About National Parks Dark Skies

Dark Skies Festivals - a celebration of dark skies around National Parks

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.

Since 2016's inaugural event, the Dark Skies Festival has become an unmissable fixture in the calendar, with the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and South Downs National Park Authorities celebrating the jewels of the night sky over 17 days during February and March.

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

12 - 28 February 2021 marks the sixth Dark Skies Festival. It's never too early to get the dates in your diary. See you in February 2021!


North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival 2020

The year space travel became a reality. We hope you joined us as we explored the cosmos in the fifth Dark Skies Festival. It was the largest event line up yet, bringing headline acts and celestial events from 14 February to 1 March.

Highlights included:

  • Virtual reality experiences, exploring the ISS and undertaking the Apollo 11 space mission.
  • Special talk at Castle Howard: Exploring the dynamic universe by Professor Andy Newsam, Liverpool John Moores University
  • BBC The Sky at Night presenter, Chris Lintott talked about his recently published book - ‘The Crowd & The Cosmos - Adventures in the Zooniverse’
  • Yoga, dark skies and mindfulness experiences
  • Stargazing safaris
  • Dark Runs and Night Navigation Expeditions
  • Stay and gaze experiences
  • Dark Skies gravel biking challenge with Yorkshire True Grit

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.

Big Dipper

Launched by the Dark Sky Alliance in October 2018, National Parks are amongst a number of bodies to support the Big Dipper campaign, which aims to draw attention to the light pollution creep caused by beams emitted from powerful external LED floodlights and security lighting.

The Big Dipper is highlighting how property owners can help reduce the orange-white glow, which is seen above built-up areas and is increasingly spreading across the countryside, by ensuring the beam of light from exterior lamps is dipped downwards rather than projected outwards.

The Big Dipper campaign is asking people to:

  • Ensure lights point down and are fully shielded.
  • Only illuminate areas you need to and don’t leave lights on all night - use a timer or motion sensor.
  • Employ lighting that is no brighter than necessary (a 500 lumens light is ample to illuminate a back garden)
  • If possible don’t use LEDs emitting bright white/blue light, but rather warmer colours (packaging often states the light’s colour temperature – units of 3,000k and below produce a warmer colour which is less harmful to the night-time environment).

For advice on minimising light pollution visit www.britastro.org/dark-skies or http://darksky.org/lighting/lighting-basics/.

Further information on light pollution and interactive maps can be found at  www.nightblight.cpre.org.uk.