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Remote Welsh island named Europe’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary

23 Feb 2023 4 minute read
Photo Steve Porter

Ynys Enlli, the remote island off the tip of Pen Llŷn is now an International Dark Sky Sanctuary

The island of 20,000 saints is the first location in Europe to be designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) is located two miles off the tip of Pen Llŷn in Gwynedd.

Its location and geographical features make it one of the darkest places in the northern hemisphere, with the mountain on the island serving as an effective barrier, limiting light from the mainland.

It’s a wonderful place for star gazing – the closest major light pollution comes from Dublin, which is 70 miles across the Irish Sea.

There is no electricity in any of the 10-holiday let houses on the island but solar lamps are provided for guests.

Visitors are encouraged to bring a head torch and spare batteries for their evening trips outside to the toilet.


Ynys Enlli is also a National Nature Reserve and Mari Huws is one of the Wardens who live on the island.

She 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.

“We knew we lived in a special place and this new status confirms this. 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.”

The night sky over Ynys Enlli. Photo Steve Porter

Bright future

Ynys Enlli is only one of 16 places in the world to be given the accreditation by The International Dark Skies Association.

All 16 places are typically situated in a very remote location with few nearby threats to the quality of its dark night skies.

Sian Stacey, Chair of the Bardsey Island Trust said they were delighted with the new status.

“It is a huge achievement and I would like to thank all who have been involved. 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.”


Evidence suggests that Ynys Enlli was inhabited from as early as the Bronze age.

Celtic and Christian monasteries have been established there since the sixth Century, and the population of Ynys Enlli has fluctuated over the centuries.

According to legend, as many as 20,000 saints are buried on Enlli because it was an important centre of medieval pilgrimage.

Today, the island is home to a small community of residents who work the land and fish from the island.

There is also a Bird and Field Observatory and Enlli is an important home to wildlife and marine birds including the Manx shearwater.

The island is protected by several designations including a Sight of Special Scientific Interested. It is also recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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.”

Today’s announcement coincides with Wales Dark Sky Week 2023.

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