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.


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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!

The third annual Ambleside and Grasmere Big Switch Off of lights took place from 7pm on the evening of Thursday 23rd February.

Organised by Friends of the Lake District’s Dark Skies Cumbria project, the aim of the Big Switch Off is to highlight the amazing starscape the Lake District offers, to flag up our collective need not to take light for granted or waste it, and help to lower our collective carbon footprint.

Although cloud cover spoilt views of the stars, many businesses, organisations and residents turned off their own lights, complimenting over 200 local council street lights switched off by Cumbria County Council’s lighting engineer team on the night.

Friends of the Lake District’s Jack Ellerby, the Dark Skies Officer for Cumbria said:

“Momentum is building with more people and businesses taking part each year in the Big Switch Off, to save energy and see more stars. In the two communities, I’d say 50% more lights were off this time in Ambleside than last year and 95% more across Grasmere.

“Embracing the new darker ambience were businesses like the Rothay Garden Hotel in Grasmere, and the Golden Rule Pub in Ambleside, which arranged candle-lit dining experiences, and outside in the street people carried torches.

“The Dark Skies theme is growing - with accommodation providers including telescopes in their rooms, like Victoria House, in Grasmere and The Salutation, Ambleside, who are developing two stargazing rooms on their top floors.

“Talking to shop, gallery, café and other business owners before the night, many of them are switching off unnecessary lights overnight now because of the recent massive rise in electricity costs.”

Friends of the Lake District engaged local photographer Jonny Gios to produce a short film showcasing the Big Lighting Switch Off. He captured film of people watching the lights go off at 7pm, businesses switching their lights off, and footage of the Big Switch Off from St Mary’s Church Spire in Ambleside and via drone footage above the town. He also climbed Loughrigg fell early in the morning of the Switch Off day to show what could be seen in the skies without the clouds!

There is also keen interest from other Cumbrian communities such as Coniston, Keswick and Patterdale to join in the Big Switch Off next year.

Thanks to Cumbria County Council’s lighting team for making the event such a success by switching off street lights, plus Ambleside Action For A Future, Grasmere Village Society, Lakes Parish Council and South Lakeland District Council, who all worked together with Friends of the Lake District Dark Skies project on the Big Switch Off.

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

Watch the Big Lighting Switch Off film here.

Image above – The Milky Way above Ambleside and Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell, 5am 23 February 2023. Credit: Jonny Gios.