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Winter Activities at Tŷ Afon: Stargazing

Snowdonia National Park is one of just 18 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world, where the Cassiopeia constellation, milky way and on rare occasions, even the aurora borealis, can be seen with the naked eye. As nightfall drapes its silken black cloak over our lush lands, another world entirely awakens above. Shooting stars glimmer as they soar over silent valleys, moonlight reaches down to kiss walls of ancient stone, and the North Star that once guided our shepherds and sailors holds its steady northward position.

Along with roaring open fires, bracing winter walks and warming tipples, the night sky is just one of the things we love about winter at Tŷ Afon. The vast expanse of undisturbed landscape around us means that there is very little light pollution, which gives us clear, crisp skies. We’re not the only ones who enjoy the dark nights of winter; as they are also incredibly important for local wildlife such as bats, owls and other birds who rely on the light of the sun and moon for navigation.

What is a ‘dark sky reserve’?

A Dark Sky Reserve is a protected area of land that has little to no light pollution with the intention of keeping it that way. The International Dark Sky Association defines it as a ‘a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core.’

Snowdonia National Park was given this status in 2015. The Brecon Beacons National Park also holds IDA certification, giving Wales a large amount of protected space. Snowdonia was also voted the best place in the worldfor stargazing to welcome in the winter solstice.

What constellations can I spot in Snowdonia during winter?

On a clear night, Snowdonian skies are illuminated by millions of stars - some of which form part of key constellations. Derived from ancient Greek sources, there are 88 formally recognised constellations, established in 1922 by the International Astronomical Union. While we know that sailors and adventurers of old relied on them for celestial navigation, star patterns have long been a source of wonder for human kind. We know this thanks to ancient artworks, including the Lascaux cave drawings in France, which feature nods to our modern day constellations, despite being around 15,000 years old.

Whether you’re attempting your own art or would simply like to spot the stars during your stay, we can confirm that Orion, the Seven Sisters, The Plough and the Milky Way are all common appearances on a clear winter night. With spacious private grounds, Tŷ Afon offers ample opportunity for stargazing - why not take a warm blanket and a hot flask of something delicious along with you?


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