Every living thing on Earth must have gazed up at the night sky in quiet wonderment at least once. There are some of us that gather real pleasure from staring into the firmament and speculating on what’s out there beyond our planet’s orbit. For a select few, it can occupy a lifetime. Cornwall is one of the best holiday destinations in the UK for night sky watching whether or not you know your Frying Pan from your Cassiopeia.
In Cornwall’s darkest depths, you can spot a shooting star, view the planets, pinpoint spinning satellites, search for the Black Knight, or simply impress your other half with your constellation knowledge. Light pollution is minimal in the far south west because of Cornwall's wide open spaces. Without the use of a telescope or a visit to the observatory, there are still some excellent sights up in the heavens visible to the naked eye. Try to pick out the Milky Way, best seen during the autumn near the horizon. Keep an eye on the national news because they will often tell of meteor storms: an amazing show as comet debris burns up in the higher atmosphere. Also look out for planets, the Aurora, the Moon, galaxies, nebulae, stars and clusters.
Bodmin Moor is a designated International Dark Sky Landscape and is among the best in the world for the quality of its night skies. Conserving darkness is important because it enables good conditions for astronomy, promotes improved sleeping patterns, helps to reduce stress, enhances the natural environment for nocturnal and diurnal animals, and most obviously saves on our energy wastage. Imagine the night sky as black coffee in your cup. Now pour in some cream – that’s light pollution. The core area of the Dark Sky Landscape matches the extent to which Bodmin Moor is designated as an AONB. There is also a 2-mile buffer zone around this in which good lighting practice is encouraged and where communities are also expected to reap some of the benefits. Bodmin Moor is one of the largest swathes of unspoilt open countryside in the county and is a must-visit, so take your telescope. There are many roads across the Dark Sky Landscape at Bodmin, so stay at one of our holiday homes, head out to the garden in the evening with a flask and blankets and marvel at the endless canopy of sheltering sky.
Caradon Observatory, near Liskeard, offers a programme of outreach events to promote the joy of dark sky reserves and the importance of artificial light reduction. It is characterised by its four domes that house a collection of astronomy instruments including reflecting, refracting and solar telescopes. The observatory website displays a calendar projecting the best nights to go stargazing – these are typically nights when there isn’t a bright moon and those without cloud cover or rain.
The north coast of Cornwall has several Dark Sky Reserves including St Agnes and Chapel Porth, Carnewas, and Bedruthan. St Agnes has several spots which offer optimum conditions; firstly, there are the car parks above Wheal Fortune and Wheal Coates and below the western edge of St Agnes Head. Looking out over the Atlantic past the Cow and Calf Rocks there’s no light pollution whatsoever. To narrow your focus, head down to the beach at Chapel Porth which is a wide, deep gully whose sides block out any light from the village high above. Bedruthan Steps and Carnewas, which is on the coast road north of Watergate Bay and Newquay is another superb spot to enjoy clear night skies. With so few villages along that part of the coast, head to the National Trust car park and follow the path along the cliffs; before long, you’ll only have the stars to guide your way.
In 1999, Cornwall was the best place to see a total solar eclipse of the sun. This was the most recent occasion that this phenomenon was visible from the British Isles. Several festivals took place and colossal numbers of visitors flocked to Cornwall for the natural event. On the morning of 11th August, the eclipse (with a magnitude of 1.029) occurred as the moon passed between the Earth and the Sun. Those that were there may recall that the cloud cover was rather thick, but you could still catch fleeting glimpses of the solar event, and you would have noticed all the birds stop singing in confusion, as everybody fell quiet and still for the few moments it took for the moon to continue its trajectory. The next solar eclipse is on 12th August 2026. Where will you be?
We have some lovely holiday cottages across Cornwall. Many are in secluded, rural locations with large gardens where you could enjoy some serious, uninterrupted star gazing. We also have many properties within driving distance of all the Dark Sky Reserves. Why not visit our collection to get inspiration for your holiday to Cornwall?