Ballycroy National Park, mysterious and majestic
“Indeed the Nephinbeg range of mountains is I think the very loneliest place in this country, for the hills themselves are encircled by this vast area of trackless bog … I confess I find such a place not lonely or depressing but inspiriting. You are thrown at the same time back upon yourself and forward against the mystery and majesty of nature.”
Robert Lloyd Praeger – The Way That I Went (1937)
Ballycroy National Park was established in November 1998. It is Ireland’s sixth National Park and comprises of 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain, covering a vast uninhabited and unspoilt wilderness dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range. Between Nephin beg and Slieve Carr, the highest mountain in the range at 721m, lie the Scardaun Loughs.
To the west of the mountains is the Owenduff bog. This is one of the few intact active blanket bog systems not only in Ireland but in Western Europe and is an important scientific and scenic feature of the National Park.
The Park also protects a variety of other important habitats and species, including alpine heath, upland grassland, and lakes and river catchments. Greenland White-fronted geese, Golden plover, Red Grouse and Otters are just some of the important animals found in the Park.
The National Park is itself part of the Owenduff/Nephin Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA), which protect rare and important habitats and species under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.
In 2016, The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Ballycroy National Park & Wild Nephin Wilderness, to be jointly recognised as Mayo International Dark Sky Park. The Gold-Tier classification is reserved for places around the world with the most exceptional of dark skies and breathtaking nightscapes.
The modern Visitor Centre has an interactive exhibition on the habitats, local culture and history of Ballycroy National Park and the surrounding area. It also has a Tea Room serving soup, sandwiches and light lunches. Outside, a short nature trail with pond, interpretation panels and viewing points are worth the stroll on the well-made paths.
Take the N59 in the direction of Achill. Just outside Mulranny village turn right at signposts for Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre. Travel 14 km to the village of Ballycroy – you won’t miss the visitor centre! Turn right at the sign for the Visitor Centre, and the main entrance to the Visitor Centre is 300m on the right-hand side.
For more information visit the Ballycroy National Park website
Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre on the map
Pic: © Anthony Hickey / Mayo.ME™