County Mayo hosts one of the six national parks of Ireland: the Ballycroy National Park, located near the village of Ballycroy. With an area of 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain, the Park covers a vast uninhabited and unspoilt wilderness dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range.
In May 2016 the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has granted the Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin Wilderness and recognised this area as the Mayo International Dark Sky Park, the first of this kind in Ireland. This wonderful recognition has been awarded for the pristine dark skies, unspoiled nature and nocturnal wildlife. The new park expands over 110 square kilometers of Atlantic blanket bog, forest and mountains.
Visiting astronomers and stargazers will benefit of many signature viewing sites with easy access and parking facilities. The sites are located in wonderful areas such as Claggan Mountain Boardwalk, Letterkeen Bothy and Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre. They will be able to admire the splendour of Mayo’s starry sky and observe the Milky Way stretching across the park’s incredibly dark night sky, Andromeda Galaxy and the magnificent constellation of Orion in winter.
County Mayo also hosts several gardens. They are well-known for their beauty, variety and uniqueness. Some factors combine to make these gardens magnificent and magical: rain, soft sunshine, maritime climate, acidic soil and above all the Gulf Stream with its warmth that ensures mild temperature even in winter. Hydrangeas, rhododendrons and heather are common features in gardens here as are azaleas and camellias, but pure and simple daffodils, water lilies, roses or ancient trees can be admired too.
The gardens differ in size and style, from formal to wild; the most famous are located in Westport at Westport House, in Castlebar at the National Museum of Country Life, on Achill Island and in Enniscoe at Enniscoe House.
Between the wild gardens and parks another important mention is Belleek Woods in Ballina, a peaceful haven of up to 6 miles of natural forest pathways, situated along the banks of the River Moy. Another area of natural beauty is McMahon Park in Claremorris, a tranquil place for a nature walk on the quiet and peaceful shore of Clare Lake between rhododendrons, lilac and birch woods.
Each garden has its own story and charm which visitors can explore and enjoy.