Dark Skies Cumbria

Saving Our Night Skies

Cumbria's dark skies allow us to see the natural wonder of the stars, but are also critical for the health wildlife and our own natural well-being. Sadly light pollution in Cumbria is increasing each year, threatening to obscure our view of the stars and blinding and confusing animals so they can’t feed or find a mate. We need urgent action now to stop light pollution. Stargazers, photographers, wildlife lovers and local communities… please help.


Or you can give by text to 70085. Just message DARKSKIES along with your chosen donation amount (eg DARKSKIES 5 to donate £5). Standard message rates apply.

The Lake District and Cumbria offers some of the most spectacular and precious skyscapes in England and we want you to join us on an interstellar adventure. Download our Dark Sky Discovery Pack and get started today!

Cumbria Dark Skies Festival and Big Switch Off 12-26 February

Lookout for Cumbria’s Dark Skies during February with lots happening to help celebrate and care for our precious night skies.

Cumbria’s fourth Dark Skies Festival runs between 12 - 26 February 2022, with a diverse range of online and outdoor events to experience and be wowed at the wonders of the night sky environment. From canoeing on Coniston, forest walks in Grizedale and Whinlatter, seeing sea life in rock pools on the west coast, to learning to draw the night sky with pastels, how to run your own dark sky events and online Astronomy talks, there’s something for everyone, (see events list below).

Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Tourism, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Forestry England, the National Trust and the Lake District National Park Partnership work together with businesses, astronomy groups and local communities to produce the two week Dark Skies events programme.

Heather Wolfenden, Path to Adventure Director, who is running the Dark Sky Canoeing events, said: “We are really pleased to support the Dark Sky Festival again. It is a fabulous opportunity for people to get out and explore the lake by night in a canoe and something not many will have experienced. Senses are very much heightened by darkness and there is something totally magical about being under a starry sky whilst quietly canoeing along the water!”

You can view all events and book via www.darkskiescumbria.org.uk or www.visitlakedistrict.com

The Big Switch Off – 8pm Saturday 26 February

 Cumbria Dark Skies Festival ends on Saturday 26 February, with The Big Switch Off, when residents, community groups, businesses, and Cumbria Country Council are all uniting to switch off the lights in Ambleside and Grasmere to reveal an amazing starscape above, as well as raising awareness about saving electricity.

The Switch Off begins from 8pm onwards, and we’re encouraging as many residents and businesses as we can to join in and turn off their lights overnight to see what a difference it makes to our view  of the stars.

Too many lights are left on overnight when not needed, wasting energy, adding to electricity bills and releasing more carbon into the atmosphere at a time when we must urgently bring down climate changing emissions. Artificial light at night is harmful to many species of wildlife, can cause sleeping problems for people, eroding immune systems and long-term health, and creates light pollution wrecking our view of the stars.

The many different groups taking part in the Big Switch Off include businesses across Ambleside and Grasmere, Cumbria County Council, St. Mary’s Church Ambleside, Ambleside C of E Primary School, the Lakes Chamber of Trade and the University of Cumbria, plus lots of residents who are supporters of Ambleside Action For A Future.

Gillian Kelly, Ambleside Action For A Future Coordinator promoting the Switch Off, said:

“Here in the heart of the beautiful Lake District we should be leading action to reduce our carbon footprint as individuals, visitors and as a community. We can reduce the wasteful use of energy and ask ourselves, do we really need so many lights on all through the night?

“We’re hoping The Big Switch Off will also encourage more home and business owners to install timers so their lights go off overnight when not needed, and, when the lights need to be on, be well shielded so the light beam shines downwards and not up into the night sky. Less light pollution and better dark skies will support all of our hospitality and visitor accommodation businesses.”  Read more about the Big Switch Off

Cumbria Dark Skies Festival list of events

6pm, Sat 12 February  Dark Skies Forest Walk, guided walk, Whinlatter
6pm, Mon 14 Feb   Alien Worlds: Exoplanets! Prof Carole Haswell, online
7pm, Tues 15       In Search of Dark Skies  Richard Darn, astronomer, online
4.45pm Wed 16    Dark Sky Canoeing, Path to Adventure, Coniston
5pm, Wed 16       Dark Skies Sunset Rockpooling, Parton Beach, Whitehaven
6.30pm  Wed 16  Forest Bathing with the Snow Moon and Stars Delyth Johnson, Grizedale Forest10am, Thu 17      Cyanotype Workshop, Pictures from the Forest Chris Routledge, Grizedale Forest
7pm Thur 17        Galaxy Tour, LUniverse, online planetarium
Sat 19           Shona Branigan: Prints from the forest (20 minute sessions bookable between 10.30am-3pm) Grizedale Forest
6pm, Sat 19        Forest bathing Invitation to connect to the elements Delyth Johnson, Grizedale
7pm, Sat 19        How to run stargazing events (even if you know nothing about astronomy!)  Gary Linton, online
Sun 20 Feb          The Bay: Dark Skies UV Rockpooling, Earnse Bay Walney Island
1pm Mon 21        Starscape Pastel Art Workshop Emma Hunt, Cockermouth
4.45pm Wed 23   Dark Sky Canoeing, Path to Adventure, Coniston
7pm, Wed 23      Dinner and Stargazing experience at the Inn on the Lake, Ullswater with Astronomer Rob Ince
7pm, Thur 24      Standing in the Shadow of the Moon Dave Whalley, online
6pm, Fri 25         Dark skies forest walk, guided Walk, Whinlatter Forest
8.30pm, Fri 25     Astrophotography workshop with Ben Bush, Grizedale Forest
10am, Sat 26       Cyanotype Workshop, Forest Landscape Chris Routledge, Grizedale Forest
8.30pm, Sat 26    Astrophotography workshop with Ben Bush, Grizedale Forest
From 8pm, Sat 26     Ambleside and Grasmere Big Switch Off   Voluntary community lighting switch-off in Ambleside and Grasmere

For more about Friends of the Lake District’s work, the Dark Skies Cumbria project, and Festival see: www.darkskiescumbria.org.uk

Friends of the Lake District is leading, with other partners and supporters, a project to improve dark skies in Cumbria. We’re passionate about celebrating and safeguarding Cumbria’s amazing dark skies. For more about Friends of the Lake District’s work, the Dark Skies project, and Festival see: darkskiescumbria.org.uk

Image above: Blea Tarn by Ian Brown