BUSINESSES looking to conserve and enhance the Yorkshire Dales’ largely unpolluted dark night sky have signed pledges of support to make it an International Dark Sky Reserve.

On the eve of the fifth annual Dark Skies Festival, beginning this Friday, February 14, the Tennants Arms in Craven and the Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Richmondshire have spoken of the wonder of the Dales’ dark sky as well as of the commercial potential of ‘astro tourism’.

One of the Tennants Arms’ dark sky-inspired events - a full moon trail ride in partnership with Kilnsey Trekking and Riding Centre - sold out so quickly, within two hours, that repeat events have been swiftly organised.

It is hoped that a bid for International Dark Sky Reserve status can be submitted by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority later this year.

As well as proving that the Yorkshire Dales meets minimum criteria on ‘sky quality and natural darkness’, the bid must provide evidence that local communities support dark sky conservation efforts.

So, businesses, organisations and individuals are being invited to make their pledges of support online.

The Head of Low Mill Outdoor Centre in Askrigg, Terry Hailwood, explained why he was supporting the bid.

“The vast majority of visitors to Low Mill come from an urban area and it’s been a long-standing tradition for groups on their first evening to go on a local night walk," he said.

The Northern Echo:

The Milky Way over Pen-y-ghent Picture: PETE COLLINS

"The abiding memory for many young visitors is how different the night sky is to their view at home.

“I am a passionate believer that if we want future generations to care for and protect the environment, then they need to experience it.

"The dark sky above is another layer of the special environment in the Dales. Low Mill Outdoor Education Centre is in full support of the International Dark Sky Reserve bid.”

General manager of The Tennants Arms Hotel in Kilnsey, Liz Smailes, said: “The Dark Skies Festival events have attracted guests from London, Manchester, Liverpool, as well as Korean and Arabic visitors that most likely wouldn’t have stayed with us had we not offered this unique way to experience the Dales.

“Becoming a Dark Sky Reserve would help the local economy, bringing additional visitors in the low season months.

"We’re extremely popular in summer but in winter we can go off the radar; we need to make it known that the Yorkshire Dales is not just a summer destination but a winter destination, too.

“Visitors may not think the sky is part of the Dales attraction, but once they get here, they're often struck by how big and dark the night sky is - and just how far into space they can see.”

Businesses can pledge their support for the International Dark Skies Reserve bid at Further details on Dark Sky Festival events can be found at