Welsh island becomes first Dark Sky Sanctuary in Europe

Ynys Enlli joins 16 other sites worldwide

Helen Coffey
Thursday 23 February 2023 10:48 GMT
Ynys Enlli, Europe’s first Dark Sky Sanctuary
Ynys Enlli, Europe’s first Dark Sky Sanctuary (Getty Images)

A Welsh island is the first place in Europe to become a designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary, meaning it has some of the best-preserved night skies in the world.

Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), which sits off the coast of the Llŷn Peninsula in north Wales, has joined 16 other sites to be awarded the certification.

This hard-to-achieve status recognises destinations that have so little light pollution they are ideal spots for stargazing, offering unfettered dark skies.

The International Dark Sky Association describes them as offering: “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.”

While the UK and Europe have a number of Dark Sky Reserves, the “Sanctuary” level is much more difficult to achieve, and is obtained only by the “remote locations with few (if any) nearby threats to the quality of its dark night skies”.

Sian Stacey, chair of the trust that owns Ynys Enlli island, said gaining the certification was a “huge achievement”.

“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,” she told BBC Wales.

“We hope it will also go a long way in securing the long-term sustainability of the island.”

Housing a small community of local residents, with just 10 holiday cottages for tourists to stay in between March and October, Ynys Enlli has a mountain that helps protect it from the light pollution on mainland Wales.

The closest source of light pollution is Dublin, Ireland, more than 70 miles away.

One of the island’s wardens, Mari Huws, who was part of the team working on the Dark Sky certification, said: “Living here I am always in awe of the island’s beauty – and the night sky is very much a part of that.

“Having secured the certification, we look forward to welcoming visitors here over the coming months and years and sharing with them our unique story.

“In a world that’s increasingly being polluted, it’s a privilege to be able to work towards protecting something that is pristine for future generations.”

Six UK National Parks – Exmoor, Brecon Beacons, Moore’s Reserve in the South Downs, Snowdonia, North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales – have so far been awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status.

The other global destinations that have received “Sanctuary” certification are:

  • !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park, South Africa
  • Aotea / Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
  • Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, US
  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, US
  • Cosmic Campground, US
  • Devils River State Natural Area - Del Norte Unit, US
  • Gabriela Mistral, Chile
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, US
  • Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge, US
  • Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area, US
  • Medicine Rocks State Park, US
  • Niue, South Pacific island
  • Pitcairn Islands, British Overseas Territories
  • Rainbow Bridge National Monument, US
  • Stewart Island / Rakiura, New Zealand
  • The Jump-Up, Australia

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