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About the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve

Iveragh’s outstanding starry skies only first became widely celebrated in 2014
when much of the Iveragh peninsula was designated a Gold Tier International Dark Sky
Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association (now known as Dark Sky International ).

A remarkable lack of light pollution on
Iveragh is what makes the skies so dark and at the same time so starry! We are privileged to
have such an extraordinarily spectacular window onto the infinite vastness of space and so
lucky that the hard work of a community-led initiative reaped such results.
This story begins with Julie Ormonde who moved to Waterville with her family in the 1990s.
Amazed by how much more starry the Kerry skies are compared to those in Dublin,

Julie became fascinated with astronomy and founded the South Kerry Astronomy Club.

When she learned about the International Dark Sky Association.

she set about getting Dark Sky recognition for Kerry with

a core team of fellow members of the South Kerry Astronomy Club, and in particular Denis O’Connor, Pádraig Sands and Michael Sheehan.

They embarked on a long road that involved organizing workshops
across the Iveragh peninsula to create awareness of light pollution from artificial lighting. They took multiple readings using Sky Quality Meters (SQM) throughout South Kerry

and mapped DarkSky places.

The Kerry skies were so dark, the meters got readings close to ‘22’ which is the
‘darkest’ reading that can be got for a starry sky.

They raised funds so that astronomer

Steve Owens, Science Operations Manager at Glasgow Science Centre

could travel to Ireland to corroborate what the team already knew.

Getting readings close to 22 at Derrynane Beach and also at Staigue Fort,

Owens feared his SQM was malfunctioning and returned with a new device
only to get the same readings again.

Some two years into the project, the time had finally come
to seek Dark Sky recognition from the IDA.

Members of the community all got behind the
application with great work done by Vinny Hyland, Ita Corridan, Mary O’ Connor and

manyothers whose input was so important.

To minimise light pollution, Kerry County Council installed
Dark Sky street lighting throughout the proposed Dark Sky reserve.

The application for Dark Skyrecognition was a resounding success!

The news made headlines and was also the subject of a
documentary for a prominent Japanese TV show - ‘Best in the World’.

South Kerry had been designated a Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserve!

As Dark Sky International no longer tiers its awards,
South Kerry will remain the only Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserve in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the ten years that have passed since then, much great work has been done.

University College Cork began a series of accredited astronomy courses in 2014.

They take place in the Royal Hotel in Valentia and are led by Professor Paul Callalan.

Star parties have been held in Ballinskelligs for the Perseid meteor showers each August.

Steve Lynott, who retired to Ballinskelligs from Dublin, set up ‘Kerry Dark Sky Tourism’ which is now run by Michael Sheehan  (one of the 'core four') and local archaeologist Aoibheann Lambe.
The Caherdaniel Dark Sky Club, in an initiative led by Kay O’Connor,

created the ‘Walk of the Planets’ between Caherdaniel and Coad.

The Walk of the Planets will always be there to
remind us of Kay's energy and enthusiasm in all things relating to the Dark Skies.
In 2021, the LIVE project by University College Cork (UCC) proposed a

Skellig Coast Dark Sky Festival.

An inaugural festival was held in early March 2022 and it went really well.

A second festival, a collaboration between UCC and Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh and supported by Kerry County Council, as well as
an Astrophotography Exhibition sponsored by Skellig Six18, took place in 2023.

A third festival and anniversary celebrations were part of the 2024 line-up.

The 2025 Skellig Coast Dark Sky Festival takes place 28–30 March 2025.
Enthusiasm for the Dark Skies is growing.

South Kerry is hugely indebted to Julie Ormonde and her team for their

foresight, initiative and amazing work.


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