When it comes to Valentine’s Day, are you a celebrator or a cynic? Do you buy into the romance and buy up the gifts or do you opt out of commercialism and opt to ignore? Whilst, for some, the roses and chocolates are a tired cliché designed to fill retail pockets, it also seems rather curmudgeonly to leave your partner loveless. Well, there is another option that can please all attitudes: to fall in love with the great outdoors.
In York, this means venturing out to the city’s surroundings and discovering miles of glorious space. From the North Yorks Moors to the East Coast, there are an array of amazing visits within a short journey, many of which lend themselves to a perfect couples’ experience, and not forgetting the single, the mates’ dates and the family outing.
To showcase these wonderful Yorkshire places on and after Valentine’s Day, the Dark Skies Festival travels across the county, taking in various activities from the 14th until the end of the month. The festival goes much further too, inviting us all to look up at the skies and gaze at the stars. Now in its fifth year and with over 100 events, we’ve picked some highlights for the romantic pairs, the keen astronomers, the interested amateurs and the enthusiastic kids alike, plus a few spots to cosy up in besides.
Dalby Forest is a popular forested area on the southern slopes of the North Yorks Moors and is an ideal host for various Dark Skies happenings. These 8000 acres of natural wilds are beautifully maintained and home an abundance of wildlife and trees. It also makes for an awesome viewing spot to the clear skies above, and on Valentine’s Day there are several romantic stargazing events, including Deep Sky Exploring and Stay and Stargaze, with accommodation at Cawthorne House and The Coach House amongst others.
Alternatively, for adventurous fun for all the family, Go Ape in the Dark is a thrilling treetop zip tour amongst the stunning Dalby backdrop to get the love hearts pumping. Whilst visiting here, take a trip to the nearby quaint market towns of Pickering and Thornton-le-Dale, perhaps treating your loved one to a pint in 16th century coaching inn The White Swan or an ice cream at award winning independent parlour Balderson’s.
Elsewhere on the moors, less than half an hour drive from York, Castle Howard is a beautiful stately home, which alongside the finest historic house, covers a thousand acres of gardens, lawns, woods and hills. To experience this outside of the delightful daytime setting, Castle Howard are inviting people to come in the dark to a couple of differing events. Firstly, the day after Valentine’s, Exploring the Dynamic Universe does just that, in what promises to be a magical evening of talks that are both educational and otherworldly. More actively, Dark Skies Night Run is a 5k with torch on head for all ages and abilities to enjoy or endure in the loveliest of surroundings.
The Howardian Hills are bordered by Helmsley to the north and Malton to the south, and both would be recommended for a wonderful daytrip whilst nearby. Malton is officially ‘the food capital of Yorkshire’ and this unique little town sure packs it in. From vegan and vegetarian deli delights at Purple Carrot to the house of wonderful wine at Maison du Vin – plus many more – there is good reason for its reputation. Helsmley is equally charming, with cafes such as Mannion & Co. irresistible for a faultless coffee, and beer lovers like Helmsley Brewing Co. a fab find for a few.
Out on the YO coast, less running and more walking is going on. At Robin Hoods Bay, the night-time Ghost Walk could not tell supernatural tales in a more picturesque setting. Few don’t fall in love with the bay, and whilst here, lovers can cosy up in The Coffee Shack or live It up in Bramblewick seafood restaurant. Sleights is a well-used stop-off on the way to the bay, or more so to Whitby, which is worth checking out in its own right. So, the Astro-evening Sleepover is a perfect excuse for not only a special night together, but also a sweet treat at Botham’s and a fish supper at Eskdale’s.
As you’ll already know, the brilliance of Yorkshire knows no bounds and keeps its own counsel; so as much as there are dozens more amazing visits to find out about, this blog can’t keep going. Not through the clifftops of Ravenscar to see Stars in the Sky. Or to stargaze on Cober Hill in scenic Cloughton. Or to join York Astronomical Society at the dramatic Sutton Bank. Etcetera. Whether you’re in a relationship or otherwise, this is an impressive place to be; and what a time to fall in love with it in the dark.