Wales: The world

Wales: The world's top destination for stargazing

Kate W 11 March 2020

If you are hoping to spot a shooting star, catch a glimpse of the Milky Way or make out the constellations that illuminate our skies, Wales is the perfect place for your next holiday boasting the highest percentage of territory with IDA status worldwide. 

If you are hoping to decipher the stars during your next break, Wales is the perfect place with plenty of Dark Sky Reserves for you to choose from. Spend days exploring the fun attractions, dining out and visiting remarkable places during the day, and at night relax on the lawn, take a dip in a hot tub with a drink in hand, or sit back inside a cosy conservatory gazing at Wales' remarkable starry sky. 

Stargazing cottages


So, what precisely is a Dark Sky Reserve? According to the IDA official site, it is an area that is possessed of 'an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment'. Amazingly, Wales boasts the highest percentage of territory receiving IDA status in the world, with 18% of the country receiving Dark Sky status - and it's not done adding the list with Gower tipped to join the club! 

Before you head out to stargaze, take a look through our checklist: 

  • Pick a clear night, around a new moon and away from those pesky fun-ruining clouds.
  • 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 as you could be waiting outside a while, and a blanket to lie on.
  • Don't forget your binoculars to see as much of the night sky as possible. 

There's no need to book a trip to Iceland for incredible starry vistas, you can actually see the Northern Lights from this first stop on our tour of starry Wales: the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons National Park.

The Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons National Park

Brecon Beacons

This beautiful national park was the first place in Wales to achieve International Dark Sky Reserve status back in 2012 and was also just the fifth destination in the world to achieve this prestige.

There are numerous events throughout the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons to help novice stargazers make the most of the starry skies and to look out for the nocturnal wildlife too as this national park is home to many fascinating species such as lesser horseshoe bats, dormice and foxes. Who knows what you might get to see at night? 

Snowdonia / Eryri National Park 

Snowdonia National Park

Home to Wales' highest mountain and endless dramatic landscape, Snowdonia / Eryri National Park was honoured with International Dark Sky Status in December 2015 and was still only the tenth destination in the world to achieve it. This region is full of breathtaking walks and exciting attractions (including Bounce Below where you can jump about in an underground trampoline park!) and, as one of the best Dark Sky parks in Wales, it's a special place to escape to on a stargazing getaway. 

One of the top spots to head to for stargazing in Wales is Llyn Geirionydd, a beautiful lake which marks the spot where the Gwydyr Forest meets the Carneddau mountains. Eryri / Snowdonia is also right by a 100-mile stretch of rugged coastline, so you could stargaze by the sea or simply enjoy days full of beach trips and seafront dining. 

Visit Snowdonia / Eryri National Park

Elan Valley

Elan Valley Dark Skies

Set amidst the dramatic Cambrian Mountains, the Elan Valley is a land of adventure offering 72 square miles of landscape to discover including dams and reservoirs, not to mention stunning views and some of the best dark skies in Wales. This destination also gained Dark Sky status in 2015, becoming the first privately owned but publicly accessible park to do so. 

Walk, cycle or take a drive around this unforgettable parkland during the day, then head out into this Welsh wilderness at night for a dazzling display of stars, planets and constellations. 

Pembrokeshire Coast

Moonlit Tenby

Finally, head to the Dark Sky Discovery Site that is the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for stargazing beside the sea. Find a cosy holiday cottage by the coast or head to one of the special events that take place in this national park to find out about the constellations you can spot in this Dark Sky area. 

The real bonus of heading to the coast on a stargazing holiday is that you can spend lazy days laying on the beach, going for long walks along the clifftops and dining on seafood in waterfront cafes and restaurants, before stargazing once night draws in. 

Head to the Pembrokeshire Coast

What to look out for:

Ursa Major
Ursa Major, otherwise known as 'the Great She Bear'

The constellations have names that are thought to date back to prehistoric times when our ancestors first looked up at the skies and tried to make sense of what they saw. 

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 She Bear'. From here, you can find Polaris or 'the North Star' which can be found by following the line of the two pointer stars in the Plough.

The Perseid Meteor Shower takes place around July 17 to August 24, with mid-August being the best time to see it light up the sky. It's a great time to visit Wales on a stargazing adventure.

Discover Orion's Sword, a curved line of three stars below Orion's Belt. If you identify Orion's Sword, you can identify the amazing Orion Nebula about midway down the sword where stars are being born. You can see it with the naked eye, but it is even easier to see through binoculars, as is the shining blueness of the Seven Sisters. 

The top 10 best places in Wales to see the stars

Pen y Fan stargazing

  1. Usk Reservoir
  2. Llanthony Priory 
  3. Hay Bluff
  4. Carreg Cennen Castle 
  5. Craig Y Not Castle
  6. Sugar Loaf Mountain
  7. Llangorse Lake
  8. Pontsticill Reservoir in the Taf Fechan Valley
  9. Penbryn Beach in Ceredigion
  10. Pen y Fan

Intrigued by other activities that take you close to the magic of Wales? Read our guide to activities in Wales to inspire your dark sky escape. If you're thinking of booking a dark sky escape in Eryri / Snowdonia, or the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons, our ultimate guides will tell you everything you need to know about these beautiful regions. And finally, book yourself a magical dark sky cottage... 

Stargazing cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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