months for observing.

Late summer\Autumn – Prime time for spotting shooting stars, due to the earth’s orbit passing through the trail of several large comets.

Winter - Make the most of longer nights for younger astronomers to enjoy some pre-bedtime observing.



Your eyes: Familiarise yourself with the night sky just using your naked eyes. If you are ready to invest in binoculars or telescopes then get in touch with your local astronomical club for expert advice, or rent one from our National Park Centres or online at www.darkskytelescopehire.co.uk

A red light: Your eyes can take up to ten minutes to fully adjust to the dark and your “night vision” to kick in, giving you the best view of the stars. During this time avoid looking at bright lights. Red lights, such as a rear bike lamp, are much better at preserving your night vision than white lights.

Starcharts: The position of the stars and planets is constantly changing with time and location, but there are many resources available to help you pinpoint the night sky, including simple star maps, planispheres that allow you to set the date, and smartphone apps. Pick up a free Dark Skies Pocket Guide at our National Park Centres for some basic star charts.

Warm clothes: Clear nights are often chilly - so wrap up warm and bring a hot drink. A reclining chair and blanket may be useful if you plan to stay out longer.



Generally the further you are from illuminated built-up areas the darker the sky will be and the more stars you will be able to see. Recommended locations include:

Brendon Common (South of Lynmouth)

Wimbleball Lake

County Gate Car Park (off A39 between Lynmouth and Porlock) 

Bossington Hill near Minehead

Dunkery Beacon and Webber’s Post

Winsford Hill