Lyrid meteor shower: 10 UK spots for a stunning view

The best places to see the Lyrid meteor shower this weekend

Be sure look up in the evening this weekend, because the Lyrid meteor shower means you could see up to 15 shooting stars an hour.

The celestial display, which happens every April, is expected to peak in the early hours of Sunday morning. If we get clear skies, it will be visible throughout the whole of the UK. (Admittedly, the forecast doesn’t currently look great – but we live in hope!)

We’ve pulled together everything you need to know about how to watch the meteor shower and 10 of the best places in the UK to see it’s shooting stars.

A meteor shower over the coastlineCredit: Shutterstock / Jasmine K

Dr Greg Brown, Planetarium Astronomer from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, tells Exceptional what to expect.

“The meteor shower will peak in the early hours of Sunday morning,” he says. “It’s a modest event compared to some other showers of the year, but it’s definitely worth looking out for.

“A meteor shower is caused by specks of space debris falling into the Earth’s atmosphere. These burn up, causing meteors, or shooting stars, to be visible.

“There’s no need for a telescope here – just head outside, ideally after midnight, though any time after sunset will work. If you are very lucky, you might see up to 15 meteors per hour.”

10 best places to see the Lyrid meteor shower

We’ve picked out 10 of the best places in the UK which are perfect for stargazing and spotting the meteor shower.

1. Exmoor

The national park on the north Devon moors became one of Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserves in 2011. It remains one of the best areas in England for stargazing – on the clearest nights a human eye can detect about 3,000 stars.

By day it’s great for walks across open moorland, nature reserves, wild valleys and rugged coastal paths.

At night, the national park has stargazing events, or you can head out to some of the top spots for seeing stars and meteor showers, including Brendon Two Gates, Webbers Post, Anstey Gate, Haddon Hill, Wimbleball Lake and County Gate.

A starry sky above Exmoor National ParkCredit: Shutterstock / Arthur Cauty
The stars above Exmoor can be breathtaking

2. Kielder Water and Forest Park

Deep in the Northumberland National Park, this 580sq mile (150,000 hectare) area has been awarded gold status by the International Dark Sky Committee. On a clear night you’ll be able to see the Milky Way, meteors and even the Andromeda galaxy, which is 2.5 million light years away.

You can see those with the naked eye, and you can also visit Kielder Observatory year-round to get an even better view. The national park also arranges regular stargazing evenings where you can talk to experienced astronomers.

Kielder observatory with a star-filled sky at nightCredit: Kielder Observatory
Kielder Observatory boasts some of the best stargazing in the UK

3. The South Downs

It might be just 90 minutes from London, but the South Downs National Park doesn’t just boast great daytime walks across rolling hills and coastal walks, but it’s also great for stargazing.

The park became an International Dark Skies Reserve in 2016 and you could get some great views of the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy.

Great stargazing spots include Devil’s Dyke, Old Winchester Hill, Iping Common, Butser Hill, Birling Gap and Ditchling Beacon. When the weather isn’t great you can visit the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium.

A starry sky over the Seven Sisters cliffs in the UKCredit: Shutterstock / Matt Gibson
You can see the Milky Way on clear nights over the Seven Sisters

What is the Lyrid meteor shower?

According to NASA, the Lyrid meteor shower is one of the oldest known meteor showers and has been observed for 2,700 years – the first recorded sighting was in 687BC by the Chinese.

The Lyrid shower takes its name from the constellation of Lyra, but the meteors are actually pieces of debris falling from the Thatcher Comet which is millions of miles away from us. The meteors are only the size of pebbles, but can reach speeds of 110,000 miles per hour.

4. The North York Moors

With low levels of pollution, the North York Moors is another great option for stargazing.

This national park became a Dark Sky Reserve in December 2020 and there are three dark sky discovery sites where the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye and up to 2,000 stars can be seen – the two national park centres at Danby Lodge and Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.

Other great sites for stargazing are Rievaulx Terrace, Old Saltburn, Boulby Cliff, Kettleness and Ravenscar. The village of Hawnby has recently swapped 100 normal streetlights for special dark-skies-friendly lights to help cut light pollution.

A starry sky above a memorial stoneCredit: Shutterstock / amsleepy
A starry sky above the moors at Rosedale, North York Moors

5. Yorkshire Dales National Park

Another great Yorkshire destination, known for its walking, and the park achieved International Dark Sky Reserve Status in 2020. On a clear night you could see as many as 2,000 stars. In most places it is possible to see the Milky Way as well as the planets and meteors.

There are four Dark Sky Discovery Sites at Tan Hill Inn, Buckden National Park car park and Hawes and Malham National Park Centres.

A starry sky behind a hillsideCredit: Shutterstock / Matt Gibson
If you are lucky you may be able to see the Milky Way – seen here at Norber Ridge

6. Galloway Forest

Just a couple of hours from Glasgow, the Galloway Forest boasts skies so dark that it became the UK’s first Dark Sky Park in 2009 and is one of Scotland’s top astronomy destinations. It is Britain’s biggest forest park. By day you can walk or cycle the trails through 300 square miles of woods, lakes and hills, and at night, more than 7,000 stars and planets can be visible with the naked eye.

The lowest levels of light pollution are at The Queen’s Way.

There are also regular events at the Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre, the Clatteringshaws and Kirroughtree visitor centres.

7. The Brecon Beacons

This national park in south Wales (which has just changed its name) became the fifth destination in the world to get dark skies status in 2012.

It’s a popular area for walking and is home to Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in the south of the UK.

At night the skies can light up with stars, constellations and meteor showers.

The best spots include the Usk Reservoir, the haunting ruins of Llanthony Priory and the park’s visitor centre. There are also stargazing events throughout the year.

Starry skies over a ruined abbeyCredit: Shutterstock / Arthur Cauty
The ruin of Llanthony Priory is an atmospheric spot for stargazing

8. OM Dark Sky Park, Co Tyrone

Head deep into Davagh Forest, near Cookstown, for your chance to pair astronomy with archaeology. This sky park in Omagh is home to the Beaghmore neolithic stone circles, thought to have been constructed as markers of lunar, solar and stellar events. By day you can explore the hills and forests on a network of walking and mountain biking trails that cater for all abilities.

There are stargazing events throughout the year.

Om Dark Sky Park observatory exteriorCredit: Hannah McShane
Om Dark Sky Park and Observatory, in Northern Ireland

9. Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli)

This island, off the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales, has just become the first site in Europe to be awarded International Dark Sky Sanctuary certification. This is the rarest category of all (with just 16 sites world-wide) and is recognition that the island is one of the darkest places in the world.

Visitors are allowed onto Bardsey Island between March and October, so it will take a bit of pre-planning to visit.

10. The Isle of Coll

A small Hebridean island off the Isle of Mull, the Isle of Coll was the first Dark Sky Island in Scotland and one of only two in the UK (the Sark in the Channel Islands is the other). The 200-strong community worked hard to get their designation and there are no streets lights on the island.

Star gazing is great anywhere here, but the Cliad football pitch, Arinagour and RSPB Totronold are the dark sky discovery sites.

By day the island has gorgeous beaches and wildlife (including whales, sharks and some of Britain’s rarest birds) to keep you busy.

What else to look for in the spring night sky

Whilst you’re watching the Lyrid meteor shower, here are Dr Brown’s tips on what else you can see in the evening sky during spring:

  • The moon – The moon is a fascinating object to observe on any night where it is visible. If you have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, try pointing them at the line between the light and dark sides of the moon, known as the terminator, where the long shadows of lunar sunrise or sunset will reveal the presence of the hills, mountains and craters that cover its surface.
  • The planets – Mars will still be high in the sky through much of the evening in spring, easily visible as an orange-red point of light even to the unaided eyes. Venus and Mercury too will be around for part of this season, though lower towards the horizon at sunset and setting fast.
  • Leo the Lion constellation – This is one of the easier constellations to find in the spring sky and comes with an array of objects to look out for. Algieba, also known as Gamma Leonis, the third brightest star in Leo, is in fact a pair of stars, known as a binary, that orbit each other every few hundred years – with a telescope you can see that one star is a red-orange colour and the other is more yellow – an indication that the latter is hotter than the former.
  • Ursa Major, the Great Bear – Another easy-to-spot constellation. Try looking for Bode’s Galaxy and its nearby companion, the Cigar Galaxy. These are entire cities of stars, billions strong, at huge distances from our own Milky Way galaxy. A fair bit fainter than the human eye can see, they become faintly visible with a small telescope and are excellent targets for those interested in adding astrophotography to their list of hobbies.

Top stargazing tips

Dr Greg Brown, Planetarium Astronomer from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, has this advice for anyone getting out stargazing for the first time.

He says: “The warmer weather of spring and summer can certainly make stargazing more pleasant, but even the most experienced astronomer can be caught out by the cold temperatures late at night, so be prepared.

“Pick a night with clear skies and try and find what’s available in the sky. Apps on your phone such as Stellarium can be great for planning stargazing sessions and even for finding the objects themselves when you are outside.”

You don’t need a telescope, even a pair of good 10 x 50 binoculars will let you see the moons of Jupiter and the Andromeda galaxy.

April is also your last chance for really good stargazing until the autumn.

Dan Pye, Director of Astronomy and Science Communication at Kielder Observatory, says: “This is the last opportunity we have for activity before summer, so it’s an ideal time for people to pop along to their local observatory and get some stargazing in! As soon as May comes, it’s too light during the night to do any dark night stargazing and it remains so until the end of August.”

Dr Robert Massey, Deputy Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society adds: “Many of the best stargazing areas in Scotland the north of England  are still light until 11pm and the nights are never as dark as in the winter.

“If you are looking at stargazing during the summer months, the south of the UK will give you darker skies and the chance of seeing more stars. It’s also a great time to do some moon gazing and enjoy the beautiful spectacle of the landscape being illuminated by moonlight.”

Why dark skies are so important for star gazing

April is International Dark Skies Month. Research has shown that artificial light is a pollutant that can disrupt wildlife and impact on our health. In recognition of this, campaigners and communities have worked together to create dark skies areas and many parts of the UK have been awarded a special status by the International Dark Sky Association. These are the best places to go for stargazing.

The designations start with Dark Sky Discovery Sites, which are away from the worst of light pollution, have good sightlines of the sky and good public access.

Internationally recognised Dark Sky Places are much larger areas of land that have been awarded special status due to the quality of their dark skies – these range from communities to the rarest and darkest reserves.

There is a searchable database of all the dark sky sites so you can find the closest ones to you.

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her


Phillipa Cherryson is Saga Exceptional’s Fitness Passions Channel Editor. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV.

Her passion is outdoor fitness. She’s an Ordnance Survey Champion; she organises walks, campouts and instructional activity days for South Wales members of online community the Adventure Queens; she’s vice chair of the Brecon Beacons National Park Local Access Forum and her partner is a long-serving member of the local mountain rescue team.

She hated sports at school and only started getting the fitness bug when she turned 50. Now she loves trail running, mountain walks, e-biking, climbing, surfing, paddleboarding and horse riding. She also loves cake.

  • instagram
  • Email