ONE of the region's best known beauty spots is reaching for the stars with official recognition as a dark sky discovery site.

In fact Dalby Forest on the North York Moors has impressed the astronomical experts so much it’s been declared a “Milky Way” class venue for stargazers – the top rating that can be given, because of its lack of light pollution and commitment to popularising astronomy.

The 8,600 acre forest is only the third Dark Sky Discovery Site in Yorkshire and one of only 50 throughout Britain, with Kielder in Northumberland one of the most famous. The rating came after a campaign by Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society , backed by the Forestry commission.

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Tanya Rex of the Forestry Commission said: “We are absolutely thrilled. Our relationship with the astronomers goes back over two decades, during which time thousands of people have been able to discover the magnificent starry skies we have here in the North York Moors. Dalby is a truly beautiful place by night and day and the stars can look staggering on a clear night.”

The late Sir Patrick Moore opened the first observatory in Dalby Forest in 2001, which was eventually replaced by the existing purpose built astronomical domes in front of the new visitor centre. Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society run monthly stargazing events in the forest and also stage one of the UK’s biggest star camps, Starfest, every August.

Society Secretary Andy Exton said: “This will really help put us on the map and it is welcome recognition of the quality of our night skies. We get visitors coming from across the north to stargaze in Dalby at our monthly nightwatches and this news will help us draw even more people. On a clear night the Milky Way can look absolutely magnificent, so it’s brilliant we have been given the top rating as a centre for stargazers."