Lonely Planet Writer

Dark Skies Festival brings night-time zip-lining to the North York Moors

In the dark sky zone under which North York Moors National Park sits, up to 2000 stars can be seen. Dalby Forest here slumbers beneath a pitch-black cloak of invisibility at night, watched over by the Milky Way, and next month visitors will be able to glide above the trees in the dark for the first time, as Go Ape gears up to offer night-time zip-lining as part of the annual Dark Skies Festival in Yorkshire.

Milky Way above Byland Abbey North York Moors National Park. Image by Steve Bell

The 720-foot-long zip-wire is expected to be more exhilarating than ever as participants are plunged into darkness, high above the forest floor. Following the festival, Go Ape plans to run further after-dark zip-lining in April and May, and then again from November, when the nights draw in again.

Zip-lining by night at the Dark Skies festival. Image by Go Ape

The activity will cost £12 per person for two flights, for a minimum of two participants. Dalby Forest is a 3440-hectare woodland with Dark Sky Discovery Site status and its own observatories.

Night-time mountain-biking at Sutton Bank. Image by Steve Bell

This year’s Dark Skies Festival has been extended by a week due to the event’s popularity. It will run from 9 to 25 February across the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales, as well as in Northumberland and the South Downs. Some of the other night-time adrenaline activities planned for this year will be even less for the faint-hearted. They include a 50-mile cross-country bike challenge from Newburgh Priory on the edge of the moors (24 February) and a trail run up to the summit of Ellerkin Scar in the dales (16 February). Less strenuous events include nocturnal family trails, astro photography and stargazing in the shadow of Byland Abbey’s ruins.

Winterburn Yorkshire Dales. Image by Matthew Savage

The festival, now in its third year, has acted as a catalyst for interest in dark skies-related experiences in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. Both areas are launching a ‘Starmaker’ initiative this year to train more astronomy guides.

By Lorna Parkes