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.

Upcoming Virtual Dark Skies Festivals 2021

Cumbria Dark Skies Festival (5-21 February)

Light up February with a spectacular array of online events celebrating the wonders of our night sky. Explore our dark skies with talks from astronomers, astrophotographers, authors, filmmakers, lighting and design professionals, performers, poets and outdoor adventurers. Check out the line-up, we think it's out of this world!

Northumberland Dark Skies Festival (12-21 February)

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

The festival is being hosted on the Northumberland National Park website and is led by four regional observatories: Battlesteads, Kielder, Stonehaugh and Twice Brewed. There will be a wide variety of things to see and do – from fireside chats with Northumberland’s astronomers, to night sky guides and livestreams to help people stargaze from the comfort of their homes and neighbourhood. Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, the focus will be on online events, but the organisers hope to see visitors come to the many venues dotted around Northumberland when they are able to reopen and it is safe to do so.

Online events include CPRE's Star Count from 8-14 February while Kielder Observatory’s Escape Velocity astrophotography art project will be launched during the week and is a masterclass on nightscape photography encouraging children to image the dark skies with mobile phones.

North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales (12-28 February)

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. In 2021 we'll also be marking our recent designations as International Dark Sky Reserves!

This year we're hosting a Virtual Dark Skies Festival to showcase Yorkshire's pristine night skies. Although you may not be able to venture into the National Park's wildernesses in person, it's a chance to open your eyes and look up towards the night sky while at home. We hope to capture your imagination and inspire a visit later in the year.

The astronomy programme organised alongside Go Stargazing includes a stellar line-up of top astronomers and scientists. Watch presentations, join interactive tours and check out live views of the moon. There's many other ways to get involved too, from activities and quizzes to crafts and baking. This year's theme explores Nature at Night, highlighting the importance of preserving dark skies to benefit our natural world. We've a couple of specialist speakers sharing their wisdom and knowledge. There's also access to live wildlife cameras throughout the Festival giving you an insight into nocturnal activity of some incredible species. See the events pages above to find out more and start your dark skies discovery!

South Downs (12-28 February)

This year, our Dark Skies Festival is 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’ll be finding 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.

Join us for live linkups to the South Downs Planetarium with tours of the night sky, and meet some of our South Downs National Park Rangers as they set up for an evening of stargazing in their own back garden.

The winners of the first South Downs Astrophotography Competition will be shown throughout the festival, and don’t forget to sign up for our Dark Skies Quiz for a chance of winning your very own telescope. (To enter please sign up before Monday 15 February).

We’ll be talking about what wildlife comes out at night on a night-time safari with Rangers and looking for photos or film footage you have taken in your own garden. We’ll also be talking to two authors about how they have come to believe that it is more important than ever to reconnect with our dark skies heritage.

With lots of activities for families to do at home during the festival there will be something for everyone. Please head to our website for all the details.

Exmoor (October 2021 tbc)

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 Walks
*             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

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

South Downs events

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Yorkshire Dales events

Saturday, 06.02.21 to Friday, 12.02.21

Friday, 12.02.21 to Sunday, 28.02.21

Friday, 12.02.21 to Sunday, 28.02.21

Our National Parks


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

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

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

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