Davagh Dark Sky Observatory

‘For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.’ – Vincent Van Gogh

The night sky has been a mystery and an interest to many throughout the world. The thought of what lies beyond our world and the vast number of planets that are yet to be explored. What pity it is this the stars cannot be seen during the day. But worry not, there is now a place in Northern Ireland where you can enjoy the heavens above right on your own doorstep.

A new £1.25 million investment has been made by the Mid Ulster District Council for the people of Northern Ireland to learn their constellations and explore the night sky. Davagh forest, just outside of Cookstown and just a 1-hour drive from Belfast is popular for its walk and mountain biking trails, located beside the Sperrin mountains, an area of outstanding natural beauty. This Autumn in the heart of Davagh forest, is a new Dark Sky Observatory that will allow you to explore the stars. A dark sky park is seen to be a perfect place to watch the stars. This is all based on local light pollution, distance from nearby towns and cities along with somewhere safe to park. Safety comes first especially at night-time! Davagh forest has one of the darkest skies in Ireland. There are 77 international dark sky parks throughout the world, and Davagh forest takes the 78th spot!

So, what is there to see in the observatory? The solar system in all its glory is the answer! Holographic installations along with virtual reality headsets are installed in the centre so everyone has the chance to look deeper into the sky. A play planetarium where kids can see the stars during the day will be open. A dome shaped room with holes pierced into the roof to replicate stars and constellations will educate children while they play on the soft play area below. The centrepiece to the observatory is the 14-inch LV600 Meade telescope that will allow you to look at the night sky in style. This state-of-the-art technology allows visitors to see distant planets such as Mars as well as the grooves and curves of our very own moon. What is being viewed on the telescope will be displayed in the observatory so you will never miss out on seeing the night sky!

Why not venture out into nature and walk to the Beaghmore stone circles. From here you will get a 360 view of the sky’s above. The stones have their own link to the sky, so it is fitting that an observatory was built near them. The stones are thought to have celestial purpose, dating back to the Bronze age. Archaeologists believe that the stones where used to mark the rising of the sun and moon, an old version of an observatory.  You can see the stars just how our ancestors would have seen them.

Private events can be booked in the observatory as well as educational programmes. Or stay a night in the glamping pods that have a glass roof so you can fall asleep under the stars.

This is the only dark sky park in the whole of Northern Ireland and is set to become one of the most popular attractions to visit. Take some time to go visit and learn about the sky above us and let your inner astronaut loose.

Private transfers and day trips available through Travel Ireland coaches to Davagh Dark Sky Observatory.