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Dark Skies Discovery Initiative - Let's Get on the Map! 21 May 2012

The North West coordinator for the Dark Skies Discovery Initiative, Alan Brown visited the Isle of Man over the weekend of 3rd to 5th May, to explore the Island and how it could benefit from “Dark Skies Tourism” initiatives currently being developed elsewhere in the British Isles. The visit was hosted by Manx National Heritage and the Isle of Man Astronomical Society with the support of the Department of Economic Development.

Dark Skies Tourism is identified in DED’s Tourism Strategy as a possible area for diversification, already having considerable success across the Irish Sea in Galloway, which was established as the UK’s first Dark Skies Park in 2010. A recent announcement from Galloway identified a 77% increase in bed nights in the winter off season period.

Alan Brown toured the Isle of Man to identify potential sites that meet the exacting criteria for inclusion in the British Isles list of Dark Skies Discovery Sites. He was delighted to find that there are many locations that are not only dark enough to qualify, but which meet further criteria such as 24 hour public access. At the moment the map excludes the Isle of Man completely, but at least 7 locations should be added to the map later this year. By comparison, the North West of England has just one site listed at the moment.

The visit concluded with a presentation at the Manx Museum on the Saturday morning to accommodation providers and representatives from public services including Isle of Man Railways and Tourism. The presentation included a review of the Islands potential for a Dark Skies location and included photographs of the Island as seen from orbit.

Manx National Heritage owns and manages several of the likely Dark Skies Discovery Sites. Director of MNH, Edmund Southworth said:

“This is a journey we are just starting out on, which really has great potential for the Island and its attractiveness as a destination. As more and more people become aware of the benefits of dark skies and astronomy in general, we are fortunate on the Island that our skies are little affected by the problems of light pollution and, for little cost, accommodation providers can give visiting astronomers the opportunity to enjoy some of the darkest skies in the British Isles. This is a great fit with the growing importance of the Space industry on the Island and shows how Tourism supports many other areas of our economy.”

Whilst Galloway was the UK’s first Dark Skies Park, Exmoor and the Channel Island of Sark have similar status. The seven locations identified as potential Dark skies Discovery Sites are geographically situated throughout the Island with car parks and are all in public ownership.

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