Cwmdu, Brecon Beacons; A winter portrait under the Galactic Core
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5 amazing Dark Sky spots in Mid Wales

Mid Wales is a place to visit to escape the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. But it has so much more to offer, especially when the sun goes down. Dominated by the Cambrian Mountains, including the Green Desert of Wales, the region is thinly populated. It’s an area with an economy dependent on farming and small businesses but recently, a new type of tourism has emerged that is perfectly suited to Mid Wales’ topography. Stargazing in Wales, as man stands on mountain with stars in the sky The area we consider as Mid Wales spans to include two National Parks; the Southern part of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons. As well as the Cambrian Mountains, these two amazing areas both considered as AONB are globally recognised, and now the region also has internationally acclaimed dark sky reserves. Wales valley with red sky, and starts coming through Star tourism is free, and areas with little light pollution – such as Mid Wales – have become a huge draw for people who are looking to get a better glimpse of the universe and the cosmos. Below, we find the best spots in Mid Wales to do a bit of stargazing. 1. The Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park The entire Elan Valley was purchased by the Birmingham Corporation in 1892 for the purpose of creating a reliable municipal water source for the Midlands city which sits around 115 kilometers away. The corporation built a number of dams in the Valley to store a reliable supply of clean water for Birmingham, which at the time was in desperate need in Birmingham. The Elan Valley is one of the premier stargazing regions in the world, when the sun goes down The management of the property was transferred to Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water), which established the Elan Valley Trust in 1989, to ensure the long-term conservation of natural resources in the Valley and to promote both public access to the land and environmental education. This step was taken in part by Dŵr Cymru as they became aware of the significance of the Valley’s dark skies and the importance of preserving this status, and in 2015, the Elan Valley Estate achieved its long-anticipated International Dark Sky Park status (IDS) and became the first privately-owned but still publicly accessible park in the world. Granted the silver-tier status by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) based in Arizona, USA, the status now means that the entire 45,000 acres of the Elan Valley are protected against light pollution for the benefit of those who live and work here, and guarantees that this area remains as one of the most special places for stargazing in all of the United Kingdom. Co-ordinates: 52.27128811146571, -3.56627173647707 2. Cwmdu, Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons Cwmdu – or Llanfihangel Cwmdu – is a quiet valley within the Black Mountains range of the Brecon Beacons. A small but special pin on the Wales stargazing map, the area hosts a twice-yearly AstroCamp at Cwmdu Campsite. Since its inception in 2012, AstroCamp has been a place where astronomers and stargazers gather to share telescopes and the valley views, and they promote astronomy with regular talks, fun workshops and even have a pub quiz with telescope giveaways. Cwmdu, Brecon Beacons; A winter portrait under the Galactic Core Cwmdu is in the International Dark Sky Reserve of the Brecon Beacons. This reserve was the first International Dark Sky Reserve to be granted in Wales, and on a clear night in the Brecon Beacons, you can see the Milky Way, some of the more major constellations, bright nebulas, and even meteor showers. The park is said to have some of the highest quality dark skies in the whole of the UK, making it the perfect destination for stargazers. It was all of these merits that led to AstroCamp selecting Cwmdu as the area to set up their bi-annual meet-ups. Co-ordinates: 51.90211156123312, -3.191654335496079 3. Usk Reservoir, Brecon Beacons This is a truly superb dark location that is protected from the light pollution of the South Wales Valleys. The Usk Reservoir which touches both the Brecon Beacons and parts of East Carmarthenshire has ample parking and is easily reached from the Trecastle area. Have a family picnic as the sun goes down, then set up your telescope to enjoy outstanding dark skies. Usk; A wintery shot of the Galactic core nestled between Corn Du and Pen Y Fan. The highest peaks in South Wales What makes the Usk Reservoir most special is that it is known for being one of the quietest and darkest locations, lending itself perfectly to stargazing. One of the largest reservoirs in the Beacons, the Usk is so named because it dams the infant headwaters of the River Usk. It’s a 280-acre reservoir is located in the dramatic and remote countryside, Usk is surrounded by a pine forest and moor in the far west of the beacons. ‘Y Mynydd Du’ is the Welsh for the ‘Black Mountains’ range of the Beacons. Aside from being a stargazers paradise, the area is also regarded as one of the best trout fisheries in Wales, attracting huge numbers of anglers every year. Co-ordinates: 51.94421038795021, -3.698253483962022 4. Craig Goch Dam, Powys Craig Goch Dam in itself is a marvel of engineering and a destination all of its own. Referred to as ‘Top Dam’, it is the dam in the Elan Valley that creates the upper-most reservoirs in the region. Craig Goch Dam, Powys; A starlit sky in the Elan Valley in Wales Craig Goch is considered by many to be one of the most attractive of the dams in the United Kingdom, with an elegantly curved wall and a series of arches that carries a narrow roadway across the top of the dam, which in itself creates a spectacular drive as you move across it. So, not just popular with stargazers and astrophotographers, but in astronomy terms, the Elan Valley’s Craig Goch Dam, which can be found near Rhayader, is a key destination in the ‘dark skies’ community. The dam itself has easy and accessible parking. You can stargaze from the dam itself or take the path on the east side of the reservoir where you will find stunning views of the night sky and make the most of this special site. Co-ordinates: 52.30499930632222, -3.6240976603565764 5. Claerwen Reservoir, Elan Valley About 10-15 miles away from Rhayader, you will find the Claerwen Reservoir; one of the latter-built reservoirs completed in the 1950s, based on the increasing demand for the need to provide more water for the West Midlands. As one of Queen Elizabeth II’s first royal acts, the dam was officially commissioned, taking 6 years to complete, and it was ready in 1952. Claerwen Reservoir; Elan valley dam in the daytime It is a large reservoir, and it is easily twice the size of any other reservoir in the Elan Valley. Claerwen is a popular stargazing spot as it benefits from no through traffic. It’s not as accessible as other sites, so it is typically quieter with many choosing other spots. For the intrepid would-be astronomer, however, it is the perfect spot to have the skies to yourself. Co-ordinates: 52.25919473593965, -3.6583902827455597 The good thing about Mid Wales is that it’s a vast land that doesn’t suffer from light pollution much, so pretty much any elevated spot is going to get you some of the best opportunities to really take in the cosmos, and the full effect of the stars in the night sky. Pick your time wisely – early spring is generally is considered best – and hope for cloudless nights. You will not be disappointed, no matter where you pitch your telescope. Gareth Robinson is General Manager at Quality Cottages. Quality Cottages is a leading Wales-based holiday lettings agency established in 1961. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. “Croeso i Gymru” (in welsh: Welcome to Wales) I had completely forgotten about Wales. Your article reminded me of a friend I had who was from Wales and taught me some words in that language of Celtic origin. One of my favourite singers is from Glamorganshire, not far from all those places you described. Do you think this is a sign for me to go and visit that wonderful part of Britain?

  2. A couple of years ago, whilst on safari in Africa, I saw the most amazing night sky and we had a guide to show us round the cosmos too. We were really unlucky with cloud and the stars were only visible for one night. I never thought that I’d get to repeat the experience in Wales.

    1. Who’d have thought it, ay, Dan? But yes, some of the best dark sky sites in Europe right here in Wales. Quality Cottages

  3. Little surprised that Dark Sky tourism didn’t make it into Paul’s luxury travel trends published below. As I’ve got two friends who want to do it, it seems to be trending in my little world.

    1. Paul’s pretty astute, and I think dark sky tourism is growing and growing, but is not a symptom of a covid-related world which has maybe informed a lot of the new ‘trends’ we are seeing this year. But for sure, its a wonderful thing to do and if you can do it in Wales when it is safe and legal, then all the better. Quality Cottages

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