Visitor numbers to the National Park's Dark Skies Festival have doubled

Stars above Malham Tarn
Stars above Malham Tarn
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North Yorkshire’s dark skies are giving rural businesses a major economic boost as figures from the county’s two National Parks have shown that visitor numbers at last year’s event doubled from 2018.

More than 7,000 people visited the two-week event held by the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks last year, and as this year’s festival gets under way on Friday, one business owner said she had seen a significant difference in visitor numbers since it started in 2015.

Heather Hodgson, who runs the eco-camping site, Askrigg Camping, at the family’s 400-acre sheep farm in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, said there had been a steady rise in tourism since the festival started, and in particular over the past year.

Mrs Hodgson, who takes guided night-time fell runs as part of the event, said she thought people’s awareness of dark skies was also part of a bigger conversation about global warming.

For centuries the stars have been our maps and our dark skies are a link to the people who mapped out our universe
Two new members are being recruited to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

Two fields on the remote working farm are used for camping, which Mrs Hodgson said is appreciated by visitors who stay and want to enjoy the unspoilt landscapes and skies.

She also said the benefits of the festival are not solely felt in February when it is staged.

She added: “People may come for an event and it gives them the opportunity to see Askrigg as a destination which they may visit again during the year. The impact of the festival is not just the two weeks it is held, but all year.”

The Yorkshire Dales National Park has just launched a bid to gain International Dark Skies Reserve Status, a move supported by Mrs Hodgson and businesses including The Tennants Arms and Low Mill Outdoor Centre.

Last year, the North York Moors National Park launched its Dark Skies Friendly scheme, which has allowed businesses that meet a set of criteria, such as providing guides and blankets, to be able to display the initiative’s official logo.