We’re often so distracted by our everyday lives that we forget to look up. Whether it’s buzzing messages, urgent’ work emails or the latest viral video, we’re consumed by endless notifications. Luckily, when it comes to gaining a little perspective, there’s one remedy that works every time. And it’s free. We’re talking, of course, about stargazing. 

Nothing is quite as humbling as witnessing the seemingly eternal, sparkling expanse of our galaxy – shooting stars and all – on a crisp, clear night with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in hand. If you’re planning an astronomical adventure in Northern Ireland, you won’t be shy of options. 

From beautiful mountain ranges to sweeping coastlines, here are the six best spots to ponder the universe in Northern Ireland – all within driving distance of Belfast.

Carrick a Rede

Divis Mountain

The closest stargazing spot to Belfast on our list, Divis Mountain provides stunning views across the capital from its summit. But don’t get too distracted by the city; the real showstopper hangs in the sky above. 

Sitting at an elevation that escapes the light pollution of the city, constellations abound and shooting stars cascade. If you don’t fancy the hike to the top, you can set up somewhere in the Belfast hills for equally visceral views.

Divis Mountains

Mourne Mountains

Located in County Down, to the south of Belfast, the Mourne Mountains attract outdoor enthusiasts in their droves. The highest mountain range in Northern Ireland, it’s as famed for its daytime vistas as its starry nights and offers an abundance of hiking routes and nature trails to enjoy. 

As darkness descends, the nocturnal skies are hypnotising in this part of the country, void of any light pollution. Hitch a tent, get a pot of tea on the stove and settle in for a spellbinding night.

Mourne Mountains 2

Oxford Island

Arguably the best stargazing spot in the country, Oxford Island – a National Nature Reserve – sits on the shores of Lough Neagh and has become a hotspot for nature lovers and off-the-beaten-track trailers thanks to its abundant wildlife. 

To its interstellar credit, the area has hosted BBC Stargazing Live and has been named a top Dark Sky Discovery Site. With unrivalled views of the Milky Way that stretch to the Andromeda galaxy beyond, it’s easy to see why.

Oxford Island

Davagh Forest

Venturing into the rolling green countryside of Northern Ireland is always a treat; but there’s one spot in County Tyrone that trumps even the best. Visit the outskirts of Davagh Forest on a clear night and you’ll be rewarded with thousands of glimmering stars, bright planets and burning comets.

If you’re curious about the celestial, be sure to visit nearby Beaghmore Stone Circles; a site that has long been rumoured to boast an otherworldly heritage.

Davagh Forest

Murlough Bay

If you enjoy Northern Ireland’s rugged coastline, a slightly longer drive north of Belfast will take you to beautiful Murlough Bay in County Antrim – an area made famous as the setting for a little show called Game of Thrones.

The Murlough National Nature Reserve is a great spot to observe the snow-capped Mourne Mountains and sweeping beaches, before venturing into the wilderness for a spot of unrivalled stargazing.

Murlough Bay

Carrick-a-Rede

Perhaps most famous for its rope bridge, Carrick-a-Rede is a great spot on the Northern Irish coastline for a family getaway. Beyond its seabird spotting opportunities, salmon fishery and lighthouses, it’s clear night skies make it a stargazer’s dream. 

Don’t forget to bring the telescope and camera equipment; you’re sure to see some spectacular activity amidst the shining stars.

Keen to make the most of your time in Belfast when you’re not stargazing? Check out the top sights not to miss in Belfast city.

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