Posted on 18/01/2017 by David
When did you last look up to the night sky and see the stars in all their spectacular glory?
Less than a century ago, anyone could look up and see a magnificent starry night sky - pretty much anywhere. The story today is, sadly, very different. With so much light pollution surrounding the globe, many people will not experience the true beauty of the night sky in their lifetime.
So, with that said, if you're visiting North Wales this winter, one thing that should definitely be on your itinerary is a spot of stargazing.
Snowdonia National Park is one of just 11 IDA Dark Sky Reserves in the world, so take full advantage of the long, dark nights and head out into the wilderness to catch a glimpse of some fascinating celestial phenomena.
You don't need any specialist equipment to get started either. Simply, pack up a warm blanket, a flask of tea and bundle up in your snuggest winter coat. When darkness falls it gets very cold, especially in more exposed areas, so it's important to make sure you're kitted out appropriately. If you're new to star spotting, take along a star map to help guide your viewing.
To get you started, we’ve put together a list of the 5 best places to go stargazing in North Wales.
Cwm Idwal – admire a spectacular Ice Age landscape by starlight
Take a walk through some of the most dramatic scenery in the UK at the oldest National Nature Reserve in Wales. Cwm Idwal is easily accessible and extremely beautiful, even if the clouds mean you can’t catch a glimpse of the stars. On a very clear and calm night, you might be treated to the most wonderful sight, when the reflection of the stars can be seen on the glacial lake.
Take the A5 from Bangor toward Betws y Coed, and you’ll find Ogwen Cottage car park on your right, the walk starts from there, though there are multiple routes for those who prefer to venture off the main path.
Llyn Conwy – for serene and secluded stargazing
Llyn Conwy is where the River Conwy starts its journey through the foothills of Snowdonia toward the coast. The reservoir is situated on remote moorland above Penmachno so the skies here are very dark and expansive. You’ll find plenty of wildlife around too; look out for owls and foxes, they take full advantage of a clear night to hunt.
Llyn Conwy is remote, but worth the drive. Take the road the road from Ysbyty Ifan toward Llan Ffestiniog, you’ll find the old gamekeeper's house on your right, where you can park easily.
South Snowdonia is where you’ll find the least light pollution, but expect a more challenging trek to find the best stargazing spots...
Cadair Idris – an epic adventure into darkness
In Welsh mythology, the giant Idris, was said to have used the mountain as an enormous armchair to gaze at the stars. Well, where else would be more appropriate to spend a night admiring the night sky? Legend states that travellers sleeping on the mountain awoke as either madmen or poets – so try not to nod off!
To reach the top of Cadair Idris take the Minffordd Path. The trail starts from the car park near the Minfford Hotel.
Bwlch y Groes – star spotting, no hike necessary!
With a summit altitude of 545 metres, Bwlch y Groes is one of the highest public road mountain passes in Wales. So, if you don’t fancy hiking into the wilderness and prefer to poke your binoculars out of the car window – this spot is ideal.
The views from the car park encompass the Dyfi valley, Cader Idris and Aran Fawddwy, as well as the Berwyn Mountains to the north-east.
You can set up a telescope in the car park and observe planets, star clusters and nebulae at this designated Dark Sky Discovery Site. Follow the road between Dinas Mawddwy and Llanuwchllyn.
Llanbadrig Church – spooktacular stargazing
Situated in one of the most scenic locations on Anglesey Llanbadrig (St. Patrick’s) church is the perfect place for contemplation. If you want a somewhat haunting and truly memorable stargazing experience, then this spot is for you.
The wind carries the sounds of the waves and nearby nesting sea birds up the headland, and when you're nestled amongst the headstones, it can get a little bit creepy! However, if you can handle the eeriness, you’ll be treated to an amazing display.
The Milky Way is usually clearly visible and the silhouette of the 5th Century church makes for an excellent star trail photo opportunity.
From Cemaes, head east towards Amlwch and take the first turn on your left, follow the lane past the Gadlys Hotel then turn right ¼ mile up the road.
Share the stars
Seeing the stars in all their magnificence all depends on clear skies of course! Not something that can be guaranteed here in Wales, however all these spots are incredible to experience night or day. Winter gives you the best chance of catching a glimpse of at least some night sky.