A star studded sky over snowy hills
Northern lights over Saltwick Bay
Star trails over Buster Ancient Farm

Welcome to National Parks Dark Skies Festivals

National Parks remain some of the darkest places in Great Britain and we celebrate our star-studded skies at Festivals throughout autumn and winter.

Our Dark Skies festivals are all about discovering, learning and enjoying the dark and the stars you can see as a result. This could mean getting out for an activity such as cycling, walking, running or caving at night, attending a stargazing party, or taking part in a daytime event, learning more about star constellations or making a rocket.

There are events for families, first-time stargazers and those wishing to expand their knowledge or astrophotography skills further. We work with local astronomy clubs and other star loving organisations to help you discover the wonder of the night skies above your National Parks.

Dark Skies Festivals 2022

South Downs (11 - 27 February 2022)

In 2021, our Dark Skies Festival was all about the personal experience of the night skies where you live, learning about the constellations, the history and folklore that goes with them, and the nocturnal wildlife that depends on them. We found out why looking at the stars is so good for our mental well-being and what we can all do to protect them into the future.

Details of next year's Festival will be available closer to the time. Please head to our website for more information. In the meantime, you can enter our annual astrophotography competition, entries close 12 January 2022.

Dark Skies Festival logo

North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival (18 February - 6 March 2022)

Since 2016's inaugural event, the North Yorkshire collaboration has become an unmissable fixture in the calendar, with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities celebrating the jewels of the night sky.

We're delighted to be celebrating our seventh Dark Skies Festival in 2022. Every year it's a pleasure to showcase just how special our dark skies are and welcome back annual favourites.

Discover activities at night to heighten the senses such as night runs, zip wires, kayaking and biking, astrophotography workshops, stargazing safaris, children's trails and mindful experiences.

For 2022 we're pleased to welcome new, exciting additions including a dark skies exhibition, art workshops, new moon gatherings and stargazing at spectacular sites such as Aysgarth Falls and Gilling Castle.

Northumberland Dark Skies Festival (February TBC)

As England’s first and largest International Dark Sky Park, Northumberland is now home to its very own Dark Skies Festival.

The first festival in 2021 was hosted on the Northumberland National Park website and led by four regional observatories: Battlesteads, Kielder, Stonehaugh and Twice Brewed. The line-up included a wide variety of things to see and do – from fireside chats with Northumberland’s astronomers, to night sky guides to help people stargaze from the comfort of their homes.

Exmoor (14-30 October 2022)

Join the celebrations of Exmoor’s dark skies at our annual festival, with stargazing events all over the National Park. The programme is likely to include:

  • Ranger Guided Night Walk
  • Stargazing Guides
  • Outdoor Adventures in the Dark
  • Well-being Retreats under the Stars
  • Dark Skies Adventure by Boat
  • Stargazing Suppers
  • Dusk Safaris
  • Expert Astronomy Talks
  • Star & Nature Evenings

Cumbria Dark Skies Festival (November TBC)

Light up November with a spectacular array of in-person events celebrating the wonders of our night sky. Explore our dark skies,  from rock pooling in the dark, to night woodland walks and canoeing, listening to wildlife and studying the moon through a telescope. Dark Skies themed art workshops and wood whittling courses feature too as well as a night art installation at Grizedale Forest, and online Planetarium events by LUniverse at Lancaster University. Check out the line-up, we think it's out of this world!

Where to go stargazing

You don't have to wait for a Festival to admire the night sky in all its stellar glory. Find out where the best places are to go stargazing in our National Parks throughout the year.

Northumberland events

North York Moors events

South Downs events

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Yorkshire Dales events

Friday, 18.02.22 to Sunday, 06.03.22

Friday, 18.02.22 to Sunday, 06.03.22

Our National Parks

Tree silhouette against a dark starry sky


Northumberland National Park forms part of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. Unveiled in December 2013 and at 572 square miles (1,483 square kilometres) it is also Europe’s largest area of protected night sky. Thanks to its pristine skies it was awarded gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association, making it officially the best place in England for people to go to enjoy the heavens.

Events in Northumberland

Stars over the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey Credit Russell Norman

North York Moors

When the sun sets in the North York Moors, another breathtaking view emerges – a sky full of stars! The low levels of light pollution and dark skies of the National Park are one of the things that makes it such a special place. Come and join in our star-filled festival of fun and learn more about the magic above us, with events suitable for all ages.

Events in the North York Moors
Dark Skies over a windmill

South Downs

We think our star-studded skies overhead are as valuable as our beautiful rolling landscapes and, with properly dark skies in the South East of England under threat, our International Dark Sky Reserve status is a statement that the skies of the South Downs are worth protecting.

Events in the South Downs
Northern lights over Ingleton

Yorkshire Dales

Its superb dark skies are one of the things that make the Yorkshire Dales National Park so special. With large areas completely free from local light pollution, it's a fantastic place to start your stargazing adventure.

Events in the Yorkshire Dales