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A guide to exploring Wales’ night skies holiday cottages

A guide to exploring Wales’ night skies

Whether you're hoping to make a wish upon a shooting star, catch a glimpse of the Milky Way or simply admire the millions of stars illuminating our skies, this handy guide to the sky above Wales at night, has something for every stargazer.

Wales is the perfect place for exploring the night sky with four Dark Sky Reserves of varying status. What is a Dark Sky Reserve you may rightly ask? It is an area of distinguished or exceptional starry quality that is protected from artificial light. The Brecon Beacons National Park, for example, is designated as bronze status and it is actually possible to see the Northern Lights from here. Not only that, Wales leads the world in the percentage of territory that enjoys this protected status at nearly 18% of the whole country.

The Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons National Park was the first of the bunch to achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status in 2012. It was also just the fifth destination in the world to achieve this prestige. There are numerous events throughout the Brecon Beacons to help novice stargazers make the most of the starry skies and to look out for the nocturnal wildlife, too. The Brecon Beacons region is home to many fascinating species such as lesser horseshoe bats, dormice and foxes.

TOP TIPS

How to find the North Star from the Plough Constellation

Look north on a clear night between January and March for a chance to see the Plough, part of a constellation called Ursa Major and Latin for "Great Bear". Polaris, or the North Star, can be found by following the line of the two pointer stars in the Plough.

Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks in mid-August and is well worth waiting for. 

Orion's Belt

Did you know that you can see many stars through binoculars? Orion's sword, below his belt, is actually a nebular from which planets are born and is easy to see through binoculars, as is the shining blueness of the Seven Sisters. 

Snowdonia National Park 

Snowdonia National Park was honoured with International Dark Sky Status in December 2015 and was only the 10th destination in the world to achieve it. Also famous for being home to England and Wales' highest peak, Mount Snowdon, visitors flock to Snowdonia to catch a glimpse of its prime night skies. Llyn Geirionydd is probaly the best star-gazing spot, and with Snowdonia National Park moments from a 100-mile stretch of rugged coastline it makes it ideal for and adventurous getaway too.

Elan Valley

European Badger (Meles meles)

Stretching 72 square miles, the majestic Elan Valley is also a land of adventure. Having achieved Dark Sky Park status in 2015, the Elan Valley is yet another perfect spot for star spotting. Head out into the Welsh wilderness for a dazzling display of stars, planets and constellations and look out for the many nocturnal residents here too. 

Pembrokeshire Coast

Moonlit Tenby
Moonlit Tenby on the Pembrokeshire Coast

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is a Dark Sky Discovery Site. This means that it is one of the best areas in the country to go. If you are new to star-reading there is a National Trust Dark Sky event at the Stackpole Estate where a planetarium is inflated inside the Centre and using the latest technology you are taken on a journey of discovery. Bosherston South car park was designated a Dark Sky Site in 2013 and weather allowing, it is possible to see the Milky Way from here with the naked eye. 

The top 10 best places in Wales to see the stars

  • Usk Reservoir
  • Llanthony Priory (for a spectacular view)
  • Hay Bluff
  • Carreg Cennen Castle (for something special)
  • Craig Y Not Castle
  • Sugar Loaf Mountain
  • Llangorse Lake
  • Pontsticill Reservoir in the Taf Fechan Valley
  • Penbryn Beach in Ceredigion
  • Parc Penallta

Checklist!

  • Pick a clear night, around a new moon and away from those pesky fun-ruining clouds
  • Take binoculars as you can get up close and personal with those pretty stars!
  • Stars twinkle and planets don't
  • The best time to see meteors is an hour before dawn, so set your alarm clock
  • Meteor showers take place in August, November and December
  • Bring a coat, even in the summer, you could be waiting outside a while, and a blanket to lie on

 

Starlight Cottage is the perfect place to watch the night skies from the comfort of home. This luxury cottage has two outdoor terraces with ample space to stretch out and look up. Ideal for a romantic getaway, Starlight Cottage sleeps two and is incredibly peaceful, with the essence of a boutique hotel inside.

Starlight Cottage in Hay-on-Wye
Starlight Cottage in Hay-on-Wye

 

For a unique experience, why not stay at Skirrid Skies? This cosy stargazers' retreat is nestled beneath the Skirrid Mountain, with a perfect, open view to enjoy exploring the night skies, especially if you fancy experiencing them from the comfort of your own bubbling hot tub!

Skirrid Skies Wales
Skirrid Skies in Abergavenny

 

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