This weekend is set to be the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower. Each year the earth passes through the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. As the planet passes through the tail, debris from the comet hits the earth’s atmosphere, burning at very high temperatures. The result is a spectacular display of shooting stars. The show actually began in mid July, but thanks to the position of the planet, this weekend is when you are most likely to see this celestial display.

Last year, stargazers were treated to around 150-200 shooting stars per hour, but the average is closer to around 80. Unfortunately, this year the peak of the shower coincides with the moon being in one of its brightest phases, meaning that light from the fainter meteors will be drowned out by the moonlight. However, as this is one of the biggest and brightest meteor displays, if it’s clear, you can still expect to see around 40-50 per hour, roughly one every 1-2 minutes!

Tips for Stargazing in the Lake District

Man looking at the night stars
  • Wear warm clothes. Even in August the night time temperatures can drop to just above freezing, so do bring a hat, gloves, and layers.
  • Bring a torch with spare batteries for using whilst walking to any destination. Head torches are particularly useful, as they allow you to keep your hands free.
  • If you can, bring a lightweight, fold away chair to sit on. You will be much more comfortable!
  • Bring a flask with some tea or hot chocolate to help keep you warm.
  • Make sure you tell other people where you are going and what your expected return time will be, especially if you are planning on walking anywhere remote.

Best Places to Watch a Meteor Shower in the Lake District

Young girl watching the meteor shower

The Lake District is a brilliant place to look at the stars at any time of year. The low population spread over a vast area means that there is considerably less light pollution blocking views of the night sky. Of course, being able to see the meteor showers does very much depend on the cloud cover, and clear nights tend to occur more during the winter, rather than the summer. So before you head to one of the areas listed below, do check the weather forecast in order to avoid any disappointment.

Ennerdale Valley

Parking: Bowness Knott Car Park, Ennerdale, CA23 3AU

This remote valley on the western side of the Lake District is largely uninhabited with the eastern end of the valley, known as Wild Ennerdale, being one of the remotest areas of the Lake District. As a result, there is very little light pollution here. The track that runs alongside the lake is level and well-maintained, making it ideal for walking in the dark. Do make sure you carry a torch as you are walking to help you to avoid falling into the lake.

 

Wasdale Valley

Parking: Wasdale Head NT Car Park, CA20 1EX

The Wasdale Valley is widely considered to be one of Britain’s most beautiful valleys, in part because it is sparsely populated, with very little to detract from the rugged landscape. Like the Ennerdale Valley, there is little in the way of light pollution here, but unlike Ennerdale, where you need permission to drive along the lake, Wasdale Valley has a road leading up to the end. Here you will find a campsite and a pub, so it’s a great place to settle in for a night of stargazing.

 

Grizedale Forest

Parking: Forestry Commission Car Parks, Grizedale Forest, LA22 0QJ

Grizedale Forest is one of five Forestry Commission sites to have achieved Dark Sky Discovery status, meaning that it has been recognised by astronomy experts as providing outstanding opportunities to view the stars. The forest lies between Coniston and Windermere with very little in the surrounding area to generate much light pollution. The Forestry Commission regularly holds stargazing events throughout the winter months here. There are a number of car parks with access to the forest along the road between Hawkshead and Satterthwaite.

 

Allan Bank

Parking: Numerous pay and display car parks in Grasmere

Allan Bank, the National Trust property near Grasmere is another Dark Sky Discovery site. Despite its proximity to the village of Grasmere, there is very little light pollution above the property. During the winter months, the property holds regular star gazing events. For this weekend’s Perseid Meteor shower, the property will be closed in the evening, however, a public footpath from Easedale Road in Grasmere runs near the property, and will offer the same level of dark sky viewing. It’s a very short walk from the centre of Grasmere, making it a great choice if you are staying in that area.

 

Skiddaw

Parking: Underskiddaw Car Park, Gale Road, Nr Keswick, CA12 4PH (approximate post code)

Skiddaw is England’s sixth highest peak, and gives panoramic views across Cumbria and out towards the Solway Firth and Scotland. If you are not a confident fell walker, then you should not attempt to view the Perseids from Skiddaw’s peak. However, the route up is fairly easy going and well maintained, making it one of the easiest fells for nighttime ascents and descents. A youth hostel sits close to the top, so you could make this your base for the night. At the summit, there is a stone shelter offering respite from the wind.