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Ribblehead Viaduct at night Copyright Thom Shutt

Exploring the Night Sky in the Yorkshire Dales: A Guide to the Dark Skies Festival

Monday 22 January, 2024, by Katy Foxford

Experience the night sky like never before at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Dark Skies Festival, taking place from 9-25 February! The Dales is renowned for its breath-taking scenery, and now, thanks to our International Dark Sky Reserve Status, it is gaining popularity for its incredible dark skies.

Every year businesses throughout the Dales come together to host a range of events that celebrate the beauty of our night sky. This year there are over 50 events to choose from. So whether you’re an avid stargazer or simply looking for a fun family activity, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Here’s a guide to some of the events taking place, which include fascinating talks, stargazing experiences in incredible settings, and events that will leave you in awe of the universe.

Stargazing talks with refreshments

Stargazing talks are a great opportunity to learn more about the wonders of the night sky from experts in the field. You’ll be able to ask questions and get a deeper understanding of the stars, planets, and other celestial objects. And what better way to enjoy the talks than with some hearty dishes to warm you up on a winter’s night.

Cafe Under the Stars at the Dales Bike Centre, Reeth: February 12, 2024

Enjoy pizza, cake, and hot drinks while hopefully viewing Jupiter and a crescent moon in early twilight. As full darkness falls, experience the late winter and spring sky through the eyes of a local nightscape photographer, Paul Clark.

Festival Star Party, Keld: February 13, 2024

Experience the early spring night sky in Keld during the Dark Sky Festival. Join Richard Darn for a magical tour of the universe with powerful telescopes and binoculars to explore distant galaxies and star clusters. Warm refreshments available.

Beginners Guide to the Night Sky at Low Mill Outdoor Centre, Askrigg: February 19, 2024

Embark on a celestial journey with astronomer Richard Darn. After your stargazing adventure, enjoy delicious hot chocolate and cookies from Low Mill.

Night of Cosmic Wonder at the Kings Head, Ravenstonedale: February 20, 2024

A fantastic evening of cosmic wonder and exploration using telescopes and binoculars to view the magnificent moon and giant Jupiter, search for ancient constellations and even shooting stars. Includes a hot-pot supper.

Pie at Night at Fairhursts at Berry’s Farm Shop & Cafe, Leyburn: February 23, 2024

Join Director Martin Whip from the Lime Tree Observatory for a warming supper of pie and seasonal vegetables, followed by an astronomy presentation and a spot of stargazing.

Dark Skies in the Vale with Due North, Thirsk: February 23, 2024

Join The Catton Kitchen for an evening of stargazing and dark sky activities led by local astronomers and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, in Vale of Mowbray. Hot food available for purchase from The Catton Kitchen.

Active ways to enjoy the night sky

If you are searching for inspiring ways to enjoy the night sky in the Yorkshire Dales, or just trying to keep active this winter, we’ve got you covered! We have a number of business offering unique outdoors activities in ultra dark settings, making for truly memorable experiences.

Canoe under the stars with How Stean Gorge, Harrogate: every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from January – March

A regular event in the dark skies calendar and so popular that it’s now held all year round, now featuring pizza nights too!

Dark Skies Night Run, Reeth: February 24, 2024

Wrap up warm and head out for a 5 mile night-time fell run in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, reflective way markers and marshalls will be along the route to help guide you around the course.

Ride, Shine, Dine with Stage 1 Cycles, Hawes: February 17, 2024

A two-hour mountain bike night ride suitable for experienced off-road riders, followed by warming homemade chilli and rice at the Firebox Cafe.

Yorkshire Dales by Day and by Night: February 19, 2024

Join Mountain Goat for an adventure tour around some of the iconic landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales – famous locations, including Aysgarth Waterfalls, Hawes, Buttertubs Pass, and Bolton Castle. Sample local food and drink and enjoy stunning views as you journey to the stars.

Family-friendly creative starry events

If you’re looking for family-friendly events to enjoy with your children during the February half-term, look no further than our Dark Skies Festival. You’ll find plenty of exciting and educational activities that the whole family can enjoy.

This year Stump Cross Caverns have two fantastic ‘dark skies experience’ caving events!

Cosmic Wonders: February 16, 2024

Experience a captivating journey under the stars and beneath the earth at Stump Cross Caverns! This family-friendly event offers stargazing, constellation tales, a craft activity, and a tour of the UV-lit cave with mesmerising calcite formations. This event is designed to delight those aged 5 and above.

A Night on the Moon: February 22, 2024

Spy our nearest neighbour through powerful telescopes, including an indoor planetarium tour of the night sky. This event is perfect for novices, including adults and children over 6 years old.

WonderDome Planetarium at Skipton Town Hall: February 15, 2024

Immerse yourself in the mysteries of the universe this half term holiday with a visit from WonderDome planetarium. There are two shows to choose between – or if you are a super space fan why not come to both!

  • We Are Aliens! (All Ages)
  • Forward to the Moon (Most suitable for Age 7+)

Half Term Art Club featuring Dark Skies, Skipton Town Hall: February 12, 2024

Celebrate the Yorkshire Dales & North York Moors Dark Skies Festival this February half term at ‘Art Club’, aimed at young people aged 10 – 18yrs. There are two sessions available.

Craven Museum Make & Take: Dark Skies Festival, Skipton Town Hall: February 14, 2024

Drop-in for a relaxed, nature themed family craft session in the Concert Hall, suitable for children of all ages. This Make & Take is inspired by the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors Dark Skies Festival. There are two sessions available.

Bike and Pizza Planet Party with Stage 1 Cycles, Hawes: February 15, 2024

Follow a trail of stars and seek out the planets. Your reward for making it to the sun is to return to the Firebox Café for a planet pizza making session. Suitable for beginner cyclists, all activities will be undertaken in a traffic-free site. Bikes/helmets available to loan.

Children’s Stargazing Storytelling at The Stripey Badger Bookshop, Grassington: February 13, 2024

Come along for an afternoon of magical storytelling of a mythical adventure through the stars. Make your own constellation to take home, and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate.

Beginners Guide to the Night Sky and Rocket Making at Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes: February 14, 2024

Join stargazing expert Richard Darn on a cosmic journey to learn about ancient constellations, spot galaxies, and handle space rocks over four billion years old! If the sun is out you can even have a go at safe solar observing. Make and launch your own rocket and enjoy a 10% discount on a Dark Skies themed menu at the Firebox Cafe. Free for children accompanied by an adult paying the museum admission fee. Perfect for kids over 6 and adults.

Dark Skies Crafting at Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes: February 13 and 16, 2024

Moon and Star Biscuit Decorating at Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes: February 21, 2024

Planet and Constellation Trail, Aysgarth Falls: February 9 – 25, 2024

The Planet Trail will be on display within Freeholders Wood, just a few metres away from Aysgarth Falls National Park Visitor Centre and the delicious Coppice Café. For Visitor Centre opening times see the Aysgarth National Park Visitor Centre page on our website. The Trail is approximately 1.5km to complete the full circuit including the waterfalls.

Astrophotography

Astrophotography is a great way to engage with and learn about the night sky. With the right equipment and techniques, you can capture stunning images of the night sky – the moon, stars, planets, and even distant galaxies! The following workshops are available throughout February and into March.

Join us at Langcliffe Hoffman Kiln and learn how to make amazing photographs of different mesmerising lighting effects. Also learn how to use your camera manually to create long exposures in low light: February 10, 2024

Learn how to make beautiful, atmospheric photographs after dark in the picturesque market town of Grassington. Master long exposures & manual photography: February 17, 2024

Learn how to create long exposure photographs and discover the magic of creating images of waterfalls after the sun has gone down at Cauldron Force, West Burton, Yorkshire Dales: February 23, 2024

The Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the Yorkshire Dales’ most iconic human-made structures. Photograph it after dark and master long exposures and manual settings: February 24, 2024

An online seminar/demonstration of how to edit photographs of the night sky. Learn which software to use, how to layer photographs and colour correct. Demonstrations will be carried out in Adobe Lightroom Classic, Capture One and Photoshop: March 1, 2024

Stargazing retreats

Looking for a star-filled adventure or perhaps a romantic getaway this February? Immerse yourself in the beauty of the night sky as you connect with the universe above. There’s nothing more magical than stargazing with friends or a loved one to create special memories.

Romantic stargazing retreats in February: Dates throughout February

Looking for some peace, calm and tranquillity or maybe a romantic night under the stars? What better way to enjoy the night sky than in a wood-fired hot tub or outside space to enjoy the night sky, with a glass of bubbly and a luxurious holiday cottage to relax in?

Star Glamp Weekender at Little Seed Field: February 9 – 11, 2024

A family adventure weekend filled with stargazing, glamping, a visit to a local observatory and a hearty two course meal.


So, why not head to the Yorkshire Dales this February and discover the magic of a true dark sky?

These events are booking up fast, so make sure to grab your spot before it’s too late!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Picture of Katy Foxford

Katy Foxford

Katy is the Tourism Support Officer with the YDNPA

Website: www.yorkshiredales.org.uk

2 Replies to “Exploring the Night Sky in the Yorkshire Dales: A Guide to the Dark Skies Festival”

  1. Robert Hadden says:

    Wow, I’m amazed there’s so much interest in this.
    I’m an avid bird photographer and I’d like to diversify into astro photography.
    The locations you suggest are interesting. I’m looking for groups, clubs and individuals who I could join.
    Can you help?

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