Dark skies highlight star quality of Yorkshire Dales as tourist draw

A dark sky at the Ribblehead Viaduct. The Yorkshire Dales Authority is looking to attract stargazers. PIC: Matthew Savage

A dark sky at the Ribblehead Viaduct. The Yorkshire Dales Authority is looking to attract stargazers. PIC: Matthew Savage

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NATIONAL PARK chiefs are aiming to capitalise on the growing popularity of star-gazing after the Yorkshire Dales was named as one of the best locations in the country to witness celestial wonders.

The most detailed satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies released yesterday by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) show that the Yorkshire Dales National Park is ranked as the third darkest behind Northumberland and Exmoor.

According to the ‘Night Blight’ maps – which were produced using satellite images captured at 1.30am throughout last September – 98 per cent of the skies in the Yorkshire Dales National Park are in the darkest two categories.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s member champion for promoting understanding, Judith Donovan, said: “This latest research confirms that this national park is one of the best places in the country to appreciate the wonders of the night sky.

“We think that there is a real opportunity for local businesses to exploit the potential of our dark skies to expand their ‘offer’ to our millions of visitors and attract people to the Dales at quieter times of the year. We want to build on the success of our first Dark Skies Festival held in February and we will be running further workshops for businesses later in the year.”

The CPRE research comes at a time of growing awareness of the harmful effects light pollution can have on the health of people and wildlife.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s new planning blueprint, called the Local Plan, contains policies to minimise the impact of light pollution by monitoring street lighting and new developments.

The CPRE’s senior rural policy campaigner, Emma Marrington, said: “Dark skies are a key characteristic of what makes the countryside so different from urban areas.”