Dark Sky Drives – Seeing Stars with the Family

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. North Pennines AONB, Forest of Galloway and ambitions to visit the dark sky park of county Kerry.This is a collaborative post.

Since our children have grown a bit older we are all happier on long car journeys. They can watch films or play Minecraft on the long roadtrips. When the roads get more scenic and winding, they are mature enough to appreciate the views. In recent years we have taken some long roadtrips through France and the American Midwest. We switched to a more fuel-efficient car and having saved such a lot on petrol we are able to travel further afield. We are stretching our imaginations about where we might go.

North Pennines Dark Skies

A short time ago we toured the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This vast and beautiful AONB is directly north of the Yorkshire Dales National park, and it’s about the same size. With no large towns and few settlements, the North Pennines AONB has perhaps the best views of the stars in England. There are 16 official Dark Sky Discovery Sites. Thanks to streetlamps in our towns, we don’t normally get to see the stars like this in their natural display.

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. North Pennines AONB

Forest of Galloway Dark Skies

When the children were younger we visited the Forest of Galloway in southern Scotland to experience that particular dark sky park. There I tried to take a long exposure photograph. Sadly I managed to forget how to set the shutter to “bulb”. I did get some 30 second long exposures but it really needed to be four times that long.

County Kerry Dark Skies

It is better to do this kind of roadtrip with slightly older children. Now Fizz and Belle are in secondary school, they are a perfect age to enjoy a night-time adventure in the dark. I know the Milky Way and millions of other stars are out there. We want to see them burning bright in a really black sky, just like our ancestors would have done. To do this we can plan a roadtrip to Kerry in the republic of Ireland where the skies are even darker. The International Dark Sky Reserve in Kerry is one of only three Gold Tier reserves on our entire planet, and the only one in Europe. This is the pinnacle of roadtrips for anyone keen on seeing stars. With a reputation for outstanding beauty in daylight, a trip to Kerry is appealing anyway.

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. Long exposure shot of stars in the Forest of Galloway, Scotland.

Tips for a dark sky family roadtrip

1. Check the phases of the moon on a calendar. Time your trip for when the moon is dark or new because moonlight will obscure a lot of stars.

2. Help your children to download an app onto a phone or tablet beforehand to identify the constellations. Or you could take a guide book.

3. Dark sky viewing areas are a long way off the main routes so be sure you have enough fuel. As with any roadtrip, make sure your car is properly insured – Chill Insurance are one company which has produced good information on cultural drives.

4. If you want to take photos make sure you practice beforehand and know how to put your tripod up in the dark. Set your camera to manual focus on infinity. Use a remote trigger or delay timer so that there is less camera shake.

5. Once parked, turn off your headlights. Don’t wave torches if there are other people there trying to enjoy the dark or take photos. Do put your parking money in the honesty box as the dark sky parks are all run on a charitable basis.

On our American roadtrip this year we saw another heavenly phenomenon – the total eclipse of the sun. Click the image below to read about it.

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. Solar eclipse - read more about our family's fascination with space.

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10 Comments

  1. 3rd December 2017 / 9:25 am

    This sounds like such a lovely thing to do as a family! I saw the Milky Way for the first time ever earlier this year in the Atacama Desert. The star gazing there was incredible! #farawayfiles

    • 3rd December 2017 / 9:26 am

      A memorable experience and worth travelling for! Thanks.

  2. 2nd December 2017 / 3:51 pm

    Love this! It was a dream of mine to see the Milky Way and it was finally realized this past summer in Bryce Canyon National Park. It was a very magical experience and my boys loved it as well. I was in Ireland the summer before last and had no idea I missed out on another opportunity to visit a Dark Sky park. I guess I’ll just have to find my way back… Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

  3. 2nd December 2017 / 9:36 am

    This sounds brilliant! One of my fav experiences with my older son was making a trip to the toilet block on a campsite in the middle of the night..! It was silent and dark and the sky was incredible, he’d never seen anything like it. Looking forward to slightly more comfortable dark sky viewing opportunities with him in the future!

    • 2nd December 2017 / 11:07 am

      Funny how that happened! A very atmospheric experience to see.

  4. 1st December 2017 / 12:56 pm

    Great photos. We recently spent a night in the desert in Jordan and saw the most wonderful stars #FarawayFiles

  5. 1st December 2017 / 2:19 am

    I once lived on Norfolk Island. It is literally in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean. Being a tiny speck of an island with less than 2,000 inhabitants we had the entire universe/galaxy whatever lit up in our back garden every night. I never got tired of looking at it. We lived a few kilometres outside the main town.
    For seeing lots and lots and lots of stars you don’t need to go quite that far. There are loads of places in Australia which are sufficiently off the beaten track to make the nigh sky fabulous.

    • 1st December 2017 / 7:45 am

      That sounds amazing, I would love to visit there. Co. Kerry is the only dark sky park of Gold standard in the whole northern hemisphere.

  6. 30th November 2017 / 8:52 pm

    Great photos and what a wonderful way to make the most of a family road trip. It would be so cool to combine a trip with a comet passing too. I really missed gazing at the Milky Way while we lived in London. The Southern Cross is an important part of the Australian psyche (it’s even on our flag) and as kids we learn a lot about the constellations. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • 30th November 2017 / 9:04 pm

      Thank you! Seeing a comet would be fantastic. I saw the southern cross in Africa once, it’s so distinctive.

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