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Celebrate the night and discover starry delights

Shun the indoors this half term and head to the North York Moors National Park Fringe Dark Skies Festival (21-30 October) to make the most of one of nature’s greatest spectacles, the night sky.

With no full moon muscling in on the starry skies, there’s a greater chance of seeing shooting stars as the start of this year’s Fringe Festival coincides with the peak of the Orionids meteor shower on 21 October.

Festival-goers can enjoy a star safari in the company of astronomy experts like Astro Dog at Dalby Forest; the Whitby & District Astronomical Society at the Fox and Hounds in Ainthorpe; or Large Outdoors at Danby in the North York Moors to increase their chances of watching this night time wonder.

Meanwhile at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway visitors can hop on-board a steam train adorned with thousands of lights for an energetic, music-filled trip between Pickering and Levisham.

Over on the coast Whitby will have a distinctly Halloween theme with the gothic Abbey ruins dramatically illuminated and Dracula’s 125-year history brought to life. The Halloween theme continues with fearsome thrills along the spooky trail at Dalby Forest.

Image credit: Mark Bulmer of Ebor Images
Image credit: Mark Bulmer of Ebor Images

Nocturnal wildlife plays a starring role during the Festival with Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, as well as rangers at Keldy and Cropton Forest showing nature lovers why dark skies are so important to the likes of hedgehogs, bats and deer. There’s also the opportunity to have close-up encounters with owls as well as learning how to photograph them at the National Centre for Birds of Prey in Helmsley.

Walking at twilight and night time provides a fresh perspective on the countryside, particularly as people’s senses become more attuned to noticing sights, sounds and smells when daylight fades.

There are plenty of chances for festival-goers to experience this by joining guides as they walk under a canopy of thousands of stars within the International Dark Sky Reserves of both National Parks, whether it’s in the Cleveland Hills, across Sutton Bank, in the foothills of Ingleborough, the second-highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, or revelling in a sensory walk in Dalby Forest.

Even those who can’t travel to the National Parks can still be involved with the Festival as there will be a number of online events including Richard Darn holding a Beginner’s Guide to the Night Sky; a telescope workshop run by Go Stargazing, and live space-themed experiments and craft activities run by The Space Detectives.

This will be the third year that the Dark Skies Festival has been a biannual event, reflecting the continued popularity among visitors.

For more information and booking details for the Fringe visit Dark Skies Festival website. Planning is also underway for the next Dark Skies Festival which will take place 10-26 February 2023.

Discover exciting events taking place throughout the festival, here are our top picks:

Dalby Forest Stargazing with Astro Dog

Image credit: Classlane Media
Image credit: Classlane Media

21 Oct - 30 Oct

Join Astro Dog for a magical evening of stargazing in Dalby Forest.

Enjoy a guided tour of the night sky, learning about stars, asterisms, constellations, star-hopping and how to navigate the night sky. Use telescopes and binoculars to view the planets, the Moon and stunning deep space objects such as double stars, star clusters, galaxies and nebulae.

Learn about the history of astronomy and space travel, travel through our solar system and embark on a journey to the edge of the known universe inside an immersive 360° planetarium dome. View and learn about the wonders of the universe with the breath-taking experience of surround vision.

Get to know the equipment and accessories involved in stargazing and astrophotography such as binoculars, telescopes, tripods and tracking mounts. Enjoy a short presentation on astrophotography, including images of planets, star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, noctilucent clouds and the Aurora Borealis.

Booking is essential. For more information about this event, please click here.

Light Spectacular Express - North Yorkshire Moors Railway

22 Oct - 30 Oct

Marvel at the heritage carriages, decorated with thousands of lights, before departing from Pickering Station for an awe-inspiring journey. Lett their voiceover man and DJ-Mix of music get you in the mood for a party the whole family will enjoy.

Each passenger will be given their own interactive LED wristband which is synchronised to the music and passengers become part of the show.

This hour-long round trip, with on-board narration and music, departs from Pickering Station for Levisham Station every evening from 22 to 30 October.

For more information about this event, please click here.

An evening among the stars

Image credit: Tony Bartholomew
Image credit: Tony Bartholomew

22 Oct

Head to the Fox & Hounds, a traditional rural inn, located at the heart of the North York Moors International Dark Sky Reserve. Whitby & District Astronomical Society will be hosting the event in the garden, which offers uninterrupted views of the night sky.

There will be several telescope stations in operation, each trained on a specific astronomical feature. Guests will be able to walk between the scopes, view and learn about the night-sky from their expert hosts.

​Alongside the stargazing, enjoy a winter cook-out, offering traditional seasonal warmers such as, jacket potatoes, roast chestnuts, pumpkin soup, pulled-pork, mulled cider and more.

For more information about this event, please click here.

Dark Skies experience at Danby

23 Oct

Enjoy an evening of celestial wonder at the Danby Lodge Dark Sky Discovery Site. Joined by resident stargazing expert, you’ll spend the evening getting to know the night’s sky and the cosmos through stories and close-up views of the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies offering the clearest views on the night.

For more information about this event, please click here.

Dark Skies experience at Sutton Bank

28 Oct

Visit Sutton Bank National Park Centre’s new Star and Nature Hub for an evening of celestial delights! You’ll meet the resident stargazing expert who’ll introduce you to the night’s sky through a range of telescopes and knowledge of the constellations and cosmos. Gather around the Hub’s fire pit and spend the evening enjoying close-up views of the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies offering the clearest views on the night.

For more information about this event, please click here.

North York Moors National Park: Our dark skies journey

Image credit: Steve Bell
Image credit: Steve Bell

In December 2020, the North York Moors National Park celebrated their designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve status. Join Mike Hawtin, Dark Skies officer, who’ll share some of the key research and work involved to keep this important status. Looking towards the future, he’ll discuss the importance of looking after our dark skies, including some of the actions and projects the National Park is currently delivering. He will also cover what you can do as an individual to help save the night!

It's a free, online Zoom meeting. The presentation will be 45 minutes followed by a 15 minute Q&A session with an opportunity for you to ask questions.

For more information about this event, please click here.

Dark skies art workshops at Helmsley Arts Centre

27 Oct

Enjoy a range of mega messy, crafty, painty, foldy, sticky, papery fun art workshops.

They are running two sessions of brilliant art activities that you can dip into and go crazy with your creations all with the helping hand of artist Tabitha Grove.

Book as many sessions as you like and enjoy the day! Starts at 10am or 1pm.

For more information about this event, please click here.

Nocturnal nature walk - Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

28 Oct

Come along for a nocturnal nature walk. Learn all about nocturnal creatures from bats to hedgehogs.

Hot drinks and facilities provided.

For more information about this event, please click here.

Fear in the forest

29 Oct

Visit Dalby Forest for the spookiest thrills, creepy crafts and ghoulishly gruesome performances on their guided Halloween trail through the trees.

First walk starts 6pm, last walk starts 8:20pm. Duration approximately 40 minutes.

For more information about this event, please click here.

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