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10 things to do at the Dark Skies Festival in the North York Moors

Discover the magic of the night skies and bright stars at the Dark Skies Festival in the North York Moors. One of nature’s natural wonders, there is nothing more calming than a star filled sky. The North York Moors National Park is a stargazer's paradise and the annual Dark Skies Festival provides an ideal opportunity to discover, learn and enjoy the dark and the stars you can see.

The North York Moors National Park is a designated International Dark Sky reserve, and every year they host a spectacular festival, celebrating the marvels of the night sky providing an opportunity for people to get out and appreciate our starry skies. With some of the best skies in the country, you could see almost 2,000 stars twinkling above you.

The Dark Skies festival will run from the 18 February to the 6 March and has become increasingly popular with a whole host of events running at various locations.

Here are some of the highlights of what you can expect this year. For full details on the whole programme of events click here.

1) Dark Skies Exhibition Preview Evening at the Inspired By...Gallery

Hosting two exhibitions for this year’s Dark Skies Festival, the Inspired By...Gallery will be showcasing the work of commissioned artists Louise Beer and Helen Payton.

Enjoy a special preview evening on Friday 18 February and be welcomed with canapés and a dark skies mocktail on arrival and spend time in the gallery to look at the impressive exhibitions. This will be followed by “An Introduction to our Dark Skies” by guest speaker and astronomer Richard Darn and with talks by the artists on their work and inspiration.

Sunset is at 7pm when there will be telescopes available in the grounds with experts on-hand to help you find your way around the night skies.

Exhibitions will be running until 3 April.

For more information, please click here.

2) Astro-photography at Castle Howard

At Castle Howard, a place like no other join local photographer Steven Bell to learn how to shoot stunning night time images as part of the North York Moors' Dark Skies Festival 2022. A must for photography enthusiasts, enjoy an evening workshop with a 1.5 hour photography session in the grounds of Castle Howard.

For full details and to book your place, please click here.

3) Mindful Night Walk in Whitby

A lovely family event, discover the dark skies above with a guided walk featuring stargazing, wildlife and historic views of Whitby by night. An intriguing evening activity, experience the wonder of the great outdoors and see who can spot the biggest star.

Whitby Storyteller Dark Skies Festival

Image credit: Glen Fitzpatrick

4) Daytime Constellation Trail

Celebrate the seventh Dark Skies Festival and learn more about the star constellations and navigate your way around the trail. Can you find all the clues? The trails are taking place at both Danby and Sutton Bank National Park Centres every day until 6 March and you are welcome to drop in at any time from 10:30am until 3pm.

For more information about this event, please click here.

5) Stargazing at Gilling Castle

At the stunning Gilling Castle, astronomy guides Richard Darn and Neill Sanders from Go Stargazing will take you on a journey of discovery through the Milky Way. Given clear skies, you should be able to see this elusive river of light arching overhead, and you may perhaps even see planets Jupiter and Saturn. If you’re already a keen stargazer, bring your equipment along to telescope clinic for tips on getting the most out of your home set-up.

Gilling Castle Dark Skies Festival

6) Dark Skies art workshops at Helmsley Arts Centre

In these family friendly day time activities, get hands on and enjoy a day creating your own brilliant art, with the helping hand of artist Tabitha Grove. Inspired by the North York Moors Dark Skies Festival, get in touch with your artistic side and take part in some fabulous workshops throughout the day.

7) Night Navigation Experience: Learn how to go walking at night

The North York Moors National Park is a stargazer's paradise, come along and discover the stars and spend a few hours navigating the hills, moorlands and woods long after the sun has gone down. See some of the best skies in the country as you head out into the North York Moors learning handy hints and tips on how to navigate at night.

For more information about this event, please click here. 

Dark Skies Night Navigation Experience

Image credit: Polly Baldwin

8) North York Moors National Park: Our dark skies journey

Almost two years ago, the North York Moors National Park celebrated its official designation as an International Dark Skies Reserve. In this free online event, find out what it took to achieve the designation as Mike Hawtin, Dark Skies Officer shares some of the key research and work involved in the process, while looking to the future on the importance of preserving night skies, including learning a thing or two you can do yourself to help save the night.

9) Nocturnal Adventure at Cropton

Enjoy a memorable experience as you venture out with the forest ranger stalking through woodland and discover the forest by night. Find out more about the wildlife and the beautiful night skies, don’t forget to wrap up warm!

Nocturnal Adventure

Image Credit: Forest Holidays

10) Dark Sky Meander at Dalby

Set in the middle of Dalby Forest, enjoy warming drinks and delicious hot food on arrival, before embarking on a short, sensory night- time walk. You will get the chance to look at celestial objects through telescopes too and enjoy an astronomer led study of the night sky.

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