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!

***  Very disappointingly, we’ve had to take the decision to cancel our Big Switch Off of lights event in Keswick tomorrow night, due to snow forecast.  We hope to rearrange it for sometime in April.

Friday’s Big Switch Off in Ambleside and Grasmere from 7pm is still set to go ahead, though, for now.  We’ll update tomorrow if things change.  ***

  • -        Keswick Big Switch Off Thursday 8 February from 7pm
  • -        Ambleside & Grasmere Big Switch Off Friday 9 February from 7pm
  • -        Street lights will be turned off from 7pm, and we’re encouraging residents and businesses to turn their own outside lights off too

Friends of the Lake District's Dark Skies project is coordinating another Big Lighting Switch Off, in Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere next week to see what a difference it makes to our view of the stars.

Running over two consecutive nights from 7pm, street lights will be turned off and residents and businesses in the Crow Park area of Keswick will be turning their lights off on Thursday 8 February, and the Ambleside and Grasmere Big Switch Off follows on Friday 9 February.

This will be the fourth annual Big Switch Off across Ambleside and Grasmere, and the first one for an area of Keswick around Crow Park and Hope Park. There will also be free dark skies activities in Crow Park on Friday, and a Friends’ dark skies event on Thursday in Ambleside.

Friends of the Lake District’s Engagement Officer Kay Andrews, said: “A very small moon, and weather permitting, clear skies, will give us a really impressive view of thousands of stars after all the lights go off. Each year more businesses and people take part, and we’ve produced a ‘Dark Skies booklet’ for hoteliers to encourage their guests outside and help identify some of the major star constellations.”

Light pollution is on the increase and artificial light at night is harmful to wildlife, and can damage human sleep patterns, affecting our long-term health. Too many lights are left on overnight when not needed, wasting energy, adding to electricity bills and releasing more carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Vanessa Metcalfe, Tourism Manager, Keswick Tourism Association Ltd, said:

“We saw the success of the lighting switch off in Ambleside and Grasmere last winter and we thought that would be good for our local businesses during the quieter winter period. We often see lots of fantastic nighttime photographs of the Milky Way, whether above Derwentwater or Castlerigg Stone Circle. So we’ve arranged for some experts with telescopes and cameras to show us the wonderful displays from Crow Park next to Derwentwater which has a fantastic dark sky free from light pollution.”

Huge thanks to Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness Councils’ lighting teams for making the event such a success by carefully managing the switching off of road and street lights, and to the National Trust for allowing our events in Crow Park.

Will Clark, Westmorland and Furness Councillor for Windermere, Ambleside (and Grasmere) said:

“I am pleased to be supporting another Dark Skies event, a one night switch off that has already proved extremely popular. An opportunity to truly observe nature and appreciate our local surroundings without the impact of light pollution.  

Supporting these switch offs also helps to deliver several Council priorities including net zero, biodiversity enhancement and personal wellbeing. Everyone is encouraged to take part in the Dark Skies initiative, including businesses, residents and visitors. Well done to Dark Skies Cumbria and the Friends of the Lake District for their commitment to this project.”

Bruce Hardy, Visitor Operations and Experience Manager for the National Trust, Borrowdale says: “We are happy to see Crow park being used as a site for the Dark Skies festival and would like to encourage more people to come and take in the many benefits of spending time in nature, including getting to experience looking up at a clear starlit sky.”

In partnership with the National Trust, there will be Dark Sky activities in Crow Park, Keswick, on Friday from 7pm onwards, including stargazing and nighttime photography, and a 'Stargazing and Forest Bathing' session at 7.30.

Dark skies activities are taking place before and during the evenings, for more details see:

Keswick Big Switch Off 2024 | Friends of the Lake District

Ambleside and Grasmere Big Switch Off 2024 | Friends of the Lake District

Download the Dark Skies Room brochure here: https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/news/dark-skies-brochure 

The Big Switch Offs take place during our Cumbria Star Count (6-13 February 2024), when we are asking people to take part counting the number of stars they can see in the Orion constellation to help monitor light pollution trends in Cumbria. See: Cumbria Star Count 2024 | Friends of the Lake District

Image above: Jonny Gios