A fiery red glow from flaming furnaces and ironworks lit up the night sky along the Heads of the Valleys in the 19th century. The furnaces and ironworks along the Heads of the Valleys must have seemed like the mythical dragons of Welsh folklore, belching flames into the night sky. These bright lights drew people in from the countryside to the boom towns of Merthyr Tydfil, Tredegar, Ebbw Vale and Blaenavon. It’s a different story today. The Valleys offer some of the darkest of night skies and our specially designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites offer vantage points away from light pollution where you can view the Milky Way.
Legends of the dark skies
The starry shapes of the night sky gave birth to many of our Celtic myths and legends. In Wales the Plough (Ursa Major), is named after the tale of Hu Gadarn, who brought the Welsh to Britain from the Summer Country and taught them to plough. As with all good legends Hu rescued the land from a fearful lake monster called the Afanc. Welsh names for the Plough include Y Sospan (The Saucepan) and it does look like one!
Cassiopeia (Queen of the Fairies), with its 5 brightest stars making up a ‘W’ shape in the sky is called Llys Dôn in Welsh, Dôn was the Celtic Mother Goddess, and her son Gwydyon was the King of the Fairies. Llys Dôn was the gateway to the fairy world. Both these constellations are easy to spot and can be seen on any clear evening from our Dark Sky Discovery Sites. You can find out more about the Welsh legends of the Dark Skies in the book Dark Land, Dark Skies.
Tips for a night out with the stars - Put on warm clothing, pack your torch and our guide to the night sky and choose your Dark Sky Discovery Site:
• Hendre Mynydd Car Park, Rhigos Mountain (CF42 5RY
• Daerwynno Outdoor Centre, Llanwonno (CF37 3PH)
• Barry Sidings, Hopkinstown (CF37 2PE)
• Dare Valley Parc, Trecynon (CF44 7RG)
• Parc Penallta, Ystrad Mynach (CF82 7GL)
• Red Lion Pub, Penderyn (CF44 9JR)
• Plas Dol y Gaer, Pontsticill (CF38 2UR)
• Garn Eiddel car park, Maerdy Mountain (CF43 4FP)
You can find out more about all of these sites here. Check for details of Stargazing events.
What’s on October
Halloween is a descendant of the Celtic festival of Samhain, meaning Summer’s End. Try a Halloween ghost tour at Llancaiach Fawr or a Bat Walk at Bryngarw Country Park or Parc Slip.