A Beginner’s Guide to Stargazing – 5 Tips for Seeing Stars

Whether you’re a stargazing novice or a seasoned watcher of the stars, there are a number of handy tips to make sure you get the best view of the constellations.

1. Lights out

Aside from adverse weather conditions, light pollution can be one of the biggest obstacles preventing your enjoyment of stargazing. Rural areas are the best locations to get away from the lights and if you can head for a hill, you’ll get an even better view of the horizon. The UK has over a third of the world’s dark sky reserves; take a look for the clearest view of the heavens.

2. Get comfy

You may be gazing at the stars for a while, so make sure you are doing so in comfort. Bring comfortable chairs to sit on and make sure you wrap up warm. A torch is also essential – especially if you’re stargazing in a rural location. A red filter on your torch will allow you to see without affecting your ability to gaze at the stars.

3. Maps to the stars

Bring a star chart for identifying the constellations. There are many star charts available to download free from the web, and there are few better ways to help you recognise and remember the placement of the stars.

4.  Seeing clearly

You may think you need an expensive telescope but binoculars are not only cheaper on the whole, they can also be better suited to the task – especially if light pollution is an issue. A decent pair of binoculars are relatively inexpensive and far easier to maneouver than a telescope.

5. Get smart


There are plenty of smartphone apps that can turn anyone into an expert astronomer. Star Chart, Sky Map and Night Sky are all great apps for smartphones  All you have to do is download the app, point your smartphone or tablet at the night sky and let them identify the stars, planets and constellations for you.

See Saturn on Mother’s Day

On the 3rd April 2011, anyone in the UK looking to the skies after sunset will be in for a treat as the planet Saturn will be on show and visible to the naked eye. This is the closest Saturn will get to Earth this year and so well worth looking out for.

With the event falling on Mothering Sunday, there’s also no better time for a UK weekend break, so we’ve selected a few of our featured cottages that are perfect for both stargazing and treating your mum!

We’ve teamed up with astronomer Steve Owens to offer advice on making the most of the event. So if you fancy improving the odds of spotting Saturn, listen to Steve’s advice: “This is one of the best opportunities in years to see Saturn, so presents a real treat for stargazing beginners and experts alike. With many astronomical events you sometimes have to wait until the small hours of the morning, however, with this event you will be able to see Saturn from when the sun sets, with the view peaking at midnight. As such, it makes a great opportunity to get younger children involved and, with the event taking place on Mothering Sunday, can make a real treat for the whole family!

“To get the best view, try and get somewhere with a good clear eastern and southern horizon, preferably free of light pollution in those directions, so to the south-east of your town or city is best. You will get an even clearer view if you try heading out into the countryside, where the skies are much darker.”

Please click on the property images below to see their full listings on cottages4you.

Millstones, Stalham

Reference: 80068

This modernised 19th-century brick and flint cottage serves as the perfect country base, perfect for stargazing. An excellent base for touring the Broads, it offers a comfortable holiday accommodation,  boasting a timber floor, an atmospheric brick fireplace and a small peaceful garden with a garden room. Only a two minute stroll from the quiet village centre, with the coast and Norwich within a short drive.

Price: WAS £216.00, NOW £118.10 for three nights self catering starting on Friday 1st April 2011. Sleeps six people – prices are per property not per person.

Trekeive Cottage, North Trekeive, St Cleer, Liskeard, Cornwall

Reference: GE8

This charming cottage with its own secluded rear garden, occupies a wonderfully peaceful location overlooking Siblyback Dam and open countryside, and is only 8 miles from the sandy beach at Looe. Attached to the owners’ home, it stands in 2-acre grounds with a footpath running to the lake where various water sports and fishing are available. Nearby are the spectacular Golitha Falls and Bodmin Moor offering excellent walking. Several National Trust properties within easy reach and the Eden.

Project is a 40-minute drive.

Price: WAS £223.00, NOW £200.70 for three nights self catering starting on Friday 1st April 2011. Sleeps four people – prices are per property not per person.

Hill Mill Cottage, Nr. Wotton-under-Edge, Glos.

Reference: NRR

This pretty holiday cottage has been converted from a watermill on a beautiful six-acre estate which, with its lake and attractive woodland, is a haven for wildlife, including several types of wildfowl. Set near the owner’s home, it has been equipped to the E.T.C. ‘4 Star’ standard, and is in an idyllically peaceful spot, perfect for viewing Saturn, this Mothers Day.  It is surrounded by magnificent walking and cycling country, with the Cotswold Way one mile along the lane.

Price: WAS £284.00, NOW £241.40 for three nights self catering starting on Friday 1st April 2011. Sleeps four people – prices are per property not per person.