TOURISM businesses in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are urged to tap into one of their greatest natural assets – its starry night skies.

The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is already well known but the skies above the North Pennines AONB are equally as good.

Now its bed and breakfast, campsite, self-catering owners, inn and hotel managers are being encouraged to provide unforgettable dark sky nights for their customers.

Advice is available at stargazing workshops and a whole series of stargazing weekends and nights run from now until March, while the nights are at their longest.

The night sky has proved big business, where the Kielder Observatory is credited with boosting overnight stays in the area from 900 to 2,500 in just three years.

One North Pennines business ready to hold its first stargazing weekend is Haggs Bank Bunkhouse, at Nenthead, just a couple of miles over the Cumbrian border from Weardale.

Danny Taylor and business partner Cathy Reynolds opened the 24 berth bunkhouse just over a year ago after restoring the derelict lead mine building.

It had been a forge store, mine shop and a place where miners slept between shifts.

The couple offer facilities for walkers, motorcyclists, motor home and caravan owners and also have camping on the nine acre site. They already host a vast range of events from moth and flower surveying to ghyll scrambling, abseiling and ghost weekends.

“We are in the darkest corner of the North Pennines and the night sky can look absolutely astounding,” said Cathy. “We often step out on a night and say ‘Wow, the stars are amazing’.

It’s a real asset and more and more of our guests mention how beautiful it is.”

She attended one of the workshops and will hold their first stargazing weekend on October 17 and 18. To book contact 01434-382486, or email info@

Richard Darn, amateur astronomer and training leader, said: “The night sky is such a natural asset in places like this but until quite recently no one had recognised it as such, but we feel there is a lot of scope for local businesses.” He is one of the network of astronomers who, armed with powerful telescopes, attend the weekend and single night stargazing events to help people enjoy the skies.

Lesley Silvera, project development officer, for the North Pennines AONB, said: “This is a really exciting events programme giving people a chance to see very bright stars within very dark skies and we think people will love it...”

Another Star Tips for Profit workshop will be held at Bowlees Visitor Centre, Newbiggin, Barnard Castle, on October 28. Book through Richard Darn on 07753-670-038, or email

Locations of other one-night stargazing events in County Durham and North Yorkshire include Cowshill Village Hall, Bowlees Visitor Centre, Hamsterley Village Hall, Tan Hill Inn and St John’s Chapel Town Hall. All workshops and events are at northumberlandnation