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Exploring Wild Nephin Ballycroy



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County Mayo’s Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park feels like your own private hideaway. With some of the darkest skies in Ireland, the largest Atlantic blanket bog in Europe and Ireland’s most remote mountain, Slieve Carr, this is a place to really go off the grid — and the perfect spot to reconnect with family and friends, while wild camping in the park overnight.

But despite its remote feel, Wild Nephin is just a 45-minute drive from Westport, 40 minutes from Achill and about an hour’s spin from Ballina. From June to August, a free shuttle bus brings visitors from surrounding areas around the park.

Hikers in Nephin Park, Mayo

Here are five ways to enjoy Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park’s rugged beauty.

 
 

1. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT


The park is the third largest national park in Ireland, so it’s a good idea to find your bearings in the Visitor Centre which has great interpretative exhibition of the landscape and the unique habitats and species throughout the park. Find out about the park’s exceptional wildlife with red deer, otters, mountain hares and rare birdlife including golden plover and merlin.

You can plan your day in the family-run Ginger and Wild Café over coffee and cake as you marvel at the lovely views of Achill Island and the wild Atlantic coastline. Many visitors like to start with the 2km Tóchar Daithí Bán Trail from the Visitor Centre which has unrivalled views of the Nephin Beg Mountains. But there’s endless other trails to explore for all levels of walkers.

 
  • Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail
  • The Letterkeen Walking Loop
  • Camping on the Bangor Trail
 

2. Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail

Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park is the only one of Ireland’s six national parks that stretches all the way to the sea. The gentle 1km boardwalk route across the bog is perfect for families with the promise of a really memorable route back along the shore. Gaze across to Achill Island and spy long-legged wading birds, otters and even seals as you embrace the trail’s wild charm.

3. Letterkeen’s Walking Loops

Experienced hikers can lace up their boots for the Letterkeen Looped Walks, with three colour-coded routes  from 6km to 12km. Feel the crunch of the forest floor underfoot in the leafy woods, and discover babbling rivers, beautiful bogland and lush, open mountain slopes. Don’t forget your rain gear and make sure your phone is fully charged – you’ll be out all day.

4. Bangor Trail and Wild Camping

For really serious hikers, the Bangor Trail is a 12-hour walk over wet, exposed and rough ground. Those who take the challenge will follow a 16th century route nudging the foot of Slieve Carr along the Nephin Beg mountain range. Prepare to hop streams and cross gullies and expect a trail that varies from rock to dirt to bog — but this is the truest experience of Irish wilderness.
 
It’s a hefty 40km walk from Bangor to Newport, but the first half is largely on road. You can do your feet a favour and start at Letterkeen, leaving you with 26km to travel. If you opt for the longer trail you can wild camp overnight in the park; you just need a Ballycroy National Park camping permit if you have more than ten in your group or plan to light a campfire.

A group with a telescope enjoying the night sky in Nephin Park5. Mayo’s Dark Sky Park

Ballycroy is Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Park, showcasing some of the darkest, most pristine skies in the world from three easily accessible viewing points. On a clear night you can marvel at an astounding 4,500+ shining stars with the naked eye. Go on the right night and see the Milky Way, meteor showers and possibly other planets from any of the three ‘Gold Tier’ Dark Sky viewing points. You won’t forget an evening spent stargazing in these epic surroundings in a hurry.  
 
While you were staying safe at home, Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park has been waiting for you — ready to provide a peaceful, remote location for a long-imagined break away.

In advance of your departure, be sure to contact individual attractions and businesses you plan on visiting to confirm they're ready to welcome visitors. As you travel, you'll be aware that social distancing and health and safety measures will be in place everywhere you go — as explained in the new nationwide COVID-19 Safety Charter.

After you take a closer look at Mayo, it's time to start thinking about what you'll explore next on the Wild Atlantic Way. Want to go further afield? Find out more about how to make a break for other regions of our amazing island...

 

IRELAND HAS NEVER FELT BIGGER

It's finally time to pack your bags and make your escape


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