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Mapped: Top 10 best UK places to see Santa flying over, light pollution data reveals!

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As Christmas draws closer, children across the UK will be excited to look out of their windows for glimpses of Santa Claus flying over. However, a staggering 78% of the UK’s night sky suffers from light pollution, meaning seeing Santa might not be easy in some urbanised areas.

To find out which UK city is the best for spotting Santa this year, Clear It Waste Clearances utilised lightpollutionmap.info to collect light pollution data on Sky Quality Meter (skyglow), Artificial brightness (artificial lights) and Bortle scale (viewing)*. They then created an overall light pollution index score for 50 UK large cities, revealing the best city to see Father Christmas flying over this year!

Key findings             

Winchester ranked as the best UK city to spot Santa flying over this Christmas. With an overall light pollution index score of 9.43/10, they scored particularly low in Artificial brightness.

Chichester ranked second best city to catch a glimpse of Santa overhead with an overall score of 9.03/10 based on all three criteria. Bath third with 8.83/10.

London ranked as the worst city to spot Santa with only 0.37 points. This is followed by Westminster and Manchester.

The Top 10 best UK Cities to Spot Santa

Ranking UK City County Overall Light Pollution Index Score /10**
#1 Winchester Hampshire 9.43
#2 Chichester West Sussex 9.03
#3 Bath Somerset 8.83
#4 Colchester Essex 8.34
#5 Worcester West Midlands 8.23
#6 Lichfield Staffordshire 8.13
#7 Cambridge Cambridgeshire 7.03
#8 Chelmsford Essex 6.77
#9 Oxford Oxfordshire 6.67
#10 Exeter Devon 6.47

** The index score was calculated based on three light pollution measurements. A higher index score indicates less light pollution. See methodology and full data here: Onedrive.

1st: Winchester, Hampshire, 9.43/10

Winchester ranked as the UK city with the best chance of spotting Santa flying over this Christmas! With an overall score of 9.43/10, the city in central Hampshire boasts the lowest level of artificial lights (824) of any city reviewed.

Once the capital of the UK, Winchester is renowned for its large mediaeval city centre and seasonal Christmas markets, highlighting just how festive the city is.

2nd: Chichester, West Sussex, 9.03/10

Chichester ranked as the second best city to see Santa flying over the sky this year, with an overall index score of 9.03/10. The diminutive city scores a respectable 19.85 on the Sky Quality Meter, indicating a relatively darker and healthier sky than the other UK cities. However, Chichester has a slightly lower Artificial Brightness Score of 1070, meaning overall it comes in 2nd place.

Down and along England’s South Coast, Chichester is known across the world for its theatre festival, alongside its quaint architecture and ornamental gardens.

3rd: Bath, Somerset, 8.83/10

Bath came third place with a light pollution score just below 9, 8.83/10. Its high Sky Quality Meter score of 19.71, alongside the commendable 5 on the Bortle Scale, tell good news for Bath regarding tackling light pollution. Unfortunately, it was let down by a worse Artificial Brightness Score, which makes Bath the third best city to spot Santa flying over this Christmas.

The beautiful hillside city is notorious for its rigid planning permission laws, meaning buildings both old and new have a certain antiquated character that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Christmas snow globe.

10 Worst UK cities to Spot Santa 

Ranking UK City County Overall Light Pollution Index Score /10
#41 Aberdeen Aberdeenshire 1.47
#42 Sheffield South Yorkshire 1.37
#43 Liverpool Merseyside 1.27
#44 Newcastle Tyne & Wear 0.97
#45 Birmingham West Midlands 0.87
#46 Glasgow Lanarkshire 0.77
#47 Leeds West Yorkshire 0.67
#48 Manchester Greater Manchester 0.57
#49 Westminster Middlesex 0.47
#50 London Greater London 0.37

48th: Manchester, Greater Manchester, 0.57/10

The vast metropolitan area of Manchester comes 48th place with only a score of 0.57/10, making it the third worst city to spot Santa flying over this Christmas. With disappointing scores in all three light pollution criteria, Manchester experiences one of the biggest impacts from light pollution on the viewing of its sky.

Although spotting Santa at night could be tricky in Manchester, the urbanised and modern city boasts one of the largest Christmas markets in the UK for you and your families to visit!

49th: Westminster, City of London, 0.47/10

Westminster, like its widespread counterpart London, scores extremely poorly for access to the night sky. With a Bortle Scale of 9, an SQM quantity of 17.54, and an enormous artificial light score of 10,200, Westminster’s combined light pollution index score is only 0.47/10.

50th: London, Greater London, 0.37/10

London ranked as the worst city to spot Father Christmas flying over this holiday, with only a score of only 0.37 out of 10! Scoring the lowest in all three light pollution measurements the study looked into, Londoners hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa fly overhead may be disappointed.

As the capital city of the UK and the centre of business, leisure and sightseeing, it is clear that sacrifices have been made to night sky visibility, with super-bright LED streetlights limiting what can be seen above.

Methodology

  1. Clear It Waste Clearances were intrigued to find out the best UK cities for spotting Santa this Christmas.
  2. To achieve this, they gained a seed list of all UK cities from gov.uk and then collected their light pollution data from a leading database lightpollutionmap.info.
  3. To gain the most accurate representation of the light pollution in a city, three sets of data per location were taken : Sky Quality Meter/SQM (mag./arc sec2), Artificial Lighting (µcd/m2), and a Bortle Scale measurement (class 1 – 9). Measurements were taken from the centre of each city for maximum fairness.

* Sky Quality Meter/SQM is a measurement to quantify the skyglow aspect of light pollution. Artificial Lighting score indicates the artificial lights scattered in the atmosphere which raises night sky luminance. Bortle Scale measures to what extent light pollution affects your view of the night sky. A city with less light pollution would result in a higher SQM score and lower Artificial Lighting and Bortle Scale scores.

  1. An overall rank score out of 10 was created for each location based on the average percentrank formula on the 3 variables, uncovering the best UK city to see Santa fly past.
  2. Only UK cities with a population over 100,000 were considered into the full ranking, but all cities’ data could be found in the dataset here Onedrive.
  3. Sources such as Campaign to Protect Rural England, City of London, Visit Manchester, Chichester Theatre Festival and more all contributed information to this piece.
  4. All data was completed on 22/11/2022 and is correct as of then.

By TJ