Trace the constellations by stargazing under Welsh skies
The wonder of the galaxy is enough to enthral young and older minds wherever your telescope might be perched, but Wales is increasingly emerging as one of the best countries in the world from which to ponder its enormity.
Brecon Beacons, for starters, became the country's first International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012, and there are dozens of places around the National Park where you can stop off and survey spectacularly clear skies, from the central Visitor Centre – conveniently accessible from all of the South Wales valleys – to the country park and castle at Craig-y-nos, which is easily reachable from Swansea.
Snowdonia National Park became Wales’ second destination to be awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status in December 2015, its over 800 square miles in size and has more than 90 peaks, including Snowdon - the tallest in Wales, so you wont struggle to find a perfect spot to observe the nights sky.
The Elan Valley in Mid Wales has been awarded Dark Sky status. The 45,000 acre estate is now protected against light pollution for the benefit of those who live and work there, as well as for visitors and for the abundance of wildlife found there.
Try the Stargazer's Retreat, a former stable for ponies, which has now been set up with a computerised telescope and its own observatory, or the Usk Reservoir, which is great for a walk and picnic at any time of year and is particularly protected from light pollution. Pontsticill Reservoir, surrounded by hills and forests in the Taf Fechan Valley, is an extremely atmospheric place to trace star trails from.
With fields adjacent to churches and little disturbance from artificial lighting, Crai Village has an intimate feel to it. Beautiful Penbryn Beach, in Ceredigion, will allow you to see three stars (Deneb, Vega and Altair) above playful seals at dusk – follow site owners the National Trust's easy stroll along the coast and you'll also be in with a great chance of seeing why the North Star, visible from a blanket on the beach, has been used to help voyagers at sea for more than 2,000 years.
Startrails at St Govan's Chapel, Pembrokeshire by Drew Buckley
You might spot the Milky Way illuminating owls here, and it's also viewable from Parc Penallta, a former coal tip that now offers unparalleled views over the wetlands and the Welsh coast. If you're a little unsure on how to discern an aurora or a nebula through binoculars, try visiting the inspirational National Botanic Garden of Wales, which has become the first venue of its kind to win Dark Sky approval and regularly lays on events helping everyone get a closer glimpse of the universe.
Discover Our Dark Skies from Bluesky Monster on Vimeo.
Rhondda Cynon Taf has eight classified Dark Sky Discovery sites in South East Wales, including two pubs which are the first in Wales to be registered. Each site has its own unique viewpoint and provides stargazers with spectacular panoramic views of the night sky. Locations include Dare Valley Country Park, Bwlch Mountain and Daerwynno Outdoor Centre.
Milkyway from Daerwynno Outdoor Centre by Dark Sky Wales
The National Museum Wales and the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, where a Courtyard Garden is perfect for detecting constellations and star groups, are also known to regularly hold exciting show-and-tell sessions, particularly during the BBC's annual Stargazing Live series of events, which make the most of Wales's astronomical vantage points every January.
Out towards the Irish Sea, the Llŷn Peninsula's cliffs and beaches provide brilliantly clear night skies. Settle down, relax and look up – the low pollution levels mean shooting stars are a distinct possibility, all without any fancy equipment. Within the Pembrokeshire National Park, the National Trust's Stackpole Centre offers unparalleled views across the coast from the cliff-tops, making for exceptional all-round views of the night skies. Wherever you decide to gaze up from, the brightest lights often come out after dark.