When: 9th – 25th February 2018
Where: Northumberland, North York Moors, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales
£: Ticket prices vary, depending on the event. Some events are free
What is it?
This year’s Dark Skies Festival, organised by the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks, will take place from 9th to 25th February, with more than 30 new events and locations. There’ll be stargazing, talks and walks, as well as some more quirky events.
Visitors can go starry-eyed in the company of expert astronomers, at locations including the Buck Hotel in the Yorkshire Dales, at Byland Abbey, Ryedale, and at the Chapelgarth Estate in the North York Moors.
Those who are keen to satisfy both their cosmic curiosity and their culinary cravings, can eye the skies while tucking into tapas at The Churchmouse in Barbon, eating canapés at Wensleydale’s Bolton Castle, or by simply sitting outside and looking at the stars with a loved one after enjoying a romantic meal at Saltburn’s Spa Hotel on Valentine’s Day.
For the active types, such as runners, walkers and cyclists, there are plenty of new events to choose from. These include a 3.5 mile guided night walk through the Land of Iron at Rosedale, bike orienteering at Hawes or an early morning social run up Great Shunner Fell, the third highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, in time to enjoy the sunrise.
Adrenaline-seekers can also hurtle into the darkness on a zip wire at Go-Ape in Dalby Forest, or venture underground at Crackpot Cave in Swaledale to see caving’s answer to the stars, with the sparkling calcite formations in the cavernous roof.
There will also be sessions with photographers, enabling visitors to master night-time photography at scenic spots such as Settle, Bolton Abbey, Malham Cove, Sutton Bank and Whitby.
The North York Moors fishing villages are even more atmospheric at night, when there are opportunities to go on ghost walks at Robin Hood’s Bay or enjoy a candlelit stroll through Staithes and hear tales of smuggling.
Wildlife watchers can explore the nocturnal goings-on in the countryside with the Tees Wildlife Trust at Saltburn, with the rangers from Forest Holidays, by going on an owl prowl at the National Centre for Birds of Prey at Helmsley or on a Senses by Starlight Forest Schools evening in the woods at Aysgarth Falls.
Children can immerse themselves in the universe by making rockets, telescopes and planet pom-poms. For the first time this year the YHA at Whitby is lining up a crafting evening, and the Animated Objects Theatre Company is holding lantern-making workshops at Sutton Bank and Danby. Kids can also become star bakers, making intergalactic biscuit decorations at The Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
For crafters and art lovers there is a night sky print workshop at Broadrake in Chapel-le-Dale and a starry-themed felt-making session in Hawes; while the Inspired by… gallery in Danby will be showcasing how artists and jewellery designers interpret the beauty of the National Parks’ dark skies.
Even if the weather doesn’t quite play ball, visitors can still imagine they are in space with indoor evenings at the Lime Tree Observatory at Grewelthorpe and the cosmos planetariums in Skipton, Hawes and Ryedale Folk Museum.
More info: www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk