9 October 2023
This year’s Dark Skies Fringe Festival (27 October – 5 November), which kicks off the prime autumn and winter season for witnessing the stars and planetary movements in the North York Moors National Park’s clear night sky, will include a host of events throughout October’s half term holiday.
Between 27 October and 5 November, festival-goers of all ages can marvel at the unsullied National Park skies, one of only 21 International Dark Sky Reserves in the World, in all manner of ways.
For instance, the programme includes stargazing, walking or cycling, painting a watercolour, sitting on a steam train, spotting nocturnal wildlife, or enjoying a relaxing stay and gaze break.
This year, the Festival’s programme includes a guided night ride with Sutton Bank Bikes to introduce cyclists with some experience of going off-road to the pleasure and thrill of riding after-dark along tracks that make the most of the panoramic skies above the escarpment.
Guided dark sky walks and night navigation sessions run by Large Outdoors and a stargazing evening with York Astro during the Fringe also mark the beginning of a series of autumn and winter events from Sutton Bank National Park Centre’s Star Hub.
Similarly the Festival will see Astro Dog resume its stargazing safari and pop-up planetarium evenings below the inky blue skies of Dalby Forest. During the Fringe, Astro Dog will enable people to train telescopes on the partial lunar eclipse of Hunter’s Moon which is due on 28 October and the planet Jupiter being its closest to Earth on 2 November.
For families there’s also the daytime Dark Skies Trail through the grounds of Danby Lodge National Park Centre; the Planetarium Show with Cosmic Wonders at Guisborough; or an evening spent on the headland above Whitby at the YHA for a guided tour of the night sky in the spooky surroundings of the Abbey.
The Festival provides the perfect opportunity to show how low light pollution is essential for protecting nature, with forest ranger nocturnal adventures in Cropton or the National Centre for Birds of Prey’s winter owl evening.
For a completely different experience, festival-goers can join one of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Light Spectacular evenings to admire the heritage carriages adorned with thousands of lights as they travel between Pickering and Levisham. Alternatively head to Oswaldkirk for a dark skies-themed watercolour workshop where everybody, even beginners, can learn the techniques to create a mini-masterpiece.
There are also a number of accommodation providers running special stay and gaze packages such as the Fox and Hounds Inn at Ainthorpe, Carr House B&B at Ampleforth, and Monket Cottage in Farndale.
Phoebe Smith, Marketing Assistant for the North York Moors National Park comments: “October’s shorter days and lengthening nights provide a perfect backdrop for the Dark Skies Fringe Festival to remind people of the awe-inspiring enjoyment that comes with venturing outdoors to observe some of the darkest skies in the world.
“We have some fantastic astronomy experts on-hand during the Festival as well as businesses who are passionate about helping the National Park showcase and protect our International Dark Sky Reserve status.”
For more programme information including individual event pricing and booking details go to Dark Skies National Parks website. (www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk/north-york-moors-events)
The main Dark Skies Festival across both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks will run from 9-25 February 2024.
Amanda Brown on M:
Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority
The North York Moors National Park
The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, ancient woodland and historic sites. Created on 28 November 1952, it became Britain’s sixth national park. Covering an area of 554 square miles (1,436 square kilometres) the National Park has 26 miles of coastline, two national nature reserves, 840 Scheduled Monuments and over 3,000 listed buildings, attracting an estimated 8.4 million visitors a year.
The National Park has two visitor centres, Danby Lodge National Park Centre and Sutton Bank National Park Centre, providing opportunities for cycling, walking, eating, picnicking, shopping, crafts and wildlife-watching. The centre in Danby also houses the Inspired by… gallery, which features regularly changing exhibitions by artists who draw their inspiration from the North York Moors.