STARGAZERS are in for a true treat as a popular festival gets underway next month.

This year’s Dark Skies Festival, across both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, takes place within the International Dark Sky Reserves of both National Parks from February 9 to 25, will feature a number of artists who have come up with creative ways that people can enjoy the National Parks’ pristine dark skies and be inspired by the experience to create their own pieces of art.

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For instance electronic dance poets Claire Hind and Robert Wilsmore will walk with a group after dark along Blakey Ridge before reaching a place to listen to the duo’s creative score, The Long Dead Stars, inspired by the North York Moors landscape. During the return walk people will be encouraged to write their own material using performance writing techniques.

There are also several new starry night watercolour workshops being run by artist Ione Harrison at locations including Helmsley and Nunnington, while talented photographers will share how to create mesmerising nightscape and astro images at locations such as Castle Howard and Whitby. 

Those who are in awe of space travel can experience how NASA uses underground cave systems to help train astronauts by heading to Stump Cross Caverns in Nidderdale and follow in the footsteps of a rocket scientist who once spent 105 days in the subterranean environment collating data that helped advance space science.

York Press: Cygnus and Andromeda over Newton Dale Cygnus and Andromeda over Newton Dale (Image: Brinton Darnell)

Parents with younger children can try the new permanent dark skies themed trail at either Sutton Bank or Danby Lodge National Park Centres where paper and crayons can be used to rub across a series of brass plaques to create images of ten star constellations such as Orion or Ursa Major. Alternatively there’s the Planet Trail at Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales where youngsters can learn fun facts about the Universe while spotting planets in the woods.

No dark skies festival would be complete without the astronomy evenings and this year there are several new locations for events, including Birkdale Farm at Terrington in the Howardian Hills, Ashes Farm near Ribblehead Viaduct and a weekend combining stargazing with yoga, hiking and live music at Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Askrigg.

Following on from the success of its first event during last year’s Fringe Festival, Sutton Bank Bikes will be repeating their night bike ride in February, while over in the Yorkshire Dales, Stage 1 Cycles will be running an afternoon cycling and planet pizza making event and an evening’s mountain biking followed by a warming meal at the Firebox Café.

Activity-seekers can also join a night run at Reeth or go on a dark skies walking adventure in the Throughout the festival, dark skies-friendly accommodation will be offering guests an ‘out-of-this-world’ experience including Stay and Gaze packages at The Stone House Hotel near Hawes and The Fox & Hounds at Ainthorpe near Danby.

Phoebe Smith, Marketing Assistant for the North York Moors National Park said: “This will be the ninth Dark Skies Festival since we organised the first event back in February 2016 and it is safe to say it has now become a popular annual fixture for so many people because of the broad range of events that appeal to all ages.”

Derek Twine, Member Champion for Promoting Understanding at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said: “While enjoyment and discovery are at the heart of the Festival, it’s also a reminder to us all of the vital need to do everything we can to protect one of nature’s greatest wonders, the night sky, from light pollution so that we can help safeguard the natural world as well as our own health and wellbeing.”

The events are individually priced and some are free. For more programme information, including individual event booking details and pricing go to