- Rhiannon Batten
- 14 February 2008
Blow the budget
Celeb spotting? How very 90s. For seriously cool star-gazing, you need to head south, to the Pic Du Midi. This mountain in the Pyrenees is famous for its observatory; among its collection of telescopes is a 106-cm whopper which was installed in 1963, with funding from NASA, and used to take detailed photographs of the surface of the moon in preparation for the Apollo missions. But you don’t have to be Neil Armstrong to appreciate the facilities. At nearly 3000m high, the Pic du Midi also boasts some of the most spectacular views in France, and, for adrenalin-seeking adventurers, access to both great mountain biking trails and spectacular off-piste skiing. Better still, it has started offering sleepovers. For around £110 per person per night you get cable car tickets, an aperitif, a guided tour of the observatory, B&B and, this being France, a gourmet dinner. www.picdumidi.com, 00 33 825 00 2877.
On a shoestring
You don’t have to have an astronomical budget to enjoy a starry night. At Court Farm, near St Austell in Cornwall, camping pitches cost from £9.50 for a two-man tent and come with access to a 9.5in Newtonion reflector telescope, positioned in a nearby field (who says size isn’t everything?). If you want more than just a clueless gawp skywards, the farm can arrange for an expert from the Roseland Observatory to deliver a tailored talk. Or, on nights when natural pyrotechnics such as meteor showers or passing comets are promised, wannabe Patrick Moores can enjoy the alfresco ‘star parties’ which are sometimes held on site. There’s plenty to keep visitors occupied during daylight hours, too. The leafy Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan are both only six miles away, while quiet beaches, quaint fishing villages and some of Cornwall’s best surfing breaks are also easily reached. www.courtfarmcornwall.co.uk, 01726 823684.