Alongside the challenges come the positives the things which draw people to these parts - its landscape and skies - Sophie McCandlish

The importance of our dark skies is highlighted by the annual festival
The importance of our dark skies is highlighted by the annual festival
Have your say

North Yorkshire is the largest county in England and while it has its towns and cities, around 85 per cent is classed as very rural or super sparse.

This has its challenges – transport, housing and the rural economy – all of which are being put under the microscope by the independent North Yorkshire Rural Commission.

But alongside the challenges come the positives, the things that draw people to these parts and have inspired artists, writers and poets – its landscape and skies.

Dark skies are not something we heard much about until relatively recently, which may be because not many of us have truly seen one.

Landmark Agriculture Bill goes back to Parliament for its second reading
He hasn’t even given the Swale ewes a second glance. I guess the making of babies just isn’t for him! - Jill Thorp

Light pollution is something the majority of us have lived alongside without giving it too much thought – until we were given the opportunity to see the alternative.

The North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park both have spots for viewing the heavens.

And without any light pollution, the true skies, with their stars and planets, open up to us.

Travel beyond Yorkshire and we are lucky enough to be close to Kielder observatory.

Anyone can book a trip to the site, hidden in the Kielder Forest, and learn from its incredibly knowledgeable team.

For the feature on Page 14, its science communicator, George Pattinson, talked about the importance of our skies and their link to our history.

Today we have apps that tell us where we are, where we need to be and how to get there. To get from A to B we spend our lives looking down, forgetting that our ancestors will have looked up.

The stars and planets have guided our great explorers and adventurers while helping to map our world. And they are still there, waiting for us to discover them again.

As well as bringing people back to the natural world, this increased awareness of our dark skies is also providing a valuable boost to these rural locations.

Astro tourism is taking off and helping these unspoilt areas add a new economic string to their bows.

Discover it for yourself and pick your activity at