Ballycroy National Park was established in November 1998. It is Ireland’s sixth National Park and is located on the Western seaboard in North West Mayo. It 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. The area includes the beguiling Nephin Wilderness Park. Between Nephin beg and Slieve Carr, at 721 metres above sea level, the highest mountain in the range, lie the Scardaun Loughs.
In a major success for the park, in 2016, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) granted Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Ballycroy National Park & Wild Nephin Wilderness Park, to be jointly recognised as Mayo International Dark Sky Park. A Gold Tier classification is an honour reserved for the most exceptional of dark skies and breathtaking nightscapes, and this recognition completes the ‘360 degree experience’ that the north Mayo national park has to offer, boasting pristine beauty underfoot, all around and up above. Ballycroy is also the first national park in Ireland to be designated an International Dark Sky Park.
To the west of the mountains is the Owenduff bog. This is one of the last intact active blanket bog systems in Ireland and 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. These include alpine heath, upland grassland, heath and lakes and river catchments. Greenland White-fronted geese, Golden plover, Red Grouse and Otters are just some of the important fauna found within the Park.
The National Park is itself part of the Owenduff/Nephin Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). These European designations are part of the Natura 2000 Network, which protect rare and important habitats and species under the EU Habitats and Birds Directive