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Welsh island Ynys Enlli becomes Europe's first dark sky sanctuary

An island off the coast of north Wales has become the first place in Europe to be awarded dark sky sanctuary certification from the International Dark-Sky Association.

Ynys Enlli, also known as Bardsey Island, is now recognised as one of the best spots in the world for stargazing after local wardens spent four years monitoring overnight light pollution there.

Sian Stacey, chair of the Bardsey Island Trust, said in a statement that the designation was a “huge achievement”.

Across the UK there are already several dark sky reserves, but areas designated as a sanctuary must boast darker, less polluted skies to qualify.

Alongside Ynys Enlli, there are just 16 other dark sky sanctuaries around the world, from the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean to Medicine Rocks state park in Montana.

Ynys Enlli lies 3 kilometres off the tip of the Llŷn peninsula in north Wales, and records suggest it has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. Today, only a handful of people live on the island all year, while visitors arrive for day trips and holidays during the summer months.

Its unique geography is part of the reason for the dark skies. It has a mountain that limits the amount of light that seeps over from the Welsh mainland, making Dublin, 120 kilometres away in Ireland, the closest significant source of light pollution.

Authorities hope the new designation will offer stronger protections for Ynys Enlli against future light pollution and attract more visitors.

“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,” said Stacey. “We hope it will also go a long way in securing the long-term sustainability of the island.”

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