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The best spots for stargazing in Dorset

PUBLISHED: 17:14 04 February 2019

Starry Dorset, Photo credit: Matt Gibson

Starry Dorset, Photo credit: Matt Gibson

Archant

In Dorset, city lights are few and far between. Get your binoculars and telescopes ready, we pick some of the best places for spotting stars and the solar system in Dorset

Durlston Country Park

Situated in the south-east corner of the Isle of Purbeck, Durlston’s dark skies make it an ideal place to see stars and planets and the in-house Astronomy Centre has a 14” Meade telescope. There are plenty of stargazing events running throughout the year so check the events guide online for full listings.

Good to know: The only charge made for visiting Durlston is for parking.

Badbury Rings

Badbury Rings is an Iron Age hill fort that sits 327 feet above sea level - so you’re in a great position to connect with the skies above. Look up on a clear night and you’ll have a fantastic uninterrupted view of star clusters and our solar system.

Good to know: The grounds are owned by the National Trust and there is a car park.

Upton Heath

Get yourself stargazing ready when taking a night time trip to Upton Heath. Whilst in a urban setting, it’s a peaceful and undistributed setting to look out for nocturnal wildlife. During the day, you can see views of Poole Harbour, Corfe Castle and Purbeck.

Good to know: There is a car park on Springdale Road.

Fontmell Down

This reserve near Fontmell Magna in north Dorset has stunning views over the Blackmore Vale which inspired the landscape in which Thomas Hardy’s novels were set. Standing at the top of the reserve will reveal lots of open space for stargazing. In June and July you might even spot glow-worms!

Good to know: The grounds are owned by the National Trust and there is a nearby car park and cafe at Compton Abbas Airfield.

Knowlton

Where better to gaze at the galaxy than amidst the 12th century ruins of magical Church Henge. Keep an eye out for the ghost of a phantom horse and rider said to haunt the pre-historic earthworks surrounding the church.

Good to know: The grounds are owned by English Heritage and there is a small car park nearby.

Kingcombe Meadows and Powerstock Common

Set in the hills and vales of west Dorset, night is at its darkest in Kingcombe Meadows thanks to the lack of light pollution. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some bats flying around!

Good to know: The main car park is at Kingcombe Centre and entry is free.

Safety: Take care when walking at these nature reserves in the dark – take a torch and wear appropriate footwear as there may be uneven ground. Ideally go with others or let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Did you know…

Dorset CPRE is inviting everyone to take part in Star Count 2019 to help map our magical dark skies?

Star Count 2019, organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) gives people the opportunity to become ‘citizen scientists’ by taking part in a cosmic census that will help to map our dark skies.

The nationwide Star Count, will be running for the first three weeks of February. Stargazers, whether in town or countryside, will be asked to count the number of stars they can see (with the naked eye) within the constellation of Orion, which is only visible in the winter months.

Dark night skies are a special quality of the Dorset AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and contribute to the areas sense of tranquillity and remoteness. A combination of clear night skies and low levels of light pollution make Dorset one of the best places in the country for stargazing.

Through the Star Count, CPRE will be able to provide more detailed and up-to-date information on the impact that light pollution is having on people’s experience of dark skies. Using this information CPRE will work with local and national Government to ensure that appropriate lighting is used only where it’s needed – helping to reduce carbon emissions, save money, and protect and enhance our dark skies.

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