Ballycroy welcomes visitors and loves to see people come to admire and photograph the very different scenery to be found here.
Ballycroy National Park, established in 1998, is the leading attraction in the area and has welcomed thousands of visitors since it opened. Comprising over 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain, it covers a vast uninhabited and unspoilt wilderness, dominated by the Nephin Beg mountain range. The Park protects a variety of important habitats and species, amongst which are heath, upland grassland, alpine heath, lakes and river catchments. Some of the important fauna within the Park includes red grouse, golden plover, greenland white-fronted geese and otters. It is Ireland's sixth National Park and the Visitor Centre is located just off the N59 road between Mulranny and Bangor Erris.
Ballycroy has always been a place where visitors like to come. Some of the famous people who have stayed or holidayed in Ballycroy in the past are Count John McCormack (Ireland's most renowned tenor), Gay Byrne and Marian Finnucane (two of Ireland's most celebrated TV and radio Presenters), Charles Haughey (one of Ireland's Prime Ministers) and Brenda Fricker (the Irish Oscar winning actress).
When Brenda Fricker visited Ballycroy it was in 1981 as leading actress in the film The Ballroom of Romance. Other actors in the film included Niall Toibin and Mick Lally. Visitors can still see the old Ballroom of Romance where this film was for the most part made. The dwelling house used in the film (Tilly Conway's of Gortbrack) must be in one of the most beautiful scenic locations in Europe if not in the entire world!! See for yourself if you do not believe this. One can also have a drink and meet the locals in the local pub which was used in the film.
Again and again visitors have said their hearts have been captured by the wild and rugged beauty of Ballycroy. Ballycroy is where the west of Ireland really goes wild (from the scenic point of view)!! The views of the blanket bog are very memorable for anyone. Some of the flora and fauna to be found in the blanket bog is unique in Europe - hence the National Park. One visitor recently wrote of Ballycroy - "I just love that glorious bog!! It is my favourite place in the whole world!!" We hope you enjoy visiting Ballycroy too.
The outstanding impact which the Ballycroy landscape can have on a visitor was summarised by an independent observer, Robert Lloyd Praegar, in "The Way that I Went" in 1937. He said: "Indeed the Nephin Beg range of mountains is, I think the very loneliest place in this country, for the hills themselves are encircled by this vast area of trackless bog. Where else even in Ireland will you find 200 square miles which is houseless and roadless - nothing but brown heather spreading as far as you can see, and rising along a kind of central backbone in the high bare hills breaking down here and there in rocky scarps with the Atlantic winds singing along their slopes. I confess I find such a place not lonely or depressing but instead inspiring. You are thrown at the same time back upon yourself and forward against the mystery and majesty of nature and you may feel dimly something of your own littleness and your own greatness, for surely man is as great as he is little but the littleness is actual and the greatness largely pretention."
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council, in their Action Plan 1989-92, listed Owenduff Valley (Ballycroy) as a lowland blanket bog of international importance. The bog area is given as 6,000 hectares and is described as "The largest remaining undisturbed blanket bog catchment in the country."
Owenduff Valley is also listed in the Inventory of Areas of Scientific Interest in Ireland, produced by An Foras Forbartha, as being a blanket bog habitat of international importance. It gives the area of the site as 4,150 hectares and describes it as the "best and largest example of intact blanket bog (low level Atlantic type) in Mayo and probably in Ireland. Not as well investigated as other bogs, e.g., Glenamoy, but also far more isolated from outside influences such as forestry and agriculture." Ballycroy would be an area of great interest to bird watchers. The area contains red grouse, golden plover, meadow pipit and merlin, and it is also a most important wintering area for the Greenland White-Fronted Goose. Fahy Lough is used a lot by the geese. For the visitor with a very specialised interest in the flora of Ballycroy the following comments by the International Mire Conservation Group about the Owenduff Valley may be of some help: "The lowland blanket bog vegetation is typical of the region being dominated by Molinia, Schoenus nigricans and Scirpus with a low cover of Sphagnum. Well developed hummocks of Sphagnum fuscum and S. imbricatum occur in wetter parts and there are good pool complexes on areas of level peat. Extensive pool complexes occur on the flatter bog areas which are characterised by the presence of Eriocaulon septangulare and Lobelia dortmana. On steeper slopes the blanket bog grades into wet heathland characterised by grasses including Nardus stricta, ericaceous species including Calluna and Erica cinerea and Juncus squarrosus. Schoenus and Rhynchospora alba disappear above the elevation of c.150m and above 350m Empetrum nigrum, Salix herbacea and Vaccinium myrtillus occur. The higher areas show interesting erosional and re-colonisational complexes. Rhodiola rosea, Saxifrage spathularis and Hymenophyllum wilsonii occur on cliffs and rock outcrops. The flood plain of the Owenduff and its major tributaries provides considerable variety. The rivers are characterised by rapid fluctuations in water levels and deposits of boulders, gravels and sands are frequently re-worked. As a consequence there is a mixture of plant communities within a small area which include the following:- a) liverwort communities within the splash zone and on vertical banks b) grassland on sandy soils characterised by Nardus, Festuca and Agrostis, with a rare Wahlenbergia hederacea c) Juncus communities on poorly drained soils d) fen communities in ox-bow lakes and channels and in flushed areas, including stands of Salix atrocinerea."
Rhododendrons grow along many of the roads in Ballycroy and are particularly beautiful when in bloom. The whin or gorse bushes found along many roads are also very attractive and colourful when in bloom. If you are looking for an "old bog road" to walk on in peace and isolation, Ballycroy is your place! The main road through Ballycroy is the N59, a National Secondary Route. It runs north south from Bangor Erris to Mulranny. We would advise you as a visitor not to stay on the main road if you want to see Ballycroy's most beautiful scenery. You could, for example, take the road directly opposite Bobby McAndrew's shop. This will take you "across the hill," as we say, and you will get magnificent views of a large portion of Ballycroy's blanket bog and also of the Atlantic ocean and the islands of Achill, Inishbiggle and Annagh. This road will also take you past the old Ballroom of Romance. Another option is to take the road up past the graveyard beside Conway's pub and shop. When you arrive at the first crossroads turn right and this will bring you out towards Shean. Here you will get a real flavour of Ballycroy in all its rugged beauty. You will also pass Shean Lodge where John McCormack used to holiday.
Ballycroy's medieval Church is also well worth a visit. It is in Fahy graveyard. Just ask anyone for directions there.
Near the graveyard you will find very substantial remains of one of the castles of Ireland's famous pirate queen, Grace O'Malley. This lady, who shows that Ireland and Ballycroy had at least one powerful woman before the age of Womens Liberation, was a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
It was at Fahy also that one of the ships of the Spanish Armada ran aground and was lost. A monument there commorates this.
Not far away from Fahy Castle you have public access to the beaches where you can walk for miles. Enjoy yourself, if you do!!
If you would like to take a boat trip to Inishbiggle, the only one of Ballycroy's islands that currently has people living on it, you can go there by ferry. Contact the Leneghan family at tel. 098-45513 and some of the family (probably Michael and Timothy) will pick you up at Doran's Point.
On Inishbiggle you will find some beautiful scenery. At low tide you can walk on the dried out sea bed from Inishbiggle to Annagh Island which is about a mile away.