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Home | Things to do | The best Stargazing spots in North Devon

Stargazing Tips in North Devon

There is nothing like gazing upward into a blackened sky abundant with shimmering stars and planets to allow us to recognize our place within the universe.

But with an ever-expanding population, our dark spaces are diminishing. Thankfully a few of these wonderous locations have now been protected from development under schemes such as the International Dark Sky Association which includes North Devon’s Exmoor National Park.

North Devon has long been one of the most notable star gazing destinations in the UK when our open skies change from blue ocean mirrors to a breathtaking map of stars.

Stargazing is a great activity to enjoy with friends, romantic partners, and family, it can be awe-inspiring for children to learn about and interact with our night sky!

If you are keen to explore a nocturnal adventure in North Devon then follow our guide on the best locations, our star gazing tips, local North Devon events and nocturnal animal guide so you can get the most out of your stargazing experience!

Best Stargazing Locations in North Devon

Exmoor – In the Autumn of 2011, Exmoor was designated as Europe’s first International Dark Skies Reserve. With low levels of light pollution, cloudless nights and elevated positions, Exmoor certainly provides the perfect location for star gazing.

You can stargaze at any time of year if the night is clear enough. The different seasons provide different perks with Summer bringing warmer nighttime temperatures with less chance of cloud cover and the winter months providing longer clear nights due to the atmosphere of the earth.

You can pick up a Exmoor Dark Skies Pocket guide at many of the National Park Centres or you can download the guide here.

Some of our favourite night gazing spots on and around Exmoor are listed below.

Local Star Gazing Events

Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival 2023 13th to the 24th October

There will be a host of events for families, amateur astronomers and everyone who feels inspired by the outdoors and the night. Events are spread all over the National Park and are run by the Exmoor National Park Authority and many other businesses and organisations. Please book, enquire and check Ts & Cs with the relevant event organiser.

For a full list of events over this period check here.

Star Gazing Tips

It doesn’t take a wealth of expertise to enjoy nighttime stargaze. Choose a dark clear night, head to your chosen spot, and look up to the sky!

You don’t always need to have all the gear, to begin the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars should suffice. If you begin a stargazing hobbies then you may want to invest in a telescope or you can hire one from many National Park Centres including Lynmouth, Dunster and Dulverton.

Why are dark skies so important?

Humans have evolved to the circadian rhythms of day and night however our modern society has led to an increased need to combat dark with artificial lights, including increased use of light assisted screens.

This in turn has a negative effect on our health, keeping us awake for longer than our bodies require and often leading to a cycle of artificial sleep aid reliance.

Darkness enables our pineal gland to release Melatonin, which is well known as the sleep hormone, melatonin also boosts our immune system and lowers cholesterol.

Top Stargazing Tips

Here are a few tips that will improve your night gazing activities that you may not have considered.

  • Ensure you choose the optimum time to go stargazing, this will be best in the days around a Full Moon. Although a full moon alone is very beautiful, the light of the moon can be very bright and you will often only see a few of the brightest stars or planets in the night sky.
  • Take your time – it can take up to 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark and allow you to see as many stars as possible. Be patient and enjoy the calm of the night whilst looking into the universe.
  • Prepare for the cold – no matter the time of year, nighttime can bring on cooler temperatures as well as create a damper atmosphere. Ensure you have lots of layers to keep you warm, bring a flask of something warm (we go for hot chocolate to provide extra energy) and why not bring a cosy blanket to enjoy feeling snuggled under earth’s sky.
  • Be comfortable – you may not consider that staring up at the sky can be uncomfortable after a while. Why not take a camping chair or even a weatherproof blanket with you to lie down and relax whilst taking it all in?
  • Stargazing apps -there are a host of interactive stargazing apps that can bring your stargazing activity to life and provide great knowledge about different star constellations and how to view them.
  • Turn off the lights – Remember to enhance your visibility your need to reduce all light pollution, this includes turning off any torches/headlights and turning down the brightness on smartphones – this will also help your eye adjust to the dark star. Why not turn your phones on silent too so you can disconnect and immerse yourself in the experience.
  • If you are taking children with you, why not check out websites such as CBeebies Stargazing page which explores the wonders of the night sky using games, stories and videos featuring some favourite CBeebies characters.

Nocturnal Animals

Many nocturnal animal species use light from the moon and stars to migrate at night in search of food, shelter or mates. 

Electric lighting is transforming not only human but animal health with approximately 80% of the global population now living in places where night skies are polluted with artificial light. A third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way — the galaxy our solar system belongs to.

Studies have shown that nocturnal animals modify their behaviour even with slight changes in nighttime light levels. Light can also change how species interact with each other. Insects such as moths are more vulnerable to being eaten by bats when light reduces how effective they are at evading predators.

All of this information tells us why it is so important to maintain our protected Dark Skies.

If you are Heading out on a nighttime stargazing walk why not see what nocturnal species you can spot?

If you are taking younger stargazers with you, enjoy learning about night-time forest animals with these activity sheets by Foresty England Twilight activity sheet at home,  Twilight activity sheet in the forest –

Common UK nocturnal animals

Owls –  Owls are notorious for being a nocturnal bird of prey, most are active at dawn and dusk.

                Common Owls across North Devon are the Tawny Owl often found in woodland habitats, famous for its ‘twit’ ‘Twoo’ call, but did you know that the female calls ‘Twit’ and the male calls ‘Twoo’? In June and July they are generally very quiet but they begin calling again from August.

Barn Owls can commonly be found on farmland or areas with flat stretches of habitat which help them search for their prey. See if you can spot their ghostlike silhouette against the night sky!

Moths –  Did you know that flowers pollinated by bees and butterflies release their scents during the day while those pollinated by moths and bats release their scents at night? You can shine a torch on a plant at night to attract moths into the light. Find plant filled areas with lots of variety and look out for moths.

There are around 2,400 species of moths in the UK, how many can you spot? Use this website to identify any you find!

Bats – Staring up into the night sky, you may be lucky enough to see the dance of a small black bird-shaped mammal, the only mammal capable of flight!

Pipistrelles are the UKs most common bat. They are very small and reddish-brown in colour. They emerge for only a couple of hours a night to feed on insects before returning to their roosts often found among trees and buildings rafters.

Bats use sonar to detect their prey which means although they can fly close, they are very unlikely to fly into you.

Hedgehogs – If you are lucky and very quiet you may spot a hedgehog foraging within the undergrowth. Although Hedgehogs numbers have dwindled significantly over the past few decades, they are generally widespread throughout the UK.

Hedgehogs have poor eyesight which as led to them developing good hearing and a great sense of smell which is perfect for night time activities.

If you would like to help Hedgehogs why not consider Build a hedgehog house  at home? Another great activity to get children interested in nocturnal wildlife.

Are you set for your North Devon stargazing adventure? Byron Woolacombe Holidays offers the perfect location to explore the night’s sky. Set by the award winning Woolacombe bay, enjoy watching the moon and stars reflect on the ocean’s calm waters. With some of North Devon’s top stargazing destinations all within 30 minutes’ drive Byron offers the perfect location for family friendly stargazing holidays!


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