Battlesteads Hotel and Restaurant in Wark, near Hexham, is proud to announce the opening of its new on-site observatory. Launching in March 2015 the observatory is located within the hotel grounds, sitting at the edge of the Northumberland National Park which gained Dark Sky Park status in December 2013. The Northumberland National Park is the largest protected Dark Sky Park in Europe, offering an unrivalled vantage point from which to admire the county’s dramatic night-time sky.The observatory will be fully accessible throughout the night to guests staying in one of the hotel’s five newly constructed eco-lodges. Facing south, it can accommodate up to 25 budding or seasoned astronomers and is equipped with the latest telescopes chosen for their technical prowess and ease of use. These include a Celestron C11 OTA on a EQ8 mount, an enormous set of 25 x 100 mounted binoculars specifically for guests with wheelchairs, plus a range of smaller telescopes targeted at true beginners.
Under the watchful eye of Roy Alexander, professional astronomer and teacher, Battlesteads will run courses targeted at all levels of stargazer, from introductory ‘Get to know your telescope’ sessions to sessions focussing on identifying and tracking some of the night-sky’s star performers.
Courses will be priced from £15 and the eco-lodges are priced at £165 per night for bed and breakfast based on two people sharing.
Commenting on the Dark Sky Observatory, Richard Slade, owner of Battlesteads, says:
“This marks an exciting new chapter for Battlesteads. We have had a vision to open up our beautiful skies to guests for many years and to see these plans now come alive is out of this world. Astro-tourism is an emerging and growing leisure market. With such a world-class environment for studying the stars on our doorstep it made sense to embrace this and add to the many reasons to visit Battlesteads and the county of Northumberland.”
The observatory has been constructed and developed in accordance with Battlesteads’ ongoing green credentials, using sustainable materials and powered by the hotel’s 36-panel solar PV tracker. Previously awarded a Platinum level rating in TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Programme in 2014, a scheme that helps travellers make greener choices when deciding on a hotel trip, Battlesteads also boasts a Three Star Sustainability Champion status from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), and was previously voted Considerate Hotel of the Year (Considerate Hotelier) and Green Hotel of the Year (Hotel Cateys) in 2011.
The project is supported by a Rural Economy Grant, North East Small Business Growth Fund, for which the funds are provided by the Rural Development Programme for England. Defra is the Managing Authority, part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.