Dark Skies Festival - half term family fun without costing the earth


Lady Hill

This year’s Dark Skies Festival, across both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, will include plenty of ways to enjoy a star-studded half term that don’t cost the earth.

The Festival, which takes place within the International Dark Sky Reserves of both National Parks between 10 and 26 February, will feature many free and low cost events for all ages to appreciate the wonders of a star-filled night, learn more about space and discover why the skies are worth protecting from artificial light pollution.

For instance a new collaboration with Scarborough Pride to mark LGBTQ+ history month means that Festival-goers can join a free Lantern Walk through the atmospheric coastal village of Robin Hood’s Bay while discovering more about Britain’s queer heritage.

Families can go on a stargazing safari evening in the company of local astronomers at Catton near Thirsk; follow the 1.5km Planet Trail to find scale replicas of the planets while walking through woodland alongside the waterfalls at Aysgarth; or use investigative skills to find nocturnal creatures at both Danby Lodge and Sutton Bank.

North York Moors Danby Beacon by Tony Marsh

For a small cost, there’s everything from a mindful night walk on the clifftops above Whitby; ghost walks at Robin Hood’s Bay, space-themed crafting sessions at Hawes, Helmsley, Danby and Sutton Bank; a star party at the Wensleydale Ice Cream Parlour; through to sessions with Tees Valley Wildlife Trust where people can make habitat-friendly items for nocturnal wildlife such as hedgehogs and bats.

For thrill-seekers there are night bike rides; an afternoon event where youngsters can cycle along a planet and star-adorned trail before making planet pizzas at Stage1 Cycles in Hawes; a 10km fell run near Reeth; canoeing at Scar House Reservoir in Nidderdale; or an after-dark trail run followed by a yoga session at Danby.

For those looking for a slower pace to appreciate the National Parks’ dark side, there are various guided night walks from spots including Horton in Ribblesdale, Goathland, the Hole of Horcum and Lastingham, and mindfulness sessions at Dalby Forest and Rievaulx.

The rest of the programme includes the perennial favourites, astronomy sessions where guests can marvel at star clusters, galaxies and constellations while standing at beauty spots, whether it’s a woodland clearing in Dalby Forest, the ridgetop splendour of Sutton Bank or witnessing the twinkly skies framing the distinctive outline of the second highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales, Ingleborough. There’s even a stargazing session at Stump Cross Caverns where guests venture underground afterwards for a cave tour.

Meanwhile those keen to brush up their camera skills can join nightscape and astro photography sessions at locations such as Reeth, Malham Cove, Ribblehead Viaduct, Castle Howard or Whitby; or learn how to capture the beauty of owls in flight at the National Centre for Birds of Prey.

Those wanting to spend longer can stay in dark skies-friendly accommodation including the Fox and Hounds Inn at Ainthorpe near Danby, which has a special package including stargazing and mindfulness sessions. Alternatively Yoga and Spice near Whitby is running a two-night package that includes night walking, yoga and lifestyle sessions; while Gumboots and Wellingtons at Ellerburn is offering guests the chance to hunker down in either a shepherd’s hut or cabin after toasting marshmallows on a firepit outside.

Emily Watson, Visitor Development and Marketing Assistant for the North York Moors National Park comments: “This year’s Festival is geared towards helping people connect more strongly with our pristine dark skies, enabling them to gain a new perspective by visiting popular daytime beauty spots at night instead, learn in a fun environment just how important the natural world depends on darkness and simply enjoy the awesome sight of a sky filled with thousands of stars.”

Helen Dalton, Tourism Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park adds: “There are some fantastic ways that people can enjoy a great value outing during the Festival, whether it’s a daytime family event or an evening where they can literally have an ‘out of this world’ experience."

For more programme information, including booking details go to www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk


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