North York Moors National Park to host February Dark Skies Festival - here's what's happening

A whole host of activities are set to take place in Whitby and on the North York Moors, at this year's February’s Dark Skies Festival.
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Amid growing awareness of the wellbeing benefits associated with spending time outside under the night skies, this year’s festival will see an expanded range of mindfulness sessions.

It will run from February 18 to March 6 across both International Dark Sky Reserves of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

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These sessions will run alongside perennial festival favourites such as stargazing safaris, nocturnal wildlife trails, dark sky runs, walks, cycle rides and canoeing evenings, astrophotography skills sessions and art exhibitions.

Orion over Saltwick Bay, Whitby.Orion over Saltwick Bay, Whitby.
Orion over Saltwick Bay, Whitby.

For the first time, Zen teacher Mark Westmoquette brings his star bathing approach to the festival, drawing on his astronomy background and showing how people can use the night sky to live ‘more in the moment’.

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Families with younger children can also enjoy the opportunity to slow down during a Mindfulness Walk organised by Whitby YHA when stargazing, nature at night and views across the cliff tops above the harbour will help reinvigorate all the senses.

The Moors National Park Centre at Danby in the North York Moors will serve as a hub for many events including an evening with the Whitby & District Astronomical Society.

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The Inspired by… gallery at the Centre will also be hosting two exhibitions, starting with a preview event on the opening night of the festival, where visitors can see how the fragility of the night sky is interpreted through the work of specially-commissioned artists, printmaker Helen Peyton and cosmic artist Louise Beer.

Families with younger children needn’t miss out on the fun as there are daytime dark skies-themed workshops at Helmsley Arts Centre and a Van Gogh-inspired winter sky painting day at The Moors National Park Centre in Danby.

Following on from last year’s lockdown virtual festival success, families will also be able to log into In The Night Sky Live sessions from the comfort of their home, courtesy of the Space Detectives run by Jo Richardson, who is just one of six UK Space Champions working on behalf of the European Space Education Office.

Helen Dalton, Tourism Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park, said: “As well as being fun and enlightening, many of the events at this year’s Dark Skies Festival will focus even more on the need to appreciate the value of the night sky: that beyond its beauty it has a vital role in protecting not only our own health and wellbeing but also that of the natural world.”

Visit for more programme information, including booking details.