Stargazing in West Sussex

With an International Dark Sky Reserve, Dark Sky Discovery Sites and Planetarium in Chichester, West Sussex is a great place for stargazing.

What's more it's easily accessible, the South Downs National Park is only an hour and half from London and 40 minutes from Gatwick airport. 

It is also the world’s newest International Dark Sky Reserve (since 2016), the second in England and one of only 16 in the world.

So, with these all these accolades under our belt, what's stopping you from hot-footing it to West Sussex so you too can view Orion's belt without worrying about pesky light pollution.

Top tip: one of the darkest locations in the South Downs International Dark Sky Reserve is at Bignor Hill between Arundel and Petworth. This remote hilltop location offers extensive views of the night sky in all directions and delivers exquisite views of the Milky Way on a moonless night in late summer and mid-winter, but there's plenty of other places in our patch with excellent stargazing credentials.

Our stargazing itinerary has been put together by Dr John Mason MBE. John has been actively involved in astronomy and space science for almost 50 years. Past President of the British Astronomical Association, a full member of the International Astronomical Union and is currently Education Officer and Principal Lecturer at the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester. John, we are not worthy!

Itinerary: Day 1


Selsey fishing boats

Visit Selsey the much-beloved home town of the unforgettable BBC TV astronomer Patrick Moore. See his blue plaque at 39 West Street, one of a number of interesting blue plaques on the Selsey Heritage Trail, or hear Dr John Mason give his annual Patrick Moore Memorial Lecture at the Town Hall as part of the Selsey Walking and Outdoor Festival (annually in June).

Top Tip: Plan ahead…if you are visiting the week of the May bank holiday, you can join John’s fascinating annual night sky walk from Selsey Bill round to East Beach. 



Milky Way from the South Downs


Book a bespoke two hour stargazing walk with legendary local astronomer Dr John Mason (contact the South Downs Planetarium directly to book this unique experience).

As it’s getting dark (depending on the time of year), Dr John Mason will take you to a dark sky site as close as possible to where you are staying – this might be on to the Downs or to a local beach. John will tailor your stargazing experience according to your interests to make it truly bespoke. It may be a night walk taking in and talking about the night sky or a guided tour of the night sky with telescopes. Prices range between £100-£150.

Top Tip: Choose a weekend when there is either no moon, a crescent or half moon and a clear sky, if possible. Wrap up warmly. Even a summer evening can be cold at 11pm.


Don't miss

Why not time your visit to coincide with the South Downs Dark Skies Festival in February? The festival features a host of events including nocturnal wildlife walks and stargazing parties.

Or, venture on a tour of the night sky with John Mason at Cowdray in January.

Starry skies at Chidham. West Sussex





Day 2


Aerodrome Café

Sticking with our celestial theme have a relaxed morning coffee or lunch an appropriately named pub:

The StarStar & GarterThe Half MoonSeven StarsThe Moon

More suggestions for lunch/dinner: The Rising Sun, The Fox Goes Free, The Cricketers

More suggestions for coffee/afternoon tea: The Forge, The Aerodrome CaféWellies Café



Eagle Nebula

Watch a show at the South Downs Planetarium. Located in Chichester, we can highly recommend one of the 60 minutes shows.

All Shows listed on the Planetarium websiteTop Tip: advance booking essential.

More things to do, places to stay and eat in West Sussex

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