Celebrating Exmoor's Starlit Skies

Stargazing at Webber's post

The dark skies over Exmoor National Park were celebrated over a series of over 60 events in late October during the annual Dark Skies Festival. Now in its seventh year, over 2,500 people of all ages were able to learn more about what to see in the night sky, as well as learning about space and light pollution, and the negative effects it can have on wildlife and humans. There were also events this year promoting wellbeing including night yoga sessions.

Katrina Munro of Exmoor National Park Authority said “I’ve been organising the annual festival since 2017 and it’s always a pleasure to add new events to the busy programme. We make sure there are events for younger and older children as well as family events, and astronomy presentations aimed more at adults. This year as well as new yoga and singing events, it was amazing to see around 40 dark skies inspired cakes entered into the brand-new Star Baker competition. Guided walks with Rangers and astronomy guides are always popular and this year around 100 walkers joined National Park Ranger Tim Parish and other National Park staff on a guided walk up Dunkery Beacon.”

Katrina continued “Nearly 700 people learnt more about space and the night sky in the Space Odyssey planetarium sessions at Tiverton and Dunster – children and adults are always amazed by this immersive 360-degree experience. The National Park joined forces with Exmoor Search and Rescue and South West Lakes Trust for a brand-new challenge event where participants walked the 9 mile perimeter of Wimbleball Lake under the full moon. It was a great success and there was a real buzz of excitement and achievement welcoming the 60 walkers back at base with a campfire and warming Miles hot chocolate.”

Sarah Eden from Airband, who sponsored the 2023 festival, said “Airband was delighted to sponsor this year’s Dark Skies Festival, it was lovely to see the wonders of the skies over Exmoor celebrated across the many events. Our Sales Team Leader Tony Watkins attended the Planetarium Sessions at Petroc College, Tiverton and he was delighted to see so many people come out, young and old, to learn about space in a great setting. Airband believes that even the deepest, darkest places deserve better broadband. We offer speeds up to 900Mbps, with no mid-contract price hikes. At the moment we are running our Black Friday offer where you can get 4 months free broadband.”

Dan James Rural Enterprise Manager for Exmoor National Park Authority said “We have some of the darkest skies in the country and are proud of the designation we received back in 2011 as Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. Our dark skies are now considered as one of the National Park’s special qualities that we conserve and celebrate. Tourism plays a major role in Exmoor’s economy and the festival helps to attract visitors in late October. Our research shows that 25% are attracted by our designation as a Dark sky Reserve with 15% of people who come to Exmoor participating in stargazing. It’s no wonder – on a clear night thousands of stars are visible to the naked eye.”

“Festival-goers were treated to clear skies during many of this year’s events and the experience of seeing the detail of the moon, Jupiter and the rings around Saturn through a telescope are memories that will last a lifetime. There will be plenty of opportunity in the coming winter months to look up and study the sky and we encourage everyone to wrap up warm and go outside to enjoy the darkness.”

Further information on enjoying Exmoor’s dark skies throughout the year can be found at

Published: 6 November 2023

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