Whitby and North York Moors host Dark Skies festival: round-up of what you can see and do

This year’s Dark Skies Fringe Festival, which kicks off the prime autumn and winter season for witnessing the stars and planetary movements in the North York Moors National Park’s clear night sky, will include a host of events throughout October’s half term holiday.
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Between October 27 and November 5, festival-goers of all ages can marvel at the unsullied National Park skies, one of only 21 International Dark Sky Reserves in the World, in all manner of ways.

The programme includes stargazing, walking or cycling, painting a watercolour, sitting on a steam train, spotting nocturnal wildlife, or enjoying a relaxing stay and gaze break.

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This year, the festival’s programme will see Astro Dog resume its stargazing safari and pop-up planetarium evenings below the inky blue skies of Dalby Forest.

The Milky Way as seen from Rosedale.
picture by Tony Marsh.The Milky Way as seen from Rosedale.
picture by Tony Marsh.
The Milky Way as seen from Rosedale. picture by Tony Marsh.

During the Fringe, Astro Dog – run by Nicole Carr and Simon Scott – will enable people to train telescopes on the partial lunar eclipse of Hunter’s Moon which is due on October 28, and the planet Jupiter being its closest to Earth on November 2.

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Mesmerising display of Northern Lights seen from Dalby Forest, near Scarborough

For families there’s also the daytime Dark Skies Trail through the grounds of Danby Lodge National Park Centre, or an evening spent on the headland above Whitby at the YHA for a guided tour of the night sky in the spooky surroundings of Whitby Abbey.

The Festival provides the perfect opportunity to show how low light pollution is essential for protecting nature, with forest ranger nocturnal adventures in Cropton or the National Centre for Birds of Prey’s winter owl evening.

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For a completely different experience, festival-goers can join one of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Light Spectacular evenings to admire the heritage carriages adorned with thousands of lights as they travel between Pickering and Levisham.

There are also a number of accommodation providers running special stay and gaze packages such as the Fox and Hounds Inn at Ainthorpe and Monket Cottage in Farndale.

Phoebe Smith, Marketing Assistant for the North York Moors National Park comments: “October’s shorter days and lengthening nights provide a perfect backdrop for the Dark Skies Fringe Festival to remind people of the awe-inspiring enjoyment that comes with venturing outdoors to observe some of the darkest skies in the world.”

Visit darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk for more.

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