Battlesteads Hotel and Restaurant in Wark, Northumberland, has officially opened its on-site observatory, with local MP Guy Opperman doing the honours of cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony.
Sitting at the edge of the Northumberland National Park, the observatory has been awarded Dark Sky Discovery Site status. This means that it is one of the best sites in England for stargazing away from light pollution and offers the opportunity to see the Milky Way with the naked eye under the guided eye of professional astronomer and teacher, Roy Alexander.
Battlesteads is the only hotel in the UK to have an observatory within its grounds, fully accessible to guests staying in the hotel’s five eco-lodges which were completed earlier this year.
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 an 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.
The observatory runs courses targeted at all levels of stargazer, from introductory ‘Get to know your telescope’ sessions to sessions focusing on identifying and tracking some of the night-sky’s star performers.
Commenting on the Dark Sky Observatory, Richard Slade, owner of Battlesteads, said: “We are delighted to have the observatory up and running and be able to offer our guests the chance to discover our beautiful skies here in Northumberland’s Dark Sky Park. 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 official opening of the observatory comes as Richard and his wife Dee celebrate their 10-year anniversary of owning Battlesteads.
The couple took on the hotel, pub and restaurant in October 2005, and in the years since have turned it into one of the UK’s top sustainable tourism destinations with numerous awards under their belts.
A need to improve energy consumption resulted in business-wide sustainable practices that have led to Battlesteads winning prestigious awards such as the Considerate Hoteliers ‘Good Egg Award’, Green Hotel of the Year at the Hotel Cateys, a Gold Star Award at the Green Tourism Awards and a Platinum level rating in TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Programme. The hotel and restaurant also has Three Star Sustainability Champion status, awarded by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).
Richard and Dee have become ambassadors for sustainable tourism and are often invited to speak to audiences across the country about their journey and the lessons they’ve learned.
Courses at the Battlesteads observatory are priced starting at £15 per person and the eco-lodges are priced at £165 per night for bed and breakfast based on two people sharing.