New Fringe Festival for all-things dark skies this October half-term

Moonlight meanders, Mars watching, Halloween hikes, stargazing and night trail runs are all being lined up for the North York Moors National Park’s first ever Dark Skies Fringe event this October, ahead of the popular annual festival which takes place during February half-term.

The Dark Skies Fringe Festival taps into the continuing fascination for stargazing and this year’s resurgence of interest in the natural world, as well as people’s quest for outdoor activities leading into winter.

During the 10-day Fringe Festival (23 October – 1 November), which coincides with half-term, visitors will be able to make the most of the night time splendours of the National Park in the company of some of the region’s best wildlife, astronomy and outdoor guides.

With Mars, known as the Red Planet, shining brighter this October than it has done since 2003, the Whitby & District Astronomical Society will be staging special observation evenings at Caedmon College.

Meanwhile stargazing and planet spying sessions for families and ‘bubbles’ of up to five people can be booked with Hidden Horizons in Dalby Forest, one of three Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the National Park.

Rewilding Adventure will lead small groups up onto the moorland at Osmotherley, Gribdale Gate and Blakey Ridge for three moonlit meanders. A specially atmospheric Halloween hike will also be held on 31 October when a full moon will accompany walkers as they stroll through ancient woodland in May Beck valley to the Falling Foss waterfall and a cave called The Hermitage.

For many, owls are the epitome of nocturnal life and during the Fringe, visitors will be able to watch, via Youtube, wildlife artist Robert Fuller’s webcam footage of two young owlets or book a private viewing at his gallery in Thixendale and learn how the recordings help in his artwork. Alternatively families can head to Sutton Bank to find pellets and discover what the resident owls have been eating or join one of the daytime treasure hunts to learn more about the habits of nocturnal animals.

A crescent moon will accompany runners during an off-road 10km run through the Tabular Hills led by trail running specialist Lisa Spratling from Carlton Lodge B&B in Helmsley.

Meanwhile for walkers looking to hone their route finding skills, there are two evenings dedicated to night navigation, venturing into the surrounding countryside at Lastingham and learning essential tips from a Large Outdoors guide.

Amateur photographers are catered for too with skills sessions in the company of astrophotography specialist Steve Bell and a dark skies-themed photographic competition being staged by the Fox and Hounds Inn at Ainthorpe.

One of the many dark skies friendly accommodation providers, Carr House Farm at Ampleforth is also offering exclusive use of its bed and breakfast for three nights for a family of up to six people where they can enjoy home cooked food and stargaze to their heart’s content armed with a telescope, rugs and flasks of coffee.

Magical mystery twilight walks run by Adventures for the Soul, ghost walks at Robin Hood’s Bay by the Whitby Storyteller and the night zip wire at Go Ape in Dalby Forest are also part of the event line-up.

All events have Covid-19 mitigation measures in place, and the majority must be pre-booked. Numbers will be limited and therefore early booking is recommended.

For more information, booking and pricing details go to

Next year’s Dark Skies Festival will take place 12-28 February 2021 coinciding with the UK’s half-term holidays.