Embrace the Wild: A Comprehensive Guide to Ballycroy National Park

A Comprehensive Guide to Ballycroy National Park

Venture into the untamed wilderness of Ireland and unearth its most mesmerizing beauty spots – Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin.

This guide to Ireland’s sixth national park will take you on a journey through Ireland’s captivating Mayo County, from the visitor centres, tranquil trails, and stunning starlit skies of Mayo Dark Sky Park. We’ll also provide an overview of what you need to know before embarking on this adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Unique about Ballycroy & Wild Nephin National Park?

Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin Mountains
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Ballycroy National Park, encompassing the wild Nephin Mountains, is one of Ireland’s six national parks and a jewel of County Mayo. Sprawling over 15,000 hectares, it hosts one of Europe’s largest expanses of peatland left, known as the ‘Atlantic blanket bog’. The park is home to an array of flora and fauna, including the golden plover and the red grouse.

Wild Nephin, nestled within the park, is an untamed wilderness area offering unparalleled panoramic views, diverse habitats, and a sense of tranquillity. It’s a haven for experienced hikers seeking solitude and adventure.

Hiking the Trails: Where to Walk in Ballycroy National Park?

Ballycroy National Park offers a variety of hiking trails that cater to different levels of difficulty. Here are some of the best hikes and walks in Ballycroy National Park, according to the search results:

  1. Letterkeen Loop: This trail is considered the best place to hike in the Wild Nephin National Park, with a 4.6-star rating on AllTrails. It offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and takes you through different terrains, including woodlands and remote paths.
  2. Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail: This trail is another great option for breathtaking views in the national park. It offers panoramic views of the coastline and the surrounding mountains. The trail takes you along the coast, providing opportunities to see the area’s rugged beauty.
  3. Ballycroy Tóchar Daithí Bán Loop: This loop trail also provides beautiful national park views. It takes you through diverse landscapes, including woodlands, bogs, and open moorland. Along the way, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.
  4. Bangor Trail: The Bangor Trail is a challenging hiking trail located in County Mayo, Ireland. It is approximately 10 hours long and covers a distance of 25km. The terrain is rugged and includes river crossings, boggy areas, and steep climbs. This trail is not recommended for beginners and should not be taken lightly.
  5. Lough Aroher Loop: This trail is a moderate hike that takes you through the beautiful countryside of Ballycroy National Park. It is a 7.5km loop trail that takes approximately 2-3 hours to complete.

These are just a few examples of the best hikes and walks in Ballycroy National Park. There are many other trails to explore, each offering its own unique experience. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the Ballycroy Visitor Centre for more information on the park’s trails and wildlife.

Pilgrims Descencing Croagh Patrick overlooking Clew Bay
Pilgrims Descencing Croagh Patrick overlooking Clew Bay and Ballycroy National Park

Can I Hike the Letterkeen Loop?

Yes, you can hike the Letterkeen Loop. The trail is located in County Mayo, Ireland, and is generally considered a moderately challenging route. The loop trail is 6.2 miles long and takes an average of 3 hours to complete. It is one of a number of trails within Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park’s expanse of landscape. The trail is graded strenuous and takes three hours to complete. 

The Letterkeen Loop walk begins at the Brogan Carroll bothy, a stone hut at the access point for the woodland. There are three loop walks which have different lengths and difficulty levels. The trail follows purple arrows on an old cattle road, a narrow path through trees, a sandy road, a forest road, and a riverbank, mainly in forestry. 

The trail is gloriously peaceful and takes you through different terrains and some of the most remote paths in the West of Ireland. The distance of the trail is 12 km, and the difficulty level is hard. The ascent is 310m/350m, and the trailhead is Letterkeen.

What to Expect on the Bangor Trail?

Boardwalk in Ballycroy National Park
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The Bangor Trail is a challenging hiking trail located in County Mayo, Ireland. Here’s what you can expect on the trail:

  • Spectacular views: The Bangor Trail is known for its stunning scenery, including views of the Nephin Beg mountain range and the Owenduff bog.
  • Challenging terrain: The trail is not recommended for beginners and should not be taken lightly. The trail is approximately 10 hours long and covers a distance of 25km. The terrain is rugged and includes river crossings, boggy areas, and steep climbs.
  • Wilderness experience: The Bangor Trail is one of Ireland’s true areas of wilderness. Hikers can expect to be surrounded by nature and wildlife, with few signs of civilization along the way.
  • Preparation is key: Proper care and consideration should be undertaken before embarking on this trail. Hikers should be prepared with appropriate gear, including sturdy hiking boots, waterproof clothing, and a map and compass. Bringing plenty of food and water is also recommended, as there are no facilities along the trail.
  • Experienced guide: If you are not an experienced hiker, hiring a guide may be a good idea. Several tour companies offer guided hikes of the Bangor Trail.

Nephin Beg Range: What Makes it Special?

The Nephin Beg Range is a stunning mountain range located in County Mayo, Ireland. What makes it special is its unspoiled and rugged beauty. The peaks of Nephin and Slieve Carr dominate the landscape and offer breathtaking views for those who venture to the top. The range is also home to diverse flora and fauna, including rare and protected species.

It is a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts, with numerous trails and paths to explore. The remote and untouched nature of the Nephin Beg Range makes it a truly unique and special destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

How to Experience the Mayo Dark Sky?

The Mayo Dark Sky Park, covering parts of Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin, is a must-visit. It’s one of the only places in Ireland and Western Europe where you can experience pristine, star-studded night skies free from light pollution.  To experience the Mayo Dark Sky, head to Ballycroy National Park, Ireland’s only International Dark Sky Park. Situated in a remote location, it offers perfect conditions for stargazing.

Start your adventure by visiting the visitor centre, where you can learn about the different constellations and celestial bodies that can be seen in the area. Join a guided night walk or attend one of the special events hosted throughout the year. Don’t forget to bring warm clothing, a flashlight with a red filter, and a blanket to lie on as you marvel at the vastness of the universe above you. 

Why Visit the Ballycroy Visitor Centre?

The Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre is a great place to visit for those interested in learning more about the Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park and the surrounding area. Here are some reasons why you might want to visit:

  • Educational exhibits: The Visitor Centre houses a free exhibition on the National Park, which provides information on the park’s flora and fauna, geology, and history. It also provides an educational program and interpretive exhibition.
  • Information point: The Visitor Centre is the leading information point for the Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park. Visitors can get information on the park’s trails, wildlife, and other attractions.
  • Events and activities: The Ballycroy Visitors Centre organizes events every summer that caters to all ages and abilities. These events include talks, guided walks, and other activities.
  • Hospitality: Visitors can relax and enjoy the hospitality at the Visitor Centre. There is a café on-site, as well as a gift shop.
  • Location: The Visitor Centre is located along the N59 road between Mulranny and Bangor Erris. It is easily accessible by car and is a great starting point for exploring the park’s trails and other attractions.
  • Wildlife viewing: The Nephin Beg mountain range overlooks the whole 27,000 acres of animal habitats and species, including red deer, Irish hares, grouse, and otters. Visitors can learn about these animals and their habitats at the Visitor Centre and then head into the park to try to spot them in the wild.

When is the Ballycroy Visit Centre Open?

The Ballycroy Visitor Centre is open during the months of March to November, seven days a week from 10.00 to 17.30. During these months, the café closes at 17.00. Visitors are welcome to come outside of these times, but the centre may not be open. 

The Visitor Centre is the leading information point for the Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park. It offers educational exhibits, information on the park’s trails and wildlife, and events and activities. The centre also has a café and gift shop. Admission to the Visitor Centre is free.

Where to Find the Best Views in the National Park?

In the Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park, there are several places where you can find the best views. Here are some recommendations based on the search results:

  1. Letterkeen Loop: According to users on AllTrails.com, the Letterkeen Loop is considered the best place to hike in the Wild Nephin National Park, with a 4.6-star rating. This trail offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and takes you through different terrains, including woodlands and remote paths.
  2. Claggan Mountain Coastal Trail: This trail is another great option for breathtaking views in the national park. It offers panoramic views of the coastline and the surrounding mountains. The trail takes you along the coast, providing opportunities to see the area’s rugged beauty.
  3. Nephin Beg: Nephin Beg is a national park mountain with stunning views from its summit. Hiking to the top of Nephin Beg allows you to take in the expansive vistas of the surrounding landscape.
  4. Ballycroy Tóchar Daithí Bán Loop: This loop trail also provides beautiful national park views. It takes you through diverse landscapes, including woodlands, bogs, and open moorland. Along the way, you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.

These are just a few examples of the best views you can find in the Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park. Exploring the various trails and viewpoints in the park will allow you to discover even more stunning vistas and appreciate the area’s natural beauty.

What to Know Before You Go?

Before setting off, familiarize yourself with trail conditions, weather forecasts, and ensure you’re adequately equipped. Remember, some areas are remote, and mobile signals may be weak. Always respect the wildlife and follow the ‘Leave No Trace‘ principles.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin are unique, offering diverse habitats, wildlife, and one of Western Europe’s largest active blanket bog systems.
  • The Mayo Dark Sky Park offers one of the best stargazing opportunities in Ireland.
  • There are a variety of trails for all fitness levels, from the challenging Bangor Trail to the accessible Letterkeen Loop.
  • The Ballycroy Visitor Centre offers essential information, making it an ideal starting point for any visit.
  • Always plan your visit to Wild Nephin, considering factors like weather, terrain, and safety precautions.

Author: Walking Holiday Ireland

Cliff Waijenberg is a passionate hiker, nature enthusiast, and the proud founder and owner of Walking Holiday Ireland. Cliff has always been captivated by the Emerald Isle's breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural history. His love for the outdoors and genuine desire to share Ireland's hidden gems with travellers worldwide led him to establish Walking Holiday Ireland.

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