International Dark Sky Week, which takes place from 22nd – 30th April is, as its name suggests, a global affair, organised annually by the International Dark Sky Association. On this global stage, Ireland is playing a leading role, particularly in County Mayo, home of Mayo Dark Sky Park.
Mayo Dark Sky Park consists of 15,000 hectares of natural wilderness in the Wild Nephin mountains, and it is a very special and unique place, much loved by the close-knit rural communities surrounding it. Those communities have planned a virtual roadshow of the county, taking in the dark sky communities of Newport, Mulranny, Erris and Ballycroy, and welcoming Clare Island, Achill Island and Inishturk as a dark sky event hosts for the first time.
“We are so lucky here in Mayo, as we have some of the darkest skies in Europe, a resource that the world is starting to appreciate more and more, as excessive levels of artificial light continue to obliterate our view of the night sky”, according to Georgia MacMillan, Mayo Sky Dark Park Development Officer: “We are only now beginning to appreciate just how important natural skies are for our planet. Many of us think of science and stargazing when we think of the night sky, but it is also vitally important for biodiversity, human health and culture”.
Georgia explains how the roadshow will unfold:
Each evening at 8pm, a different community will host an event celebrating one of the facets of our dark sky story. We start on Friday 22nd in Ballycroy Visitor Centre, Wild Nephin National Park (Mayo Dark Sky Park) with a talk by Brendan Owens, Astronomer Emeritus for Royal Observatory Greenwich who will give us a Starry Sky Tour over 3 consecutive evenings, bringing his talk to Inishturk on 23rd April and Erris Coast, Geesala on 24th April.
On Monday 25th April, we move to our first urban event at Lough Lannagh in Castlebar for ‘Urban Dark Skies & Biodiversity’. The roadshow then moves to Achill Island on Tuesday for “Soilse Spéire Acla” (Lights of an Achill Sky), organised by VTOS Achill tourism students, where we will enjoy a walk along the deserted village whilst learning the values of a natural night sky.
We continue a walking theme in the beautiful grounds of Westport House Estate on Wednesday 27th with a dusk watch and nature walk with guides from Wild Nephin National Park as darkness draws in.
Our programme returns to the stars on Thursday at Mulranny Arts Centre with a talk by Newport astronomy Club’s Derek Dempsey for beginners, ‘An Introduction to Astronomy”’ and we island-hop again on Friday 29th as the road show takes us to Clare Island for a Sunset Walk, Yoga and Storytelling evening.
International Dark Sky Week returns to Newport, gateway to the Mayo Dark Sky Park for the final event, which moves our Roadshow into space for a ‘Tour of our Solar System’ by Derek Dempsey.
Whether you are an avid amateur stargazer, a budding naturalist or just curious about our natural world, – there is something for everyone at Mayo’s roadshow, celebrating International Dark Sky Week 2022!
How to get tickets
Tickets are FREE but booking is essential. Available now on www.mayodarkskies.eventbrite.com All events start at 8pm.
The events will be officially launched by the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr. Michael Smyth at a special event on Wednesday, 20th April at 5pm featuring a talk by Prof. Brian Espey, Dark Skies expert from Trinity College Dublin.