If you're in pursuit of dark sky locations, you won't be disappointed with a trip to Wales. One of the many reasons Wales is good for stargazing is that we have the highest percentage of land protected by Dark Skies status in the world. In our clear and unpolluted skies you can see thousands of stars, comets and galaxies - including our own home galaxy, the Milky Way. You can also catch the International Space Station and trains of satellites – there are 8,000 of them orbiting the Earth – as they voyage through the night.
You can star-gaze in Wales all year round, but the darker nights of autumn and winter are best. Ideally, you’ll time it with one of our regular meteor showers, where dust from comets and celestial debris turns into shooting stars. During the biggest ones – the Perseids (August), Geminids (November) and Quadrantids (January) - you can see up to 150 meteors every hour. That’s a lot of wishes.
Wales boasts a list of spectacular sites that astronomers have singled out as world-beating places to go stargazing. Whether it’s a romantic break for two or a holiday for all the family, there are plenty of places to choose from. We’ve compiled some suggestions for the best dark skies destinations with stellar places to stay.
Stargazing in North Wales
Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park is an official International Dark Sky Reserve. With more than 2,000 square km of protected terrain, many areas have clear skies to take advantage of the darkness.
A dramatic spot for stargazing, the Llŷn Peninsula's wild coastline is the ideal place to spot to get out at night. Head to Porthor (Whistling Sands) where the skies are so clear there is a chance of spotting globular clusters, nebulae and the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy. Trefor Sea Stacks is another great spot.
Isle of Anglesey
You’ll also get to enjoy amazing dark skies on Anglesey, and during winter months you may even get to see the Northern Lights. The view out across the Irish Sea is untarnished by light pollution.
Penmon Point, the pebble-strewn beach promontory on Anglesey, is known for sightings of puffins, seals and dolphins, but it also has perfect conditions for stargazing. To the north is Trwyn Du lighthouse and Puffin Island beyond.
Clwydian Range and Dee Valley
The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB is an excellent location for stargazing, with some of the darkest skies found above Caer Drewyn, an iron age fort sat on top of a hill overlooking the stunning valley of the Afon Dyfrdwy.
Find out more about the dark skies in the Clywdian Range and Dee Valley AONB area.
Star gazing in Mid Wales
Mid Wales has a number of publicly accessible Dark Sky Discovery sites, which are excellent places to go stargazing. It would be hard to find a more idyllic destination than the peaceful countryside and dramatic peaks of Mid Wales. Here you will experience some of the darkest skies - it’s perfect for stargazing. Whether it’s on your own, with a friend or with the whole family, we’ve hand-picked some amazing places to stay that are in prime stargazing positions.
The Spaceguard Centre is a working observatory on a remote hill outside Knighton. The centre continually scans the night sky for ‘Near Earth Objects’ (namely asteroids and comets) that, if they were to collide with Earth, could pose a threat to our planet. Privately run and staffed by volunteers, it’s the only facility in the UK of its kind. They offer regular tours of the centre (suitable for ages 9 plus) led by experts who explain what the centre is about. If you want to see the stars above Mid Wales, the evening tours are perfect on a clear dark night.
The Elan Valley in Mid Wales has International Dark Sky Park status - meaning that its entire 45,000 acres are protected against light pollution, making it a sanctuary for wildlife and nature (and stargazers). It offers some of the best places in the world to go stargazing and on clear nights you can see stars, planets and constellations.
Popular with stargazers and astro-photographers, the Elan Valley's Craig Goch Dam near Rhayader has easy parking. Stargaze from the dam itself or take the path on the east side of the reservoir to find stunning views of the night sky. Visit Cwm Elan/Elan Valley Visitor Centre - a designated International Dark Sky Park. About 12 miles from Rhayader, Claerwen Dam in the Elan Valley has a car park on the western side, and no through-traffic to worry about.
Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons)
Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park is an International Dark Sky Reserve and has some of the highest quality dark skies in the UK. It’s the ideal place to see major constellations, bright nebulas, the Milky Way, and even meteor showers.
There are dozens of places to stargaze in Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons), but the Usk Reservoir Dark Sky Discovery Site in the park's west is among the darkest and quietest. Car parking is provided, and you can walk out onto the dam itself.
Cwmdu, Crickhowell is a quiet valley within the Black Mountains. It hosts the twice-yearly AstroCamp at Cwmdu Campsite, where astronomers and stargazers gather to share telescopes and the valley views.
There are several Dark Sky Discovery Sites within the Cambrian Mountains area, including Llanerchaeon on the coast, Dylife in the heart of Mid Wales, or the spectacular Llyn Brianne Reservoir. The remoteness of rural Wales means there is little light pollution, so there are some amazing spots to look up to the skies in wonder.
With the ocean on one side, the rugged and rural west coast of Wales is a haven for dark skies. With more than 1,000 stars visible to the naked eye, Ceredigion provides plenty of opportunities for watching the night skies. The Milky Way is best seen from October to April.
Coed y Bont Dark Discovery Site is a good place for star gazing and nature - you may be lucky enough to spot a nocturnal pine marten during your visit.
Official Dark Sky Discovery site Penbryn Beach is less than a mile's walk from the National Trust Car Park at Llanborth Farm in Penbryn.
Star gazing in West Wales
There are plenty of opportunities for star gazing in West Wales. With their remote locations, many parts of Pembrokeshire and Gower provide ideal conditions for viewing dark skies.
Pembrokeshire is a nationally-recognised designation for stargazing spots, with many opportunities for star gazing across this vast area. By day you can enjoy a stroll along the world-famous Pembrokeshire Coast Path, while by night the Pembrokeshire's Dark Sky Discovery Sites come alive.
The National Trust car park at Broadhaven South Beach is the darkest of all Pembrokeshire's Dark Sky Discovery Sites, which gets 'Milky Way'-class designation. Newgale Beach and Poppit Sands offer great opportunities for star gazing - both of their National Park car parks are Dark Sky Discovery Sites, with clear skies and very little light pollution.
Most of Gower’s coast is untarnished by light pollution, and it's one of the best places in Wales to stare into the core of our galaxy, the Milky Way. You may be lucky and see bioluminescent plankton too.
Rhossili Bay is a great spot for star gazing, with views of the sea in all directions. Take care with the cliff edges if visiting Rhossili at night. It is useful to plan your visit when there is no moon, as the visibility of the moon impacts on the ability to see dark skies. Three Cliffs Bay is another good spot for star gazing and you can pitch up at Three Cliffs Caravan Site for the night.
Although nearby Rhossili Bay is more famous, there are few darker spots in Wales than tiny Port Eynon in the Gower Peninsula Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Port Eynon has a large beach looking out on to the Bristol Channel. Visit Swansea Bay have more information on dark skies in the area.
Stargazing in South Wales
It might be where most people in Wales live, but escaping the light pollution of Cardiff and Newport is easier than you might think. You could head towards the southernly part of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) International Dark Sky Reserve, or give one of the many options in Monmouthshire or the Vale of Glamorgan a try.
Abergavenny Castle is a Dark Sky Discovery Site, with events, opportunities for stargazing and guides to the night sky all year round. There's also plenty to do in and around Abergavenny, including lots of places to refuel, so why not stay and explore the area in the daytime too!
Vale of Glamorgan
This headland on the Monknash Coast of the Vale of Glamorgan can get very windy, but its night skies will blow you away. Park in the Nash Point car park, which is near the lighthouse.
Find out more about stargazing experiences in Wales
If you’re starting out on your stargazing journey, you can check out astrophotographer's Alyn Wallace’s top five places. If you're keen to capture some images, astrophotographer Alyn Wallace has put together some photography tips to get you started.
So, pick a moonless night, take a camping chair, a woolly hat, and a flask of something warming. The secrets of the universe are yours.