The best places to explore England after dark for night owls of all ages

When the hotly-anticipated Gir Lion Lodge opens at ZSL London Zoo on 25 May, visitors will have the chance to enjoy a unique after-dark experience. For those who don’t fancy sharing their sleeping quarters with the kings of the jungle, attractions across the country are offering the chance to see England by night in alternative but equally special ways. 

From sleeping with sharks in Plymouth, to ghostly encounters at the True Crime Museum in Hastings and camp outs at literary legend Rudyard Kipling’s home Batemans, VisitEngland rounds up some of the best after dark experiences across the country for nocturnal adventure seekers…

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Spend a night with the lions at Gir Lion Lodge, ZSL London Zoo

(Opening 25 May) Sleep within roaring distance of a pride of majestic Asiatic lions at ZSL London Zoo. Guests will be welcomed to nine colourful cabins nestled in the heart of the new exhibit: Land of the Lions, and will be treated to an evening meal and breakfast. Dedicated hosts will guide guests on exclusive evening and morning tours, sharing their insider tips on spotting species and fascinating facts about some of the Zoo’s 17,000 residents. The Gir Lion Lodge experience will be open six nights a week from 25 May until December 2016, with designated family and adult-only nights. The nine lodges each provide accommodation for up to two adults and two children. Prices start from £378 per couple, including entry to ZSL’s Zoos on both days of the experience. www.zsl.org/girlionlodge

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Sleeping with the Sharks at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth (3 June, 12 August, 28 October)

Big kids and little ones can take part in a ‘Sleeping with Sharks’ experience, providing the chance to  see what happens at night in the aquarium, along with games, arts and crafts; a 4D cinema experience and a midnight snack. If you make it through till morning, breakfast awaits. Prices are £40 for a child (aged 5 and over) and £30 for an accompanying adult.  www.national-aquarium.co.uk

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Camp out at Rudyard Kipling’s home Batemans, Burwash, Sussex (4pm 9 July – 10am 10 July)

Escape into the literary world of Rudyard Kipling with a sleepover in the wooded grounds of Batemans, Kipling’s Jacobean family home. There will be games and storytelling around the campfire, before falling asleep nestled in the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald. Adventurers can wild camp in green glades and woodland in the wide open spaces of the historic parkland at Sheffield Park and Garden, or escape into the fantasy world of Rudyard Kipling with a sleepover in the tree-lined grounds  Adults £19, Children £9.50 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bigcamp

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Picnic Cinema, Cumbria  (22 – 23 July)

Sleddale Hall near Shap in Cumbria is set to become the ultimate open-air cinema again this summer as erudite fans of classic Withnail & I can come to pay homage to perhaps the most quotable of cult films at the remote location where it was filmed. This camping-only screening involves pitching tents, tucking into a tasty meal (provided), playing games and of course watching the film before the site becomes a dance floor (and naturally there’s an on-site bar). Tea and croissants are served in the morning to soothe aching heads. £38 per ticket including evening meal and camping on the Friday or Saturday night. www.picniccinema.co.uk 

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Ghostly Nights at The True Crime Museum, Hastings  (4 June 8pm-2am)

Set in eerie seafront caves, this location has a fascinating and spooky history to explore, previously a site used for druid ceremonies and potentially by the infamous local occultist Aleister Crowley himself! Surrounded by real crime artefacts, including murder weapons and execution chairs, The True Crimes Museum’s Ghostly Nights is not for the ‘non-believers’ or faint hearted, with the evening including paranormal investigations and ghost hunting.  £40 per person. www.truecrimemuseum.co.uk

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Dark Skies at Sutton Bank, North York Moors (8 October 7pm – 9pm)

Sutton Bank is an official Dark Sky Discovery Site, thanks to its low levels of light pollution and clear horizons. On 8 October join The York Astronomical Society for night-sky star-gazing – you can even bring your own telescope if you wish. There are illustrated talks, plenty of expert advice and refreshments available. Adults £4.00, Children £3.00 www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/visiting/whats-on/nym-events/dark-skies-at-sutton-bank

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Overnight bushcraft experience, Sherwood Pines Forest, Nottingham 

This overnight stay offers you the chance to really get away from it all. Build your own shelters to sleep in; cook your food over the campfire and learn bushcraft skills with one of the Sherwood Pines Forest rangers. As part of your stay, you can choose from a range of skills to learn including fire-lighting; willow-basket weaving; wood whittling; water purifying and campfire cooking.  Sherwood Pines Forest is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Nottinghamshire, but not many people get to experience it after dark. The next overnight bushcraft family events take place on 18-19 and 25-26 August from 4pm until 11am the following day. Suitable for children aged 8+ with accompanying adult. Private adult and family experiences can also be booked. £45 per person www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/BEEH-A4TFX9

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