Skip to content
News News

Cranborne Chase, UK, Designated as International Dark Sky Reserve

King Alfreds Tower, Stourhead, Wiltshire. Photo: Paul Howell, Pictor Images.


New UK International Dark-Sky Reserve designated today
Cranborne Chase becomes the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the
country to be designated in its entirety as an International Dark-Sky Reserve
18 October 2019

Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), one of the UK’s finest landscapes, has today (18th October 2019) been formally designated an International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) based in Tucson, USA. 

Cranborne Chase AONB becomes the 14th Reserve across the globe, and joins an exclusive club of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Areas to gain international recognition for its dark skies.

“Some people are lucky enough to recognize ‘the Plough’, but for others, seeing stars and their constellations is often impossible because of light pollution. Here in Cranborne Chase we can see the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, if the clouds allow!” said Linda Nunn, Director of Cranborne Chase AONB. 

Adam Dalton, International Dark Sky Places Program Manager at the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), said: “Cranborne Chase has the largest central area of darkness of any International Dark Sky Reserve in the UK. It is a huge area of land at almost 1000 sq km, and less than 2 hours from London and Bristol. For those living and visiting this beautiful area, this is something to be celebrated and enjoyed.”

Linda Nunn, continued: “We think of our beautiful landscapes as being on the ground, but 50% of our landscape is above our heads, in the sky. The quality of our night sky is so important and this isn’t just for the benefit of astronomers. There are huge benefits for nocturnal wildlife, our own human health and wellbeing, for education, tourism and for energy saving. We’re thrilled to be playing our part.”

Bob Mizon, who leads the Commission for Dark Skies in the UK and has played a major supporting role in the application, added: “You can’t fail to be amazed by the show the night sky puts on when you’re in Cranborne Chase AONB on a clear night. This dark sky status helps to keep it that way for future generations.”

The Reserve designation can only be given by the IDA to those areas that enjoy exceptional starry skies and have pledged to protect and improve them for future generations. 

This is the culmination of over ten years’ work by the Dark Sky project team at the AONB led by Amanda Scott for the last 18 months.  

To achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status, Cranborne Chase AONB was put through a series of stringent checks by the IDA. 

Linda Nunn, continued: “We have taken meter readings of the darkness of the night sky for several years and we are hugely grateful to the Wessex Astronomical Society for their support. We must also thank Bob Mizon as we could not have achieved this without his help, or the support of the local authorities and parish councils and we look forward to working with them as we continue to improve our dark skies.

“Although huge amounts of work have already been done to achieve this status, we must continually improve our dark skies. Dark sky friendly schemes with schools, business, parishes and landowners are being developed and Wiltshire Council, which administers two-thirds of the area, has already agreed to upgrade its street lighting. This will make a significant contribution and will help us continually improve our dark sky quality. This is a requirement of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to ensure we maintain our exclusive status.” 

Cranborne Chase AONB joins a prestigious group of areas around the world that are certified IDA International Dark-Sky Reserves: 

Cranborne Chase is a unique International Dark Sky Reserve in the way it has had to draw together the lighting policies, practices and controls of its partner authorities and organizations. 

Work has included auditing external light fittings within the AONB, consulting with the local planning authorities, and working with local communities and parishes to achieve non-polluting good lighting and providing training on reducing light pollution for everyone. 

The AONB organizes a program of dark sky events and communications throughout the year, including stargazing evenings, talks, as well as school visits and workshops. For more details, please visit

Cranborne Chase AONB is 981 sq km (380 sq mi) and is the 6th largest AONB in the country. It straddles parts of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset. For more information on the Cranborne Chase AONB, log on to