Today Galloway Forest Park was officially proclaimed the UK's first 'Dark-Sky Park'. You might think the park down the end of your road is pretty dark when your dog is hiding there in the middle of the night fraternising with the neighbour's prize poodle, but this park's darkness comes without pollution, either by cloud or by electric street lights, which makes it one of the best places in the UK to stargaze.  Here you'll have an un-polluted view of the black velvet strewn with diamonds that desert travellers talk about lying looking at for hours.  But where else is the view as unadulterated?

Twinkle Twinkle A Million Stars: World's Best Stargazing Spots

The International Dark-Sky Association who proclaimed the park dark previously named Natural Bridges National Monument a park in remote Utah, famous for its incredible natural bridges formed over gaping canyons – the first Dark-Sky Park in 2007.  In 2009 they also named the Parc National du Mont Mégantic in Quebec and the Zselic Natural Reserve in Hungary Dark-Sky Parks.

Yosemite and Cherry Springs State Park are other official Dark-Sky Parks.

All these parks are quite remote – far away from children who prefer to sleep with the light on – but there are few places further from civilisation, and children, than Antarctica, which is why it's such a popular destination for stargazers. It doesn't take a Scott-like journey to see the majestic southern cross over acres of empty white, you can always opt for the cosy comfort of an Antarctic Star Cruise.

For more than monochrome, almost as chilly Abisko National Park is known both for its clear skies and aurora borealis displays.

 

Do the stars have a special twinkle over the clear skies of the desert? The lack of clouds promising precipitation over the desert means that people have been navigating their way with only the stars to guide them for hundreds of years.  GPS spoils the sense of adventure somewhat, but seeing the stars all laid out so brightly has lost none of its romance. The Southwest Desert has another treasure for astronomers to discover, the huge pock mark of the Barringer Meteor Crater.

The wide expanses of red desert at Australia's heart are also well known and loved by astronomers, and one of the most astounding natural sights on earth is watching the sun set over Uluru: staining it an array of colours that would impress Mr. Dulux.  Arkaroola Sanctuary is well set up with three observatories, one open to the public, but for a real stockman's experience - these men were also known for steering by the stars – there's not much more profound in life than sleeping out in the open in the Kimberley Ranges.

Not all stargazing must be done in the rough – Hawaii, of the warm breezes, soft sand and honeymoon sunsets, is also known as a great stargazing destination. Well it is all the way out there in the middle of the ocean isn't it!

If you have your own favourite stargazing spot let us know:

Comments by other travellers

Just a slight correction: Galloway Forest Park and the Zselic Landscape Protection Area were recognized as dark sky parks by IDA at the same conference, see: www.darksky.org.

Caldera de Taburiente National Park on La Palma in the Canary Islands: it has the Roque de los Muchachose Observatory.

Stonehenge is wonderful at night. The skies above it are relatively clear and you can try and imagine what the correlation between the stones and the stars means.

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