A Guide to South Downs National Park’s Dark Skies Festival.

England’s newest national park, the south Downs spans 1,600km2 and reaches from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex. West Sussex and Chichester sit snuggly in the centre and we’re extremely lucky that Quay Quarters is located so close to such a stunning natural beauty.

As well as offering bustling market towns and cities (like Chichester, the South downs National Park offers farmland, woodland, heathland and white cliffs – all as handsome as they are important habits for flora and fauna. What’s more, the South Downs Way runs the length of the park with a wealth of walking and cycling routes enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

All this and in 2016 South Downs National Park was crowned the newest International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), one of only 12 worldwide! The darkest area in the South Downs include Butser Hill and Devil’s Dyke with the locations closest to our luxury holiday cottages being Harting Down (near Petersfield, 20-minutes’ drive away) and Bignor Common (near Arundel, 30-minutes’ drive away).

To celebrate the dark skies and raise awareness of their international importance, the National Parks run an annual Dark Skies Festival. The 2019 festival takes place 15 February to 3 March at locations throughout the South Downs National Park, including Chichester’s very own planetarium (less than three miles from Quay Quarters).

With a specially built room that can accommodate 96 people, the South Downs Planetarium boasts a projector showing images of stars, planets and the night sky (at any time) on a domed ceiling that can be viewed from comfortable reclining chairs.

Dark Skies Festival events

Here are the events closest to our dog-friendly holiday cottages and luxury bed and breakfast accommodation this year (within a 30-minute drive).

16 February, 11.30-12.30; 20 February, 15.30-16.30, Wintertime Stars, Moon and Planets

16 February, 13.30-14.30; 18 March, 13.30-14.30; 22 March, 15.30-16.30, Stars On Frosty Winter Nights, The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester, PO19 8AE

A guided tour (talk and visual presentation of spectacular images in the star theatre) of winter’s finest celestial wonders including: Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades.

16 February, 16.00-20.00, Stargazing South Downs, Midhurst Rother College, North Street, Midhurst, GU29 9DT; 18 February, 16.00-20.00, The Festival Hall, Heath Road, Petersfield, GU31 4EA.

A free family event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing with everything from advice on astronomy and astrophotography to indoor planetarium shows and a dark skies Virtual Reality experience to talks on the moon, stars and creatures of the night.

16 February, 15.30-16.30, Seven Wonders of The Solar System, The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester, PO19 8AE

A fantastical flight to explore the sun’s scorching surface, Earth’s beautiful blue and many moons – all from the comfort of your chair in the amazing celestial dome theatre.

19 February, 13.30-14.30; 21 February, 13.30-14.30, All Aboard – A Tour of the Planets, The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester, PO19 8AE

As spring approaches and the skies begin to clear, look beyond the Milky Way to the wider universe where you’ll find everything from dwarf galaxies to ginormous black holes in a special audio-visual presentation.

19 February, 19.00-20.30, Star Party, Brighton Seafront; 19.00-21.00, Star Party, Petworth Park

Next to Brighton’s i360 and at Petworth Park, join astronomers from the South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex university, South Downs Planetarium and others for a spot of moongazing.

20 February, Space Explorers, 10.00-13.00, The Novium Museum, Tower Street, Chichester, PO19 1QH

Discover what it’s like to live and work on the international Space Station, from the mundane to the adventurous! This is a free drop-in event.

20 February, Distant Worlds: Alien Life, 13.30-14.30, The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester, PO19 8AE

Advances in technology have led to the discovery of new, smaller planets. It’s only a matter of time before more earth-like planets with life forms are found. The truth is out there! The South Downs Planetarium is our getaway to new worlds.

21 February, 18.30-20.30, Stargazing at Slindon, Slindon College, Slindon House, Top Road, Slindon, Arundel, BN18 0RH

Astronomers from the South Downs Planetarium and the South Downs National Park lead a guided tour of the constellations found in the winter’s night skies. this is a free, weather-dependent events.

21 February, 19.00-21.00 (suitable for adults only); 02 March, 15.00-17.00 (suitable for families), Dark Skies Festival Shadow Puppet Workshop for Adults, Ifould village, BN7 3EW

Drawing on inspiration from the night sky, create shadow puppets using recycled materials in a secret location (revealed at time of booking) before a performance by Shadow Cabinet Puppeteers. Book tickets here.

24 February, 15.30-16.30, The Northern Lights (aurora borealis), The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre, Chichester, PO19 8AE

A show that will help you discover the why, how and where of this magical natural phenomenon. See beautiful imagery and learn the best places to see the Northern Lights live.

25 February, 19.00-22.00, Star Gazing and Night Hike, Harting Down car park off the B2141 between South Harting and Chilgrove.

A talk about then night sky before a walk up to Beacon Hill under celestial blanket. Enjoy a hot drink at the finish line! Those booking our dog-friendly holiday cottages will also be pleased to hear that this event is dog-friendly too.

26 February, 16.30-20.30, Star Party at Goodwood, Goodwood Estate, Goodwood Counters Car Park, Selhurst Park Road, Goodwood, PO18 0QE

Enjoy communal stargazing on the Goodwood Estate, smack-bang in the South Downs National Park, with expert guidance from the park authorities and South Downs Planetarium representatives who will help you find your way around a telescope. This is another free, weather-dependent event.

02 and 03 February, WWT ArundelDark Skies Days, 10.30-18.00, WWT Arundel Wetland Centre, Mill Road, Arundel, BN18 9PB

This is an opportunity to get involved in various nature-inspired arts and crafts as well as walks and talks on bats and owls – lots to do for all the family. The centre also has a special late closing just after sunset, so visitors can experience the dark skies.

Book a stellar stay at Quay Quarters

You can find out more about the South Downs Dark  Sky Festival 2019 and the associated events and activities here. Would you like to stay with us while you enjoy the South Downs? Contact us to find out more about our luxury holiday rentals or check out availability and booking options here.