International Dark Sky Park
West Penwith, Cornwall
England, United Kingdom
West Penwith is the most westerly stretch of the Cornwall peninsula, extending from the western edge of St Ives around Cape Cornwall and inland to include the central Penwith Hills (also referred to as the downs or moors). Centuries of farming, mining activities, burial sites, and other placed granite stones shape the landscape. Some of the stones are thought to have astronomical connections. The array of archaeological relics — ranging from Neolithic Quoits (chambered tombs) to standing stones and stone circles from the Early Bronze Age — bear testament to early human settlement. This wild landscape persists with a powerful sense of place due to the absence of 21st-century pressures, inspiring many writers and artists. West Penwith lacks major modern infrastructure and development, and this helps preserve its tranquil and undisturbed distinctive landscape.
Cornwall has several sections classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), including West Penwith. These locations are designated as exceptional landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are precious enough to be protected and enhanced for nature, people, business, and culture. Due to its remoteness, there is a high level of calm, further enhanced by the rugged coastline, uninterrupted sea views, and dark skies. According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) interactive Night Blight mapping tool, Cornwall has been identified as the fourth darkest “county” in their study of England. Unlike National Parks, AONBs are not owners or controllers of the land but work through influence and collaboration. The designation is hence valued and respected by the community and is protected through planning procedures.