A guest blog produced for visit Lancashire by Kate Henry. Make sure to give her a follow on instagram @hikewithkate_ to see some more beautiful images and videos.

Beacon Fell, Lancashire. Image credit: @hikewithkate_ 

Did you know Lancashire is home to some of the darkest skies in the country? We are incredibly lucky that it’s possible to see the Milky Way, meteors and even the Northern Lights - you just need to know where to look and how to best set your phone or camera up!

Where to head?

Here’s my 3 favourite dark sky spots in Lancashire;

1. The foot of Parlick Fell. Back in February 2023, late on a cold winter night I discovered this was the perfect spot in Lancashire for catching the Northern lights if the aurora is putting on a strong display. You have a clear vista to the north & the Aurora dances behind one of the most iconic fells in Lancashire - idyllic!

2. Bowland Knotts - Most places in the Forest of Bowland are great for dark skies but Bowland Knotts is perfect as it has very little light pollution. I was lucky enough to catch the Milky Way here in winter, just using my phone camera!

3. Beacon Fell - Known & loved in Lancashire for being a small fell that packs a lot of punch - the summit is also a great spot for dark skies! It’s just a short walk to the summit from the car park and I’ve caught the aurora here on a couple of occasions, but it’s also fantastic for star gazing.

Bowland Knotts, Lancashire. Image credit; @hikewithkate_ 

Let’s talk camera settings

Always use a tripod

Whether this be for mobile phone or camera, you want to keep the device as still as possible to prevent blurring and increase exposure times on a mobile phone camera. If there is a tiny bit of movement with a mobile phone, it won’t allow you to max out exposure times.

Camera settings

For aurora if using your phone’s camera, you want to set to night mode and maximise exposure time as much as possible, ideally 30 seconds for the best quality, but 10 seconds will also work.

I’m far from an expert in photography but for aurora with an actual camera low aperture & short focal range is key. I use a lens with 1.4 f aperture, 20mm focal range and usually 8 second exposure time (depending on how bright the moon is).

The foot of Parlick Fell, Lancashire. Image Credit; @hikewithkate_

Important things to note

For dark skies to be visible, you near a clear sky! In the UK no aurora will ever be strong enough to be seen through clouds. Ideally you don’t want a full moon either, the darker the better.

During really strong bursts, aurora can be seen by the naked eye, but it will be nowhere near as vibrant as what you see on photos.

Be safe and always tell somewhere if you are heading out at night - I usually head out alone and have never had any issues, but you can never be too careful.




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