About National Parks Dark Skies

Additional eight days for Yorkshire’s 2018 Dark Skies Festival

Host of new star-studded events lined-up

A night zip wire experience and stargazing combined with a stellar eating experience will be just two of numerous new events in a much-expanded Dark Skies Festival across North Yorkshire in February 2018.

From the inaugural event in 2016, the Festival has proven to be such a hit with visitors that the joint organisers, the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park Authorities have extended next year’s event from nine to 17 days (Friday 9 to Sunday 25 February) to coincide with both UK half-term holiday weeks.

The additional dates will enable visitors to spend longer discovering the thrills, fun and nocturnal wildlife wonders that come with getting outside after dark as well as simply marvelling the beauty of the National Parks’ pristine night skies.

Among more than 50 events, new activities in the North York Moors will include a rare opportunity to feel what it’s like to fly through the night sky. Strapped safely to a zip wire, adrenaline-seekers will be able to plunge more than 200 metres into the darkness of Dalby Forest courtesy of Go Ape.

Visitors will also be able to indulge in an evening’s stargazing against the backdrop of some of North Yorkshire’s most historical landmarks.

For instance in the Yorkshire Dales, visitors will embark on a celestial safari in the grounds of Bolton Castle near Leyburn in the company of astronomer Richard Darn while being treated to mulled cider and innovative canap├ęs made with local produce by talented chef Guy Fairhurst.

There will also be more opportunities for activity seekers to experience caving, cycling, walking or running under the night sky including a new gravel biking event run by Yorkshire True Grit at Newburgh Priory near Easingwold.

The 2018 Festival will include numerous family-friendly events too. As well as watching the dark skies’ star-studded cast within the National Parks and two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, youngsters will be able to get crafty making rockets, telescopes and planet lanterns.

They can also join Forest Schools and go on a night time foray into Freeholders Wood near Aysgarth where they can learn woodland skills and sit round a campfire devouring an evening meal.  

Mike Hawtin, Outdoor Activities Tourism Officer for the North York Moors National Park Authority comments: “The Festival is now an annual fixture which taps into the nation’s growing fascination with space and makes the most of our dazzling dark sky displays where you can see up to 2,000 stars on a clear night. Importantly it also helps support local businesses and attractions by opening people’s eyes to the enjoyment of visiting areas that might not have been on their radar out-of-season.”

Tracey Lambert, Tourism Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority adds: “Even everyday pursuits such as running, walking and cycling take on a heightened sense of excitement at night. The popularity of these guided activities during the previous two festivals has led to their expansion for 2018, alongside a host of art, craft and heritage-related events that will shed light on the delights of night time in National Parks.”

Each National Park has three Dark Sky Discovery locations where skies are sufficiently dark to potentially view the Milky Way with the naked eye. The North York Moors sites are at The Moors National Park Centre at Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.

The Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Discovery locations are at Hawes, Malham and Buckden.

Further programme information and booking details will be available over the coming months on www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk 

A number of events will be free while others will have a small charge attached.

About our Dark Skies Festival 2018

A star-filled sky is one of nature's most natural wonders! But they’re become harder than ever to experience. In an urban area you’ll be lucky to see 20 stars on a clear night but in an area of low light pollution, such as in our National Parks, you could see as many as 2,000 twinkling above you.

National Parks are a stargazer’s paradise, with some of the best night skies in the country and we are excited to celebrate this at our annual Dark Skies Festival. It’s all about discovering, learning and enjoying the dark and the stars you can see as a result, with events suitable for all ages.  

Plans are already well underway for our Dark Skies Festival 2018. Building on the success of the 2017 festival, 2018 will be even bigger with lots of events already lined up between 9 and 25 February!  Keep checking back for updates and to see detailed listings of events.

You’ll also find events at other times of the year; check the event listings in your area to find out what’s happening.

See you in February 2018!

Bookings and information

Advance bookings and payment are essential for many of the festival events, unless stated as a drop-in event. Booking details are included under each individual event. Please note:

  • Children are welcome at most events but minimum ages may apply.
  • Dogs are allowed at some events, but must be kept on a short, fixed lead at all times.
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear is essential. Wrap up warm especially for evening outdoor activities! A torch could be useful too.

Poetry star captures beauty of Dark Skies in verse

One of the UK’s best known poets was commissioned by the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities to pen a poem celebrating the wonders of the county’s dark skies in 2017.  

Ian McMillan – the ‘Bard of Barnsley’ – has drawn on his observations of stargazing, as well as the special qualities of the night sky in the areas of low light pollution found in both stunning national parks, to write this tribute.  

'The Darker The Sky'

A poem for the National Parks and their Dark Skies Festival
In praise of darker skies and lighter thinking

The darker the sky, the more you can see;
The blacker the night, the brighter the Moon,
The dimmer the streets, the stronger the glow
The deeper the shade, the lighter the view.

The map of the heavens, the time and the space
The distance they travel, the cities of stars,
The trail of a comet, the satellite’s stroll
The football of Venus, the beach ball of Mars.

The blindness of headlights, the dazzling fire
The hint of a sunrise, the dawn’s subtle kiss,
The straining of tired eyes, the lamp in the face
The struggle to notice, the sights we all miss.

The hope for the future: the sky’s welcome gleam,
The Milky Way’s jewels, the meteor’s trail
The old constellations, the space-station’s glint.
The inky sea’s waiting; the night boat sets sail!

© Ian McMillan           @IMcMillan