What is a Dark Sky Park?

Dark Sky Park is more than just dark, it is a place where exceptional starry skies are protected and valued as an important educational, cultural, scenic and natural resource. By protecting our dark skies we help ecosystems and wildlife, attract off- season tourism and reduce our carbon footprint.

In March 2020 Lough Gur will submit an application to the International Dark Sky Association for Dark Sky Park accreditation. This status would not affect your rights, limit development or dictate what you do with your own lights. It is simply acknowledgement that Lough Gur has exceptional dark sky quality and is a way to acknowledge it. Application has to made each year and will be retracted if educational programmes and interaction with school groups to inform students about effects on environment is not maintained. Accreditation is a way to support the educational work that we do.

What is the International Dark Sky Association?

Since 1988, the International Dark-sky Association (IDA) (a non-profit organisation based in the USA) has been working to preserve and protect the night time environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. The IDA is the world recognised authority on light pollution.

Why are dark skies so important?

Millions of children throughout the world will never see The Milky Way because of light pollution (an inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light). Light pollution not only steals our view of the stars, it wastes money and has adverse effects on our health, wildlife and environment. Dark Sky places preserve the starry skies, inspire creativity and reconnect us with the natural beauty of the night.

If I live near a Dark Sky Park will I be asked to turn off my lights?

No, absolutely not. We are not asking residents to turn light off or make unnecessary changes. Instead, we hope to encourage people to use less and/or more appropriate lighting as and when necessary. We have provided more details in our section on Light Pollution along with a downloadable guide.

How will it affect me?

We will promote the opportunities available to local businesses and communities through the dark sky project such as an increased tourist market and longer tourist season, based on astronomy and appreciation of the nocturnal environment, particularly during the quieter, winter months.

Interact with our Dark Sky image above and click through to find more content.
Click here for access to our interactive data sheets.

The Dark Sky Park project is a significant undertaking to secure International Dark Sky Association status for Lough Gur. But more important than being able to claim international status is the import task of preserving, not just the physical sites around Lough Gur, but the night skies overhead which have been viewed in Lough Gur for over 6,000 years. As such, we have embarked on the scientific measurement of how dark our skies throughout the year and making that information readily available to you our visitors to Lough Gur. As an accredited Science Foundation Ireland Discover Primary Science and Maths centre we transform this information for the benefit of all visitors. 

Protecting our Delicate Eco System

Lough Gur is home to an array of species from insects, to small mammals, fish, birds and bats. We are acutely aware that changes to our ecosystem will have a significant impact on biodiversity and broader ecosystems. Equally lighting changes will have a direct impact on the insect population and in turn the fish and bats and so forth. As the grounds are managed by Limerick City and County Council, we are also fortunate to have access and support of park officials.

Dark Skies & connection with a 6,000 years of history

While no-one fully understands the purpose of the great stone circle, we can only image how our 6,000-year-old ancestors pondered on the night sky and how it impacted their belief systems and annual cycles of life. A culture which we believe had at it heart the seasonal movements of sun, moon and stars. We want future generations to be in a position to look up and appreciate those same skies, it’s one of our few links to the past.


Visitors to Lough Gur are not only invited to enjoy spectacular scenery but are also invited to immerse themselves into wellness. As part of our annual calendar, we run wellness events promoting wellbeing. Increasingly, critical to our own well-being is understanding the impact of blue light & light pollution on the human body. There is scientific evidence that suggests that for our own wellbeing, humans can greatly benefit from managed lighting and dark spaces. 

Future Perspectives

Dark Sky certification for Lough Gur is not a point in time exercise. Our Dark Skies have been observed by generations of people over 6,000 years, We want to play our part to ensure the skies remain as an inspiration for others over the coming 6,000 years. Lough Gur is fortunate to have the backing of Limerick City & County Council and the local community in building sustainable model for dark sky preservation

We invite you to explore our Dark Sky image above, clicking through to the various aspects of our Dark Sky project and related areas.