Check out our guide to the best places to see the night sky
Did you know that Northern Ireland offers some of the darkest night skies in all of Europe?
This means that we are more than likely to see activity in the night sky. Whether you’re a budding astronomer or new to all of this, we’ve put together a helpful guide to stargazing in NI.
From the Wild Atlantic Way to forgotten forests and mysterious islands, there are a plethora of stargazing spots across Northern Ireland that will grab your attention.
Top tips for stargazing:
- Try to find the darkest place, get away from street lights or moonlight
- It takes up to 20 minutes for your eyes to get used to the dark, so be patient
- Look up and lie down, you will have a clearer view
- You don’t always need a telescope or binoculars, your eyes are just as good
- If you are using binoculars, wait about 15 minutes. It gives them time to cool off outside
- Almost all the stars look white, but in fact they are of many colors. If you use blurry binoculars, you will be able to see the colors. Colors can tell us how hot the surface is. Red is cooler and blue is the hottest
- A cloudless sky is of the utmost importance to enjoy astronomy
Here is our pick of the 10 best places for stargazing in NI.
Darvagh Forest, Cookstown
Davagh Forest Park is the first place in Northern Ireland to be accredited as an IDA International Dark Sky Park. It is one of the 85 places in the world to hold this distinction.
The forest, in the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains outside of Cookstown, is renowned for its lack of light pollution, which means the night sky is darkest and at its best for really seeing the stars.
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge site is ranked as one of the best places in Northern Ireland for stargazing. Periodically, Carrick-a-Rede hosts special stargazing evenings for fans of astronomy.
The entire Antrim Coastal Route offers points where the dawn sometimes makes a striking spectacle at night.
Morne Mountains, Newcastle
There is no need to worry about finding a decent place for your car or wrestling with the crowd to see the stars. Les Mournes offers miles and miles of breathtaking landscapes, hiking trails and night skies.
It really is the perfect place, free from all light pollution, so pitch a tent and fall asleep looking at the twinkling sky above.
Oxford Island, Craigavon
Nestled on the shores of Lough Neagh is Oxford Island! Fun fact: the area has hosted BBC Stargazing Live and has been named one of the best dark sky sightseeing spots.
This is one of the lookout points in the country that displays views of the Milky Way that stretch all the way to the Andromeda galaxy.
Delamont Country Park, Downpatrick
Another quiet spot, this time located on the shores of Strangford Lough.
This beautiful 200-acre park here hosts monthly events with the Irish Astro Association. These sessions are for everyone, regardless of experience, and all ages are welcome.
Divis Mountain, Belfast
The closest stargazing point to Belfast has to be Divis Mountain, which towers over the city at 478m high. The views over the capital are spectacular but cast your eyes to the sky and you will still have a lot to see.
The elevation is so high here, towards the top of the mountain sees very little light pollution from the city below.
Benone Beach, Limavady
Stretching from Lough Foyle and Magilligan Point to Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne, enjoy seven miles of golden sands and breathtaking views of Donegal. There is something so special about watching the night sky with the sound of the waves in the distance.
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