Best stargazing locations in Bristol - and why the city is best for nature lovers

As a survey brings Bristol out as one of the best UK cities for nature lovers, we delve into why and discover where best to head for greenery and stargazing

The meteorological calendar has marked the start of spring in the UK, and a recent study by home developers McCarthy Stone has crowned Bristol the best spot for stargazing, as well as the city coming out fourth overall in a list of the best UK cities for nature lovers.

The south west is clearly leading the way when it comes to cities that are in touch with nature, with three places in the top five on the list. Bristol came in with 242 points out of a possible 500. The scoring system combined five factors including rare species of animals, stargazing spots, National Trust sites, and outdoor activities nearby, with each city being awarded points out of 100 per ranking.

The real winner for Bristol was coming out in the top spot for being the best city in the UK for stargazing, with it boasting four major stargazing spots and having some of the lowest light pollution levels in the country.

Plus, as a double win for our south west city, nearby Cardiff took the second spot for stargazing meaning we are spoiled for choice when it comes to searching the night skies. That’s not to mention that we’ve also got Dartmoor and Somerset on our doorstep for when we want to escape the city and head to the countryside for our nature fix.

“The lure of coastal and countryside developments may seem like the obvious choice for nature-lovers but, this study has shown that you can enjoy amazing nature sites on your doorstep across the UK,” says Miruna Constantinescu, national marketing director at McCarthy Stone.

“We understand the importance of getting outdoors, especially after living under restrictions over the past 18 months, and it’s great to be able to highlight some of the UK’s natural beauty.”

So, without further ado, where are the best nature spots to head to in the city and where are the best places for stargazing, exactly? Oh, and remember, one of the best times to get out and stargaze is when the moon is at its least bright - that way, you get the best view of the stars around.

Leigh Woods

Coming out on top as one of the very best nature reserves in Bristol and a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site, Leigh Woods is a brilliant option for somewhere to pop to in the city for a spot of star searching. The diverse woodland in the evening plays host to unlit skies, which are not affected by light pollution, and are therefore perfect for family stargazing.

Bristol Planetarium

A brilliant option for families who want to get involved with stargazing, the Planetarium at We The Curious offers daytime planetarium shows to educate children on what to expect from our night skies.

The Downs

With light pollution considerably lower than most other city spots across the UK, The Downs is a particularly special spot when it comes to nature within a city. Bristol might not be high above sea level, but it turns out that there are plenty of natural spaces across the city where your view of the skies is not limited. Durdham Down was also designated as a Dark Sky Discovery Site (Orion Class) in 2013, and was the second Bristol site to be given this special title, the first of which was Victoria Park in Totterdown. Look out for star parties that are put in place sometimes in conjunction with the Bristol Astronomical Society and Explorer Dome.

Victoria Park

The park, situated between Bedminster, Windmill Hill and Totterdown, has been categorised as an Urban Dark Sky Site as well as a Dark Sky Discovery Site — a good location from which to escape the worst of local light pollution. It’s also a Bristol Go Stargazing site, so you know that you’ll be in for a treat when the conditions are right for astronomy searching.

Clifton Observatory

Not so much a wild nature spot, and more one that is purposefully set up for the ample stargazing opportunities that Bristol offers, Clifton Observatory had to have a place on our list. While we’re on the subject of dedicated observatories, there’s also the Failand Observatory too, which is operated by a welcoming and enthusiastic team of astronomers from Bristol Astronomical Society. The facility is home to the Cyril Swindin telescope — a 12.5 inch reflecting telescope donated by a former member which offers fantastic views of the night skies, alongside their larger 18″ aperture instrument. They regularly host events for the public to be able to get a taste of their love for stargazing.

Troopers Hill

The nature reserve in St. George overlooking the city is a wonderful place for both soaking up some greenery and rugged nature, but also for ogling the night skies, too. Another Orion Class site and despite its location in the midst of brightly lit St George, Troopers Hill is considered a good place to visit for star and planet watching, due to its relatively protected location from light pollution and the fact that it has a good horizon.

Tyntesfield House

As a private location, Tyntesfield House near Failand can only be used for stargazing when its a public event, something that they run at times throughout the year. With incredibly low levels of light pollution and a pretty stunning backdrop from the house itself, it makes for a spectacular place to go to for admiring the evening sky. Keep your eyes peeled for events!