Would your clients go all the way to Ireland just for stargazing? They might if they knew about the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve, tucked between the mountains in southwest Kerry and the Atlantic Ocean and known for its dazzling starry nights.

To be clear, this isn't just a region whose geographical location is conducive to exceptional skies, although that is a factor. It's also the outcome of a deliberate movement on the part of community, business and tourism groups, along with local astronomers and committed locals, to keep light pollution at bay and promote astro-tourism.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, International Dark-Sky Reserves are areas that have been recognized for their clear skies, which not only offer stargazers an increasingly rare opportunity to see the night sky the way it once was before the encroachment of civilization but which also help protect nocturnal flora and fauna.

The Milky Way, as seen from Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve in Ireland.
The Milky Way, as seen from Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve in Ireland. Photo Credit: Stephen Hanley

And while there are reserves in various places around the world, Kerry holds the distinction of being the first in the Northern Hemisphere to receive a Gold Tier Dark-Sky award from the International Dark-Sky Association.

To get an idea of its size, the Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve is spread out over about 700 square miles and incorporates Kells/Folimore, Caherciveen, Portmagee, Valentia Island, Dromid, The Glen, Ballinskelligs, Waterville and Derrynane/Caherdaniel. Surprisingly, the so-called Core Zone, where the light pollution is at its lowest, is inhabited, although sparsely, and contains among other features a school, a church and a pub.

There also is a Unesco World Heritage site within the reserve, the Skellig Islands, which are inhabited by rare and even endangered wildlife. In addition, such popular attractions as the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ring of Kerry are nearby.

To help visitors make the most of their stargazing opportunity, Tourism Ireland recommends working with Steve Lynott, a recognized expert and local guide, whose company, Kerry Dark Sky Tourism offers group and private guiding sessions. Lynott also works with a number of hotels, including the Moorings in Portmagee  and the Royal Hotel in Valentia, which have packages that include stargazing.

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