While many of us may be eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring and warmer and lighter days, not to be missed this winter in one of Yorkshire’s two National Parks – the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the North York Moors National Park – is the opportunity to see something incredible. For here, when the sun sets and the nights draw in, turn your head skywards for an astonishing stargazing experience. Both National Parks have some of the darkest skies in the country as they are untainted by light pollution. On a clear night it is possible to see not only the Milky Way, but up to 2000 stars, a meteor shower and our neighbouring planets. If you are really lucky, you might even see the multi-hued, shimmering Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Awesome.
Yorkshire is fortunate to be home to two of the five National Parks taking part in the Dark Skies Festival which runs from 14 February to 1 March and celebrates the magnificence of the celestial night sky above us.
The festival offers a stellar line-up of over 100 events at various locations across the National Parks. The enduring appeal of stargazing, navigating the cosmos and learning about the infinite vastness of space, for all ages and all walks of life, make the Dark Skies Festival fantastic for families, budding astronomers, and even the perfect romantic getaway. Just make sure you wrap up warm!
For a taste of what’s on offer why not marvel the pristine night skies on a Stargazing Safari and learn about the stars, galaxies, meteors and satellites that decorate the skies above. Informative Night Photography courses show you how to capture the perfect shot and give you the chance to practice your newfound skills under expert guidance.
Try a Dark Skies Walk, there are several routes to choose from, with one taking you high up onto the scenic moors of Chop Gate in the North York Moors to enjoy the darkness of night in this very special place. Deep Sky Exploring takes you on a guided tour of the constellations and our solar system and if the weather is bad you can retreat into the fascinating Planetarium. Families will love Star Glamping, a weekend of glamping, stargazing and campfires in luxury, octagonal cabins nestled in the hills of Nidderdale. Go Stargazing at world famous Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub, explore the constellations and observe distant galaxies, nebulae and star clusters using powerful telescopes. And back down to earth, take a Nocturnal Adventure at Keldy with a Forest Ranger and go stalking through woodland to catch a glimpse of wildlife with your night vision equipment. With such a jam packed programme, you should visit the event website for the full programme and to find out more about the Dark Skies Festival.
It’s not just the magical night-time sights that make these places great to visit, as daylight returns, soak up the stunning landscapes and explore. The dramatic scenery of the North York Moors stretches all the way to the beautiful Yorkshire coastline and is home to one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in England, rolling dales and vast forests. Within the spectacular limestone valleys of the Yorkshire Dales you can discover verdant vistas, mysterious caves, pounding waterfalls and the meandering dry-stone-wall lined roads lead to charming towns and villages. From history and local heritage to great food and drink there is plenty to do and to keep you coming back for more.
Slip into a warm and comfy bed in a cosy holiday cottage, guest house or hotel after your day’s adventures for a well-earned rest. There are plenty of options, but here are a few suggestions of places to stay…
Carr House Farm Bed and Breakfast – a cosy 16th century farmhouse near Ampleforth
The Star Inn at Harome – an appropriately named place to find a spot of luxury
The Black Swan, Helmsley – graceful accommodation in this picturesque market town
High Dalby House, Dalby – a peaceful retreat with the Dalby Forest
Tan Hill Inn, Reeth – a Yorkshire record breaker, the highest pub in Britain
The Devonshire Fell, Burnsall – luxury and comfort surrounded by stunning views
The Lister Arms, Malham – restful rooms in Yorkshire’s favourite pub, 2019
The Tennant Arms, Kilnsey – a boutique hotel nestled beneath the spectacular Kilnsey Crag
This weekend break was one of 12 listed in the 2020 This is Y magazine. You can view the full magazine HERE.