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The International Dark-Sky Association has granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Ballycroy National Park & Wild Nephin
County Mayo, situated in western Ireland, is widely celebrated for its rugged and unspoiled landscape on the edge of Europe’s wild Atlantic coastline. Ballycroy National Park and the adjoining Wild Nephin (Coillte) expands over 110 square kilometers of mountainous Atlantic blanket bog and forest. Viewing sites for visiting astronomers have been designated and graded by ease of access and facilities available. Signature viewing sites include the Claggan Mountain Boardwalk, Letterkeen Bothy and Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre, which have excellent interpretive and parking facilities.
Ballycroy National Park was established in November 1998, it is Ireland’s sixth National Park and is located on the Western seaboard in northwest 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. Between Nephin beg and Slieve Carr, at 721metres above sea level, the highest mountain in the range, lie the Scardaun Loughs.
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.