• Jane

Woodlands Holidays - Gateway to Stargazing on Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

There are many reasons for taking a short break or a longer holiday on Exmoor, using either Woodlands House or Woodleigh Cottage as your base, one that is proving more popular than ever, is to enjoy Exmoor National Park’s status as Europe's first International Dark Sky Reserve, awarded in 2011 by the International Dark Sky association.

Dark Skies on your doorstep

With rising levels of light pollution across the UK, fewer people are able to witness the beauty of the heavens where they live. So we are tremendously lucky to live in one of the UK’s International Dark Places. Exmoor provides some of the darkest skies in the country while relatively accessible via the motorway network (Junction 27, off the M5) and by rail via Tiverton Parkway station and minicab.

Where to spot the stars on Exmoor

From Dulverton, you can travel to sites popular for stargazing such as Haddon Hill, above Wimbleball Reservoir to the East, or Molland Common to the West. Further North you can observe the stars from Exmoor’s highest point, Dunkery Beacon, or Brendon or Porlock Commons. With minimal light pollution on a clear night you can see The Milky Way, thousands of stars and astronomical sights, without the need for a telescope.

Exmoor: Gateway to the Cosmos

Exmoor Dark Skies Festival 2021

The fifth Exmoor Dark Skies Festival takes place from Friday 22nd October to Sunday 7th November 2021. With a variety of festival events for families and adults taking place all over Exmoor, why not book yourself some accommodation with Woodlands Holidays and make a holiday of it?

Exmoor is hoping to be organise guided stargazing sessions and night walks, stargazing and wellbeing retreats, talks and on-line presentations and workshops by expert astronomers and dark skies ambassadors, nocturnal wildlife events, astro-themed craft sessions, family astro-themed parties, night time boat adventures under the stars and more.

Help for star spotters

The Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) which was instrumental in Exmoor acquiring its Dark Sky Reserve status, provides a useful pocket guide for residents and visitors, keen to enjoy the night sky during their stay. Download the Exmoor Dark Skies Pocket Guide for yourself. Alternatively, pick one up at Dulverton’s Exmoor Park office at the Guildhall Heritage Centre on Fore Street, where you can also book out a powerful telescope on a per night basis and there’s a wide selection of guides on local wildlife, walks to take and how Exmoor has evolved over the centuries.

Exmoor at night photography competition 2020

Take a look at the winners and runners up in the Exmoor At Night photo competition 2020, held as part of the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival. Categories included: Exmoor Icons, Enjoying Exmoor, Exmoor Landscapes and Deep Sky.

copyright: Laurence Liddy photographer

How to prepare for stargazing

Like any outdoor activity, it pays to plan and prepare your Stargazing quest. So here’s a quick checklist of things to get together to make the most your big night out viewing the cosmos!

Stargazing Apps - Here's a great list recommended by Good Housekeeping. We have a guide to the Exmoor Sky at Night which you are welcome to borrow.

Binoculars or a telescope - a good pair of binoculars will show as much as 50 times more than the naked eye, so a pair that not too heavy, could be handy. Plus you can use them for spotting wildlife during the day. If you get bitten by the star gazing bug, then a quality telescope is a good investment

Camera and Tripod - once you have this correctly set up you can capture some beautiful images to enjoy and share afterwards.

Seating - bring something comfortable to sit or lie on, if you plan to while away the hours gazing at the stars

Warm and waterproof clothing - even in the Summer! It can get chilly at night so make sure you wear plenty of layers to ward off the cold night air.

Snacks and warm drinks - to keep you going as you lose yourself in the awesomeness of the universe.

Plus - don't forget to arm yourself with plenty of patience and time for your viewing the cosmos! It takes 20 minutes for your eyes to acclimatise to the dark, then you should be good to go.

Visiting Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve with Woodlands Holidays

Woodlands House and Woodleigh Cottage are ideally situated to explore and enjoy Exmoor. Both in Dulverton, near the National Park headquarters, tourist office and history centre, they are a good base from which to organise your stargazing.

We look forward to welcoming you and helping you enjoy your stay anytime of the year.