Did you know that the Exmoor National Park was Europe’s first dedicated Dark Sky Reserve? The entire national park has some of the lowest amounts of light pollution in the UK and as such, on a clear night, you’ll be amazed at the views above you, you might even be able to see the Milky Way with the naked eye!
In October, between 14th and 30th, Exmoor is one of several dark sky reserves taking part in the National Parks Dark Skies Festival, these festivals are all about encouraging an interest in the skies, enjoying the views and finding out more about the stars that can be seen. Throughout the festival on Exmoor, you can join in with a range of activities, suitable for all ages including guided walks, talks with astronomers and even a roast dinner followed by sight seeing.
You can find out more about the dark skies festival here. If you can’t attend any of the events but want to experience the beauty of Exmoor’s dark skies, here are some of the best spots for stargazing.
There is a lovely circular walk around this area and it is part of the South West Coast Path walk from Hunter’s Inn to Combe Martin. Not only is this a great spot for stargazing but it is also a favourite haunt of UFO hunter and you have a lovely view of Exmoor’s tallest sea cliff.
Not from from Holdstone Hill is County Gate. There is a car park nearby and it can be easily accessed from the Coleridge Way, which was established in 2005 and links several sites that are associated with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of many romantic poets who found inspiration in Exmoor.
Brendon Two Gates
Located at the Somerset end of Exmoor, this is an officially recognised Dark Skies Discovery Site and has open moorland for as far as the eye can see. Nearby are also a set of standing stones which provide a lovely backdrop to those incredible skies if you have enough patience with your camera!
Managed by the National Trust and with views across Horner Wood this area stretches up to Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor’s highest point. The land is part of the Holnicote Estate, which was owned by the same family as the Killerton Estate near Exeter, all in all there are several villages, 14 farms and 168 homes on the estate! Make sure you don’t get lost if you plan to do some stargazing here!
This one is also on the Somerset side and features several delightful walks including a circular route from the car park above Tarr Steps. If you’re setting up during the early evening, you might be lucky enough to spot some of the red deer that call this part of the moor home.
One of the higher points on Exmoor, from here the dark skies can feel all the closer. It is a great place to see the Exmoor Ponies and provides some lovely views across Wombleball Reservoir.
Managed by the South West Lakes Trust, Wimbleball Lake is another designated Dark Sky Discovery site. During the day there are a host of activities taking place here as well as the opportunities to camp and enjoy trout fishing. It is also one of the more accessible areas of Exmoor as there is an all-terrain mobility vehicle available to hire.
Have you taken any photos of the dark skies while visiting Exmoor? We’d love to see your pictures, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram, you can find us here.