Travel writer Ianthe Butt explores all things celestial in her guide to the best stargazing spots in Europe
There’s something endlessly fascinating about cosying up under an inky night sky. Thousands (make that trillions) of stars, faraway galaxies and maybe even a glimpse of the Northern Lights if you’re lucky – these European stays pack twinkle aplenty…
The rustic luxe shepherd’s hut: Wagtail, Northumberland
All rural romance, two joined shepherd’s huts create this one-bedroom wagon abode inside Low Tipalt Farm in the heart of Northumberland National Park’s Dark Sky area. Cream walls and curved natural-edged wooden countertops create heaps of woodland elegance. Best of all? A freestanding copper tub sits underneath a glass ceiling for starbathing. Plus, outside there’s a lavender-filled outdoor area with chiminea BBQ, and a fairylight filled barn to relax in. Don’t fancy cooking? Book in for stargazing and supper at The Twice Brewed Inn nearby. Here astrologers lead illuminating presentations, and reveal the likes of the sweeping arc of the Milky Way at the on-site observatory – and there’s great pub grub afterwards. From £300/2 nights, sleeps 2. Book via Crabtree and Crabtree.
The back to nature cabin: Beekeeper’s Bothy, Aberdeenshire
Bring your own binoculars for a stay at this stunning Siberian larch cabin in Newburgh (twenty minutes from Aberdeen). One of three contemporary bothies run by local sheep farmers Tanya and Gail Davidson, it’s been kitted out with a tangerine sofa, bee-adorned cushions and a floor-to-ceiling window which frames views of the grassy hills and sand dunes. Pick up sourdough toasties and chunky white chocolate cookies from nearby Trellis Cafe, before settling in under star-sprinkled skies. Come bedtime, climb a ladder to the cosy ceiling bed, before waking early for a sunrise stroll on Newburgh Beach – home to adorable seals and eider ducks. From £100/night, sleeps 2. Book via Tahuna Bothies.
The soulful farmstead: São Lourenço do Barrocal, Portugal
The Alentejo – just two hours from Lisbon – has some of Portugal’s prettiest scenery, and is home to the world’s first designated Starlight Tourism Destination; Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve. Here, glittering constellations are strewn across some of the planet’s darkest and clearest skies, and São Lourenço do Barrocal, a beautifully-restored terracotta-roofed farmstead with forty rooms and cottages, sits inside the reserve. Nailing go-slow bucolic bedrooms, licked in shades of sage and buttermilk and hung with botanical drawings, are ringed by olive plantations and gnarled cork trees. While it’s worth visiting the nearby Dark Sky Alqueva, their astronomers – armed with telescopes, cosy blankets, hot drinks, and heaps of celestial knowledge – also lead stargazing sessions on-site in São Lourenço’s old apiary. From €580/night, sleeps 2. Book via Barrocal.
The Canarian charmer: Hotel San Roque Tenerife
Also packing celestial clout is Starlight Tourism spot, Tenerife’s Teide National Park – a rugged volcanic landscape, with clear night skies where you’ll spot Saturn’s rings, and as many as 83 of 88 officially recognised star constellations. Join one of Mount Teide’s guided Sunset and Stars excursions to whizz by cable car to catch the streaky glow of sunset at Pico Viejo viewpoint, before an astronomer-led stargazing session. The experts use state-of-the-art telescopes to view the stars, and share the Greek myths they’re named after. For stylish digs, it’s worth travelling a little way north to Hotel San Roque in Garachico, a vermillion-coloured 18th century manor house with cloistered walkways, a courtyard pool, and bedrooms with Bauhaus touches. From €460/2 nights B&B. Book via Hotel San Roque.
The eco glampsite: One Cat Farm, Wales
Tucked in a valley not far from Aberaeron and inside a Dark Sky discovery site, pick from four dens topped with grassy roofs at escape-from-it-all One Cat Farm. Sprinkled by a wild swimming pond and wildflower meadows, look out for shooting stars sat by the flickering campfire, or whilst soaking in a wood-fired outdoor bath. Winter’s also the best time of year to spot the enthralling oval swirl of the Andromeda galaxy. Dens, all powered by renewable energy, have a minimal impact ethos as well as goose down pillows, stargazing maps, outdoor hammocks and a BBQ kit. For a more refined supper, head to the fine dining restaurant at Aberaeron’s Y Seler hotel for delicious red pepper veloute, truffle parmesan fries and deconstructed bakewell tart. From €85/night. Book via Canopy & Stars.