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 four National Parks 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, North York Moors, Northumberland and South Downs 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 canapés 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 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.
A number of events will be free while others will have a small charge attached.