Astro Tourism In Ireland Is The Next Big Thing


Offering tourists a look at a vast dark night sky with no light pollution is our next big tourism trump card. And we can achieve this with Ireland’s new Dark-Sky gold tier reserve, one of only three on the planet. It is here you can go satellite watching, moon gazing, planet hunting, and simply glory in the wonder of falling stars.

The Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve (KerryIDSR) has been designated Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association ( Its wondrous beauty is revealed after the sun sets and an orchestra of stars come out to re-vitalise your senses. It is here that you can enjoy astronomical sights with the naked eye in the same way they can be seen in places like the Grand Canyon and the desert plains of Africa.

The Kerry Dark-Sky Reserve includes Kells, Cahersiveen, Valentia Island, Portmagee, The Glen, Ballinskelligs, Dromid, Waterville and Caherdaniel. The Kerry County Council will soon be erecting signposts indicating the entry and exit points to the Reserve.

When you look at the constellations in the KerryIDSR you can see many more stars than you can on the usual sky maps. The beautiful band of the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, star clusters and nebulas are just some of the naked-eye wonders visitors can see without the aid of any astronomical equipment or filters. The KerryIDSR is located on an isthmus, protected by the Kerry Mountains and Hills on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. The area is 700 square kilometres of night skies unpolluted by artificial light.

The KerryIDSR only exists because of Julia Ormonde’s hard work. She is a Dubliner who moved to Kerry and marvelled at the dark night sky before her, and was driven to do something to let others know of its beauty. She founded the South and West Kerry Astronomy Group, and after that she began to put together an application for Dark Sky Reserve status. She believed that Kerry offered an extraordinary and unpolluted view of the stars like very few other places in the world. Others out there agreed with her. Soon enough, all her hard work paid off. Not only is the area is an International Dark- Sky Reserve, it is a gold-tier designation.

There are a handful of certified Dark-Skyparks across the world, but there are only three gold-tier reserves – the other two are the Aoraki Mackenzie (New Zealand) and NamibRand Nature Reserve (Namibia, Africa). Protection of the KerryIDSR is about protecting the day-time and nocturnal wildlife in all its forms on land, river, lake and sea. Also protected are numerous monuments of pre-historic stone and rock art that festoon the region.

Here’s why you should take a trip on a clear night to the Kerry International Dark- Sky Reserve.

  • You will see more stars in the constellations than depicted in the usual star-charts and planispheres.
  • The distance between the constellations under an actual uninterrupted skyline is surprisingly huge.
  • The sudden unexpected appearance of a ‘falling star’ or fireball is too thrilling for words.
  • Seeing distant objects with your own eyes – without any telescope or binoculars – is really satisfying and feels so natural.
  • When a stargazing guide shows you the constellations via the use of a laser beam you will always remember where they are.

If you decide to visit the KerryIDSR consider the position of the moon. A new moon is by far the best time to come. The moon’s cycle is 28 days, so every month really has only seven dark nights with no moonlight to interfere with your view of the heavens.

What makes the KerryIDSR unique is the fact that it is a residential reserve. No other reserve or park has a little village in the core zone, ancient stone forts; Neolithic rock art and standing stones, farms, a chocolate factory, a church, a little pub, a school, a playground, beaches, holiday homes, lakes and rivers where you can fish, a hostel, a bird sanctuary and a UNESCO World Heritage site – The Skellig Islands. Essentially this means that one can stay in the core zone of the KerryIDSR, rent a house, have a pint, stay in a hostel or B&B, visit a chocolate factory or ancient pre-historic monuments, and play on the beach. When the sun sets on clear moonless nights, you can view the panorama of the cosmos.

Visitors from all over the world are now visiting this special region of Ireland – and staying here. They are discovering that this region is beautiful but not at all isolated.

Want to visit? You can hire an experienced astronomer to explain the constellations, their ancient stories and how to find them. You can also be shown popular stars, planets, nebulas, star clusters and other galaxies. The guide is available for private individuals and parties as well as tour groups and schools (log onto for more information).

There is no funding designated for the Dark-Sky Reserve, and it runs on donations, so you can also go to the website to donate. Happy stargazing!

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