The enchanting allure of the night sky beckons as the Dark Skies Fringe Festival makes its return to the North York Moors National Park. As autumn’s embrace ushers in longer nights and clearer skies, the festival invites stargazers and nature enthusiasts of all ages to embark on a celestial journey.
From 27 October to 5 November, festival-goers will have the opportunity to experience the wonders of one of the world’s 21 International Dark Sky Reserves.
A celestial adventure for all
The Dark Skies Fringe Festival boasts a diverse range of activities designed to cater to every interest and age group. Whether you are a seasoned stargazer or someone looking to dip their toes into the world of astronomy, the festival promises an array of memorable experiences.
The festival programme encompasses various activities, including stargazing, leisurely walks, and bicycle rides beneath the stars. Nature lovers will have the opportunity to spot some nocturnal wildlife, while those in pursuit of relaxation can simply unwind under the stars. One of the highlights this year is a guided night ride with Sutton Bank Bikes, offering cyclists a chance to explore off-road trails by the glow of the moon, all while taking in the panoramic views above the escarpment.
Guided tours and educational sessions
For those seeking a more structured experience, the festival offers guided dark sky walks and night navigation sessions led by Large Outdoors. York Astro will also host a stargazing evening, providing valuable insights into the cosmos. These events mark the beginning of a series of autumn and winter offerings from Sutton Bank National Park Centre’s Star Hub.
Astro Dog will return with its popular stargazing safari and pop-up planetarium evenings amidst the inky blue skies of Dalby Forest. During the festival, Astro Dog will also provide a unique opportunity to train telescopes on the partial lunar eclipse of the Hunter’s Moon on 28 October and witness Jupiter in close proximity to Earth on 2 November.
Something for everyone
Families are not left out, with daytime Dark Skies trails through the enchanting grounds of Danby Lodge National Park Centre and a planetarium show by Cosmic Wonders in Guisborough. For an extra touch of mystery, an evening on the headland above Whitby at the YHA offers a guided tour of the night sky against the backdrop of Whitby Abbey.
Beyond the celestial wonders, the festival also emphasises the importance of minimising light pollution to protect nature. Activities like forest ranger nocturnal adventures in Cropton, and the National Centre for Birds of Prey’s winter owl evening underline the critical role of preserving dark skies.
For a completely different experience, festival-goers can join one of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Light Spectacular evenings, where heritage carriages adorned with thousands of lights transport passengers between Pickering and Levisham. Alternatively, head to Oswaldkirk for a dark skies-themed watercolour workshop where beginners and experts alike can learn the techniques to create their own mini-masterpiece.
Sleeping under the stars
A variety of accommodation providers offer special stay and gaze packages, including the Fox and Hounds Inn at Ainthorpe, Carr House B&B at Ampleforth, and Monket Cottage in Farndale. This ensures you can fully immerse yourself in the festival’s celestial offerings.
Phoebe Smith, marketing assistant for the North York Moors National Park, emphasises the festival’s significance, saying, “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”.
The Dark Skies Fringe Festival is a prelude to the main Dark Skies Festival, which spans both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, and is set to run from the 9 to the 25 of February 2024. Both promise an array of amazing events for the whole family to enjoy.
For more information, including individual event pricing and booking details, visit the Dark Skies Festival: North York Moors events website.
Article based on press release.