An island off the north coast of Wales has become the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in Europe, after it was awarded the status by the International Dark Sky Association.


Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) is known for its ancient monastery and celebrated for its wildlife, but now it has another protected natural resource: the night sky.

The island has officially been recognised as a protected Dark Sky Sanctuary, meaning its unspoiled view of the night sky is protected for current and future generations.

Ynys Enlli Bardsey Island dark sky. Credit: Steve Porter
Star trails over Barsey Lighthours, Ynys Enlli, Wales. Credit: Steve Porter

The International Dark Sky Association is the leading body providing certification of areas around the world where views of the cosmos are protected from light pollution.

The IDA has certified numerous regions across the UK and Ireland, including the Brecon Beacons, Elan Valley and Snowdonia in Wales.

Now Wales can add Ynys Enlli to its list of protected dark-sky sites. As a Dark-Sky Sanctuary, the island joins just 16 other sites worldwide.

Wales has some of the darkest skies of any region in the world and is one of the best places to avoid light pollution, which is the name given to the obscuring glow generated by artificial lighting.

Ynys Enlli Bardsey Island dark sky. Credit: Steve Porter
A starry scene above Ynys Enlli, Bardsey Island, Wales. Credit: Steve Porter

Ynys Enlli is located two miles from the Llŷn Peninsula, off the coast of north Wales.

The island's mountainous terrain acts like a natural barrier to light pollution from mainland UK, with the closest source of major light pollution being Dublin, some 70 miles across the Irish Sea.

This new Dark Sky Sanctuary designation is the culmination of a 4-year campaign to introduce measures that have enabled the IDA to officially certify it as such.

Measures included a plan for future decisions regarding the installation of artificial lighting on the island and a community outreach programme to raise awareness about the effect of light pollution on our view of the night sky.

This latest announcement follows recent news of a 12-year report that shows a reduction in the number of stars visible in the night sky.

Ynys Enlli Bardsey Island dark sky. Credit: Steve Porter
Credit: Steve Porter

Sian Stacey, Chair of the Bardsey Island Trust said: "We are delighted to announce the news of Ynys Enlli’s new status as International Dark Sky Sanctuary (IDSS) today.

"It’s the culmination of several years hard work involving our own team as well as our partners across the region and beyond. 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.

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


Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association added: "We are pleased to welcome Ynys Enlli to the growing community of dark sky places worldwide. With it, Wales is fast becoming one of the leading nations in protecting dark skies as a precious resource that benefits people and wildlife."

Ynys Enlli Bardsey Island dark sky. Credit: Steve Porter
Credit: Steve Porter


Iain Todd BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Content Editor. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.