Ask someone to describe the Manchester sky, and they’ll no doubt mostly mention the familiar grey duvet which covers the city for around 50 weeks of the year.

Needless to say, you would be unlikely to hear awestruck stories of endless constellations glittering above the Mancunian streets. However, believe it or not, there are places within an hour’s drive—or even a half-hour tram ride—where you’ll find exactly that. 

Thanks to Essential Living’s breakdown of Britain’s best night skies, here are the best dark sky spots to stargaze around Greater Manchester:

The Peak District

Better known among Mancunians for half-term traipsing through Castleton, scaling Mam Tor on a detox weekend and some of Britain’s most majestic scenery, the Peak District National Park offers such unpolluted views of the cosmos that you can even see stars reflected in the lakes. With hundreds of Airbnb options and a train station within four miles, this is the perfect place for unspoilt beauty both above and below.

Delamere Forest

Drive an hour from the city centre into the heart of Cheshire, and you’ll find another remote dark sky site ideal for stargazing. Spread between Northwich and Chester, the evergreen expanse of Delamere Forest is perfect for reconnecting with yourself under the crystalline Milky Way.

Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Reserve

Awarded Dark Sky Reserve status in 2020 by the International Dark Sky Association (naturally), this spot in the Yorkshire Dales is well worth the ninety-minute drive. Boasting famously stunning views in the daytime, stargazers here know that the night steals the show: 2,000 stars, the International Space Station and even the Northern Lights are all on offer in the nearby Dales.

Blackstone Edge

On the end of a northerly Metrolink line, Rochdale offers one of the highest vantage points in the region. With sweeping views of a shimmering Manchester city centre underneath an equally lustrous night sky, star-chasing campers can enjoy last orders at the nearby White House pub before sleeping under the visible galaxy.

Buckstones Car Park

You read that right. Surely one of the world’s most Instagrammable car parks, this dark sky spot on the way to Huddersfield is a prime stargazing site with perfect access on the A640 and beautiful views across the Pennines.

Godlee Observatory

The century-long home of the Manchester Astronomical Society is as close to home as it gets. Perched atop the Sackville Street building, the little white dome hosts public events on Thursday evenings with astounding technological insight into outer space and telescopic views of nearby celestial bodies from neighbouring planets to passing comets.

The Lake District

When it comes to dark sky status, a Bortle Class light pollution score of just three out of nine is no mean feat, yet this is the recent designation given to Britain’s most famous national park. Within a two hour drive, you can bathe in unrivalled views around the clock with some of the best night sky clarity around.

Werneth Low

East of the city but offering views as far westward as Liverpool, this Tameside beauty spot is well-known for its panoramic views of Greater Manchester. While not quite a dark sky site, plenty of stars are visible on a clear night, and it is one of the only places you can see them against the gorgeous urban glow.

Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory

Turning 95 this year, the Preston observatory offers an eight-inch refractor that operates as part of the Met Office’s climatological network. Its founder, Jeremiah Horrock, was the first astronomer to observe the planet Venus, and you can do the same—the observatory opens to the public on every third Thursday of the month with opportunities to identify our planetary cousins using their state-of-the-art telescope.

The Astronomy Centre (temporarily closed)

Situated high on the Southern Moors near the Yorkshire/Lancashire border, this observatory is shielded from nearby light pollution by a ring of low hills. Professional and beginner astronomers alike can enjoy unrivalled proximity to the stars with an enormous telescope at an elevation of 1,112 feet.

Fri 18 Mar
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Mon 20 May 2024