5 Free NIGHTS
2Scope It Out Less noisy and vibrant, but still equally exciting, look deeply into space and learn more about star-spotting by visiting an observatory. Many of the larger, more wellknown places are ticketed, running the odd free event, but there are little, enthusiast-built versions across the country that are often free to access. Mills Observatory in Dundee is open until 10pm on weekdays during the winter months, with a range of telescopes set up for planet gazing, while Breckland Skies, near Norwich, hosts free public monthly observing nights. Find many more observatories and societies that allow you to peep through their telescopes for free at Dark Sky Discovery. darkskydiscovery.org.uk
5City Scapes Light pollution means city dwellers miss out on starspotting, but there is still beauty in man-made, urban vistas. Take a night-time picnic to the top of a hill and gaze across the lamp-lit landscape. Alexandra Palace in London has enough seats for everyone, and glittering views that stretch for dozens of miles. It’s especially spectacular when fireworks erupt on Bonfire Night or at New Year. Alternatively, book free evening tickets for the city’s highest public space, The Sky Garden, and drink in the pigeon’s-eye views of the Square Mile. In Edinburgh, try Arthur’s Seat or Blackford Hill, in Belfast, climb Cave Hill, or take a late trip up Bristol’s Cabot Tower, which is open until 9.15pm.
3After Hours The twice-yearly Museums at Night festival takes place at the end of October and in May, and is a UK-wide festival of sleepovers, magic lantern shows, storytelling, immersive walks, art classes and myriad other exciting things to do after the sun goes down. In previous years, events have included a night time venture onto the roof of Cardiff ’s Old Library and ghost poetry walks. Many of the nights are free. However, even outside of the festival weekends, there are incredible out-of-hours experiences to be had at UK museums, and the Museums at Night festival does a great job of rounding these up. Museum Lates are held across the country and are generally a themed, edgy take on museums’ and galleries’ collections. We love the quirky monthly parties at London’s V&A that bring together emerging artists, DJs and installations, and Tate Modern’s monthly lates that not only offer hands-on workshops, pop-up talks and street food, but a chance to wander around art without the daytime crowds. museumsatnight.org.uk
4Scot Free Shetland is stunning in the day, but perhaps even more beautiful at night. Its skies are unspoiled by light pollution, with swathes of visible stars, and because of its northerly location, this is one of the places in the UK you may catch the Aurora Borealis (peak season is midOctober to mid-March). As in most of Scotland, wild camping is legal, so take your tent and goggle at the heavenly beauty. If you’re in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January, you’ll catch the town’s Up Helly Aa, a breathtaking fire festival, where sheepskin-clad Vikings pull a life-sized replica of a longboat to a site where it’s burned. Smaller Up Helly Aas take place across the island through February and March. uphellyaa.org
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019 thegreenparent.co.uk