Posted 23rd January by Peter Byrne
The 2018 Dark Skies Festival is returning next month, with over 30 new events and locations
Taking place between 9-25 February, the Festival will include a 'Stories under the stars' evening which is hosted by former Cbeebies presenter Alex Winters in the conservatory of the Spa Hotel, Saltburn.
Visitors will get to watch the stars in the company of expert astronomers at a number of new locations, including the Buck Hotel, Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales, Byland Abbey, Ryedale Folk Museum and Chapelgarth Estate at Great Broughton in the North York Moors.
There will also be plenty of new events for runners, walkers and cyclists to choose from, including a three and a half mile guided night walk through the Land of Iron at Rosedale, bike orienteering at Hawes, and an early morning social run up Great Shunner Fell, the third highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales, in time to enjoy the sunrise.
If you'd rather partake in some adrenaline-inducing fun, you can hurtle into the darkness on a zip wire at Go-Ape in Dalby Forest, or venture underground at Crackpot Cave in Swaledale to see caving's answer to the stars with the sparkling calcite formations in the cavernous roof.
There will be more sessions with photographers enabling visitors to master the night time photography at scenic spots such as Settle, Bolton Abbey, Malham Cove, Sutton Bank and Whitby.
The North York Moors fishing villages will take on an atmospheric feeling at night when there will be opportunities to go on ghost walks at Robin Hood's Bay or a candlelit stroll through Staithes to find out more about tales of smuggling.
Wildlife watchers will get to explore the nocturnal goings-on in the countryside with the Tees Wildlife Trust at Saltburn, an owl prowl at the National Centre for Birds of Prey at Helmsley or a Sense by Starlight Forest Schools evening in the woods at Aysgarth Falls.
Children will get to immerse themselves in the universe by making rockets, telescopes and planet pom-poms, and for the first time this year the YHA at Whitby is lining up a crafting evening, while there will be lantern-making workshops at Sutton Bank and Danby, organised by the Animated Objects Theatre Company.
Crafters and art appreciators will get to enjoy a night sky print workshop at Broadrake in Chapel-le-Dale, Ingleton, and a series of starry-themed felt-making sessions in Hawes. There will be an Inspired by...gallery in Danby which will showcase how artists and jewellery designers interpret the beauty of the National Parks' dark skies.
Even if the weather doesn't play ball, visitors will be able to imagine they are in space with indoor evenings at the Lime Tree Observatory at Grewelthorpe in Nidderdale and the cosmos planetariums in Skipton, Hawes and Ryedale Folk Museum.
Tracey Lambert, the tourism officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park, commented: "We’re delighted with this year’s programme as even more businesses have got behind the Festival to showcase the myriad ways that people can enjoy the National Parks after dark."
Mike Hawtin, Outdoor Activities Tourism Officer for the North York Moors National Park Authority adds: "Whether visitors want to feel as though they’re careering into the cosmos, sedately studying the stars or being wowed by the world of space, the Festival has an event for them."
Each National Park has three Dark Sky Discovery locations where the skies are sufficiently dark enough to view the Milky Way with the named eye - the North York Moors sites are at The Moors National Park Centre at Danby, Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest. The Yorkshire Dales Dark Sky Discovery locations are at Hawes, Malham and Buckden.