Wales is no stranger to sanctuaries, boasting dedicated safe havens for everything from apes to owls within its borders. But the country’s newest sanctuary might be its most unique yet.
Ynys Enlli (also known as Bardsey Island), just off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales, has been officially designated as a Dark Sky Sanctuary, thanks to the island’s world-class views of the cosmos. The title has been bestowed on the island by the International Dark-Sky Association, the leading organisation working to combat global light pollution. It is one of just seventeen designated sanctuary sites around the world, and the first in Europe.
Home to only a handful of dwellings and boasting a mountainous landscape that effectively cuts off light pollution from the Welsh mainland, the island allows both amateur and expert astronomers alike the chance to glimpse the constellations in incredible clarity.
These optimum natural star-gazing conditions have been bolstered by the work of the local community on the island, who have taken steps to limit light pollution further through management plans and educational campaigns, highlighting the importance of keeping our dark skies visible to the naked eye, both for human wellbeing and the benefit of nocturnal wildlife.
Speaking about being awarded the title of a Dark Sky Sanctuary, Sian Stacey, Chair of the Bardsey Island Trust, said, ‘There’s no doubt that achieving this prestigious status for Ynys Enlli will raise the profile of the island as a unique place in Wales and amongst the best in the world to appreciate the night sky.’
‘It is a huge achievement, and I would like to thank all who have been involved. It’s the culmination of several years of hard work involving our own team as well as our partners across the region and beyond,’ Sian added.
Along with its new-found reputation as a hub for top-quality star surveying, Ynys Enlli, which is approximately 1.5 miles (2.5km) long and around half a mile (1km) in width, draws visitors thanks to its history as an ancient Christian pilgrimage site (with three visits to Ynys Enlli once considered the equivalent of one to Rome!), and its wildlife, with over 300 species of birds recorded on the island.
The addition of a Dark Sky Sanctuary within our borders adds to Wales’ growing reputation as a hotbed for dark skies tourism, with the country also home to a Dark Sky Park, at the Elan Valley Estate, and two, larger, Dark Sky Reserves at Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park and Brecon Beacons National Park – the latter of which was only the fifth designated Dark Sky Reserve in the world. As such, visitors to Wales have an abundance of opportunities to see the night sky in all its natural glory, at a time when light pollution around the world is on the rise.
Learn more about the wonders of Wales’ dark spaces.