Best stargazing spots in Cornwall
As well as white sandy beaches and beautiful towns, Cornwall is also one of the best places in the UK to stargaze. With less light pollution and plenty of uninterrupted countryside, everything from shooting stars to galaxies has been spotted in Cornwall’s night skies. So, if you’re staying in one of the holiday parks in Cornwall be sure to make the most of the magnificent night scenery by heading to the stargazing spots listed in this guide.
With wild scenery, moorland ponies and remnants of granite from Cornwall’s mining era, the landscape at Bodmin Moor is one of a kind, and a great location to stargaze. It’s been labelled one of the county’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is why it’s no surprise that it has inspired poets, writers and artists for centuries.
We spoke to Rachel from the family lifestyle blog My Cornish Year to find out her favourite stargazing spot in Cornwall. Rachel tells us: “We are lucky enough to live on the edge of Bodmin Moor, which was awarded Dark Sky Landscape status by the International Dark Sky Association in July 2017. This award is given to places with ‘exceptional dark skies and a commitment to reducing light pollution and promoting education.’
“I like to drive to the moor, turn off all the lights, open the windows and we all just sit there looking up. It is super peaceful and very grounding. Cornwall is great for dark skies because there are so many areas with no lights and big horizons. Best of all, it’s free!”
Although it’s a part of Bodmin Moor, the enchanting Colliford Lake deserves its own mention. With the lake being Cornwall’s largest area of inland water, you may even be lucky enough to see the stars reflected across the water. We asked Greg from the team at Cornwall Astronomy Society for his recommendation, he tells us: “As Bodmin Moor has been granted official dark sky landscape status, Colliford Lake is a popular spot!”
South West coast path
The South West Coast Path is spectacular by day, with its sea views, wildlife and flowers. However, it can be even more magical at night. If you decide to go stargazing along the coast path, familiarise yourself with the path in the daylight and make sure you’ve packed a torch and appropriate footwear.
Someone who is an expert when it comes to stargazing in Cornwall is Brian Sheen from Roseland Observatory. We asked Brian to reveal his recommendations, he tells us: “I always enjoy being as far away from what we call civilisation as possible and Cornwall provides many such opportunities. These are being recognised by proposed Dark Sky areas around Lands’ End, The Lizard, and the Isles of Scilly. Dark skies can also be found close to Looe. If you are a competent walker then the South West Coast Path between Looe and Polperro is great as it looks south over the English Channel and Looe Island.”
The Lizard Point
It’s no surprise that the most southerly point of the UK is one of the top places to see the stars. You can drive to Kynance Cove, one of Cornwall’s most loved beaches because of the crystal clear waters, and park in the National Trust’s car park before you venture outside to look at the sky.
We spoke to Dan from Dark Sky Discovery, a network of national and local astronomy and environmental organisations, who says: “One of the great things about a coastal county for stargazing is the unobstructed view! Here Cornwall has the advantage as many sites look out over the sea where there is no lighting. My partner is from the city and had never even seen a meteor until she came here, now she has seen the Milky Way, other galaxies, planets, comets and more.”
Brian from Roseland Observatory adds: “One point often overlooked is that Cornwall and The Lizard are the furthest south places on mainland UK. This, in turn, means you get to see more stars than the rest of the UK. Keep an eye out for the International Space Station as it blazes across the sky – do not forget there are people on it all the time!”
A popular spot for stargazing is St Agnes, which is another Dark Sky Discovery Site overlooking the sea. At St Agnes, you’ll be spoilt for choice for where you can settle down to watch the stars, with small carparks high up on the cliff that gives an incredible view over the coast or you can even head down to the shore and watch the stars on the beach.
What to bring along
If you’re thinking of going stargazing in Cornwall, there are some things that you may want to consider packing, we’ve listed some of the best items below.
Wear the right clothing
Even on warmer days, nights by the coast can get cold. If you’re heading out to watch the stars make sure you wrap up warm with extra layers and a thick coat. It’s also a good idea, especially if you’re walking along any fields, to wear proper hiking boots for added grip. If you and your group are thinking of staying outside for long, pack a picnic blanket to sit on and some thick blankets to keep you warm.
Bring a torch
Try not to rely on your phone’s torch for your trip, as this could easily run out of battery. Instead, pack a battery-powered torch to help you wander paths in the dark safely. Dan from Dark Sky Discovery adds: “A special tip is that if you take a torch, make it a red one, like a rear bike light. White lights affect your eyes so that you cannot see so many stars.”
Pack a camera
If you’re on holiday in Cornwall and you live in a busy city, you may want something to help you remember the clear skies, so it’s worth packing a camera. Not only will this be great for capturing the memories, but cameras are also a great tool for seeing stars more clearly.
Greg from Cornwall Astronomy Society continues: “For astrophotography, a dark site is very important for long exposure photography without light pollution. Where I am the skies look dark and you can see the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye, but a long exposure will reveal an orange-tinted sky due to distant streetlights.”
Download a night sky app
Before you embark on your stargazing adventure, it’s a great idea to brush up on some astronomy, or you could download an app that’ll help you spot everything from planets to shooting stars. This is recommended by Rachel from The Little Pip who says: “I have an app called Night Sky which we use to help identify what we are looking at and I use my seasonal almanack to determine the best days to see things.”
Pack a telescope or binoculars
If you want to take your stargazing to the next level, then pack a pair of binoculars or a telescope so that you can see happenings in the night sky more clearly. Greg from Cornwall Astronomy Society says: “Practice setting up your scope in the daylight, it needs to be familiar when it is pitch dark and you are doing everything under red light.
“When you look, take your time, your brain is a fantastic image processor and it can take a bit of practice to get used to. Practice ‘averted vision’, the centre of your vision is less sensitive to light than it is movement, looking slightly away from your target makes it brighter and clearer, but it takes a little getting used to.”
Brian from Roseland Observatory summarises the essential items to pack for stargazing: “Take a drink, coffee or water, a snack – Cornish Pasty and chocolate. A fully charged mobile phone, a good torch, Satnav and a planisphere. Resist the urge to use your phone for everything, the battery will be flat when most needed. Check you still have your First Aid Kit in the car. Good binoculars plus a tripod will increase your enjoyment especially for seeing the planets and the Moon.”
Stargazing is the perfect activity to enjoy in autumn and winter, so be sure to book a holiday in Cornwall and visit some of these best spots to watch the stars.