Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre is a portal that opens the door to all that is wild and wonderful about Mayo. The Visitor Centre is located in the village of Ballycroy on the long and winding N59 road between Mulranny and Bangor Erris.
I have had the pleasure of visiting Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre on a number of occasions since it opened in July 2009 and I always enjoy what the centre has to offer the visitor, including the interactive exhibitions on the Mayo habitats, local culture, and the history of North West Mayo – and my own favourite, the lovely Ballycroy nature trail.
The the interactive exhibitions suit all ages and the video about about cutting and saving turf is particularly relevant as the Owenduff bog is one of the last intact active blanket bog systems in the world and is an important scientific and scenic feature of Ballycroy National Park.
Spectacular views on nature trail
No visit to the centre is complete without taking the nature trail that loops back to the centre and takes the walker along a path with spectacular views of the Nephin Beg mountains and nearby Achill Island.
The views along the walk of the 11,000 hectares of blanket bog and mountainous and unspoiled wilderness brings to mind Ballycroy National Park’s history.
It’s through this wild and wonderful countryside that the Bangor Trail passes. The trail is now one of the most popular walking routes in Ireland, but in previous times it was the main link between Bangor Erris and Newport, and for Erris emigrants taking the boat from Westport Quay.
The walk is a real joy as you can see close up some of the Park’s rare flora and fauna, including plants such as Milkwort, Purple moor-grass, Reindeer Lichen Bog Myrtle, Bell Heather, and Orchid, and the fascinating bird life that includes the Song Thrush, Linnet, Kestrel, Cuckoo, and Peregrine Falcon.
The information boards light up the nature trail experience for the visitor and it is also worth checking with reception to see when the next guided nature walk is taking place when you will learn much more about the Ballycroy National Park habitats.
Ballycroy National Park can look to a bright future. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has recently been granted sanction to purchase 158 acres of land at Srahduggan which will considerably improve access to Mayo Park. There is also an enhanced trails development program planned for the Park.
And if you have time to spare, there is is also lots to see in Mulranny which is close to Ballycroy National Park.
Following my tour of the centre and nature walk, I am always be ready for some refreshments in the Ballycroy Visitor Centre Cafe where the fresh apple tart and scones are to die for.