In May 2016 Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin Wilderness have been named the Ireland’s first International Dark Sky Park. The new Dark Sky Park has been granted the Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status by IDA, the International Dark-Sky Association. It is a honour for County Mayo and the national park to receive this wonderful recognition awarded for the most exceptional of dark skies and the pristine beauty underfoot, all around and up above at night.
Ballycroy National Park and the adjoining Wild Nephin Wilderness expands over 110 square kilometres of Atlantic blanket bog, forest and mountains. Many signature viewing sites have been designed. They are located at Claggan Mountain Boardwalk, Letterkeen Bothy and Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre where visiting astronomers and stargazers will benefit of easy access and parking facilities. 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 and the magnificent constellation of Orion in winter.
Professor Brian Espey of Trinity College Dublin’s Astrophysics Department and his students of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology surveyed and monitored our night skies. After a long research in collaboration with communities in Newport, Ballycroy and Mulrannny along with Ballycroy National Park, Coillte Forestry, Mayo County Council, Mayo South West Development and Galway Astronomy Club they submitted the application for Dark Sky status and formed the Friends of Mayo Dark-Skies. In order to protect this extraordinary environment and its biodiversity for future generations Mayo County Council with the Friends of Mayo Dark-Skies will work to reduce light pollution where possible.
The Mayo International Dark Sky Park is planning exciting events such as the first Mayo Dark-Sky Festival in October. Also, dark sky events and educational programmes will be planned at Ballycroy National Park.