The 10 best campsites for stargazing in the UK

With daylight hours beginning to lengthen and the weather warming up, spring is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the dark night skies. To help you find the perfect location, we’ve asked Cool Camping author James Warner Smith to pick his top ten tent-pitching locations that make the most of the Milky Way.

Bells of Hemscott, Northumberland

Behind the dunes of seven-mile long Druridge beach, this bell tent glamping site also has a scattering of 30 or so wild camping pitches with compost loos, off-grid shower huts and a fresh water supply. Otherwise, facilities are relatively sparse and there is no artificial lighting, save for your evening campfire. Though the campsite lies outside Northumberland’s renowned, International Dark Sky Park (Europe’s largest area of protected night sky), with the park to the west and nothing but the North Sea to the east, unpolluted skies are guaranteed.

July–September. Pitches from £20 per night.

 

Camping at Ynysfaen, Powys

A mile from the Usk Reservoir – recently named the darkest location in the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Reserve – Ynysfaen is a family-friendly campsite with room for a maximum of 40 people. Facilities are modern, campfires are permitted and there’s a good pub within walking distance, which, like the campsite, welcomes muddy boots, dogs and children. Campsite owner, Jane, is a Dark Skies ambassador and is happy to talk astronomy as you check out the stars.

April–October. £10 per person; under-5s free.
 

Ecocamp Glenshee, Perthshire

Until recently, all new arrivals were given a wind-up torch on arrival at Ecocamp Glenshee, such is the darkness of the site when nighttime comes. In the foothills of the Cairngorms, at the bottom of a glen, the site occupies a relatively remote spot with minimal light pollution. Despite the ginormous, open space afforded, the campsite has just 10 tent pitches along with a handful of more luxurious glamping options. By day, enjoy geocaching, hiking and feeding the site’s farm animals, plus llama trekking in the local hills.

Open all year. Pitches from £10 per night.

 

Beryl’s Campsite, Devon

Around 30 grass tent pitches are spread around the seven different paddocks at Beryl’s Campsite, its traditional simplicity summed up by the no-fuss name. The only clue to this campsite's existence is a handmade sign nestled in a flowerbed by the entrance. On a hill, with views of the boats in Start Bay, the campsite has a small pond, space for ball games and a beach within walking distance. Apart from the small barn that hosts showers, toilets and a covered picnic area with fridges and tables, there is no artificial lighting to spoil the stars.

April–September. Pitches from £16 per night.
 

Ling’s Meadow, Norfolk

Circular camping pitches have been carefully mown into the longer wild grass of Ling’s Meadow, a flat, rural campsite on an 80-acre wheat and barley farm. The pathways between them make a playful natural network for children to explore and also lead to a handful of glamping options – bell tents, a shepherd’s hut, a gypsy caravan and more. The meadow is vehicle-free, with campfires replacing headlights in the evening and preserving the darkness of the night. Bring bikes to make the most of the quiet country lanes.

May–September. Adults £10, children (3–15yrs) £5, under-2s free.

 

Graig Wen, Gwynedd

In the hills of west Snowdonia, overlooking the Mawddach Estuary, this popular family site is shielded along its edges by green, wooded slopes. At its northern perimeter, the trees end and the land drops away to reveal magnificent views of the estuary. There are around 10 camping pitches and a couple of glamping options – a yurt and a cabin – with easy access by bike along the Mawddach Trail. By day enjoy Fairbourne beach, Cader Idris Mountain or the ice-cream parlours in nearby Barmouth.

Open all year. Adults from £7, children (5–16yrs) from £3.50, under-5s free.

 

Walton West Campsite, Pembrokeshire

Within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and just a mile from the beaches of Broad Haven, this back-to-basics campsite offers relatively stripped back facilities and an excellent location. The small local village is shielded by a flank of trees, while the campsite itself has minimal lighting, leaving you to enjoy the starry skies and the glow of your campfire. Join the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for a stroll or rent kayaks, surfboards and paddle boards in Broad Haven to get out on the water.

March–November. Adults £10, children (4–15yrs) £6, under-4s free.

 

Greenhillock Glamping, Angus

Despite the name, this family campsite in eastern Scotland has more camping pitches on offer than it does glamping accommodation, with a large, open field edged by woodland and a small pond. Stargazing is one of many ad-hoc activities on site, where there is also a small arts and crafts shack, nets for bug hunting and nature trails to explore. It’s an equidistant drive to the peaks of the Cairngorms and to the beaches of the east coast, though many simply stick around to explore the campsite.

April–September. Pitches from £18 per night.

 

Brigs Farm, Dorset

Little more than a beautifully located field dotted with apple trees and surrounded by woodland, Brigs Farm is the perfect ‘nearly-wild’ campsite. Other than showers and composting toilets, facilities are few and far between, but that’s all part of the appeal and it doesn’t stop families filling the place in summer. The views south, over rolling countryside towards the Jurassic coast, are stunning and the quiet lanes make the beaches eminently cycle-able.

April–October. Pitches from £20 per night.

 

Denmark Farm, Ceredigion

There’s nothing to ruin your view of the Milky Way at this Welsh conservation site, situated among the green humps and bumps of Ceredigion. Ponds, long, shaggy wild grasses and mature trees make up the 40-acre patchwork of land, with room for around 10 tents in the main camping meadow. The on-site conservation centre runs courses from living willow weaving and conservation, to mini-beast hunts and woodland craft for children. Ask nicely and they may even lend you a telescope for the night.

April–October. Adults £10, children (4–15yrs) £5, under-4s free.

Along with their best-selling guidebooks, Cool Camping is an online resource for camping and glamping information in the UK, France and Europe. Search for the best sites on coolcamping.com