Cumbria Tourism is hoping to harness the meteoric rise of stargazing visitors as a launchpad to promote some of the darkest skies in England.

The county’s official Destination Management Organisation (DMO) will be working closely with its Strategic Partner Forestry England to help businesses tap into the growing number of people looking for #theperfectplacetostargaze over the coming winter months.

 Cumbria Tourism’s ‘dark skies’ initiative is part of #theperfectplacetobe Recovery Marketing Campaign to help tourism and hospitality businesses affected by more than £1.5billion lost income following the impact of COVID-19. Following just a few short weeks of summer trading, it is doubly important for the industry to develop new and innovative ways to inspire potential visitors throughout the autumn and winter.

Among the plans being revealed are a new self-accreditation scheme, where Cumbrian accommodation, activity providers and venues can register as ‘dark skies friendly’ and access a range of online marketing resources and guidance to make the most of this growing market.

Cumbria Tourism will also be holding an online workshop later this month to introduce the benefits of ‘dark skies tourism’ and help businesses across the county to develop and market their own stargazing activities, events and packages.

 Sue Clarke, Marketing Manager at Cumbria Tourism, says, “Cumbria’s lack of light pollution means you are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to see the stars.  The North Pennines Area is recognised as one of the darkest places in England, while Low Gillerthwaite at Ennerdale is designated as a Dark Sky Discovery Site and Grizedale Forest has regular star gazing events for all the family to enjoy – to name just three.

 “That means there are plenty of opportunities for businesses across the county to attract the next generation of stargazers. Research has shown that stargazing activities are a great way to help boost winter tourism, by extending the season and encouraging overnight stays. They also enable visitors to explore the county in a new and immersive way, as well as fitting perfectly with people’s renewed desire to enhance their health and wellbeing, discover the outdoors and get closer to nature.”

 Mark Holroyd, Head of Recreation and Communications for Forestry England, adds, “Looking up at the night sky has never been more important. Around 85% of the UK population has never seen the Milky Way, but that special connection with nature is a great way to inspire the imagination and increase happiness. Forests like Grizedale and Whinlatter play an important role in protecting dark night skies and are the perfect place to appreciate what we have. We’re firmly behind these plans to help visitors celebrate one of Cumbria’s most special natural assets.”


Image: Castlerigg Stone Circle, credit Craig McDearmid

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