Yorkshire’s Dark Skies Festival returns for half-term week in February 2017

North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks plan expanded Festival after this year’s bright start.

People will be able to get star struck again during next February’s half-term school holiday as the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park Authorities are teaming up once more to stage a second Dark Skies Festival.

The 2017 Festival, which will take place from Saturday 18 until Sunday 26 February, will build on the bright start of this year’s debut event, with an extra two days added and plans to increase the number of visitor activities.

The 2016 celestial celebration helped boost visitor numbers to both National Parks, with more than 1,500 people flocking to the various events.

This year’s programme will expand on the 30 events which were held across 13 different locations – stretching from Horton-in-Ribblesdale in the Yorkshire Dales across to Ravenscar on the North York Moors coastline – and included stargazing sessions, guided walks wearing night vision glasses, space-related craft workshops and dark sky art exhibitions.

With their low light pollution, both national parks have some of the darkest skies in the country to embark on a celestial safari and enjoy stargazing.

This February, The Moors National Park Centre at Danby became the latest location in the North York Moors National Park to be identified by the Dark Sky Discovery Initiative as a Milky Way Class site, where skies are sufficiently dark to potentially view the galaxy with the naked eye.

It joined the visitor centre at Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest as other existing Milky Way sites on the North York Moors, while three sites were awarded the same status in 2015 at Hawes, Malham and Buckden in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Tracey Lambert, tourism officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority explains: “Planning is well underway for an expanded programme next year. It was fantastic to see the great support provided by local businesses and the huge level of visitor interest at the inaugural event which saw many sell-out activities including stargazing sessions, guided night mountain bike rides and space-related crafting sessions for all the family.

“The fascination of the night sky and space continues to grow, boosted by Tim Peake’s adventures and increasing awareness of upcoming dazzling displays such as the Northern Lights.

“As well as visitors being introduced to the beauty of our skies and the nocturnal wonders of the National Parks, local businesses and attractions are also beginning to realise the potential benefit from the growth in astro-tourism and we’re hoping to have the same great level of support as the first event.”

Further details and programme of events will be available in December on www.darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk