Posts tagged with: 'Ballycroy'

Bio Blitz 2011 – May 20 to 21.

Mayo, Ballycroy National Park, Bio Blitz

Bio Blitz 2011

Bio Blitz is a great event that takes place over a 24-hour period in various locations around the country. The aim is to record as many different specieis as possible in each location.

The poster tells you all you need to know. Volunteer if you can. If you’re interested in helping out at a particular site, please contact The National Biodiversity Data Centre at or on 051 – 306240.

Find the full-size poster here.

Unfortunately, I cannot help out, as I will be meeting and greeting as many people as possible in the RDS at The Adventure Weekend. So if you cannot volunteer at one of the five sites taking part in this year’s Bio Blitz, then pop by the RDS and say hello, from May 20 thru 22.

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Owenduff Bog, Co. Mayo

Beneath the Nephin Beg mountains lies the huge Owenduff / Nephin bog complex. Comprising some 26,000 ha of mostly wet Atlantic blanket bog, this is an outstanding area of national and European importance and a great place for hiking. The low-lying area to the west of the mountain peaks of Slieve Carr and Nephin Beg now mostly forms part of Ballycroy National Park. While this remains relatively untouched, the parts east of the mountains is almost entirely belonging to Coillte and has been much damaged by extensive plantations of non-native conifer trees.

I recently took a winter stroll up along the Owenduff River, which drains most of the western bog complex (Owenduff Bog proper). This makes for a pleasant 4 to 6-hour hike, depending on how far up the river you want to go. Typical of West of Ireland bogs, you will encounter some abandoned farmsteads and dying or dead Scots Pines. Unfortunately, you will also be surrounded, at times, by swathes of the invasive, dense and highly undesirable Rhododendron – a real West of Ireland pest.

Owenduff / Nephin, Ballycroy National Park

Abandoned farm house, Owenduff Bog Complex

The lowest lying areas of the complex are covered in gentle little hummocks of peat, with countless tiny ponds in the hollows. The area also boasts many small lakes, with their characteristic brown water glistening in the sunshine. Approaching these ponds and lakes is not recommended, as the bog is so wet it presents an obvious danger. Animal and bird species present in the National Park and Owenduff bog complex include Otter, Salmon, Golden Plover, Peregrine Falcon, Red Deer, Grey Heron, Kestrel, Merlin, White Fronted Geese, Raven, Irish Hare and others.


Owenduff Bog Complex, Co. Mayo

Owenduff Bog Complex – Visiting

If you haven’t yet visited it, I would recommend a day trip to the National Park Visitor Centre, located in Ballycroy village. See their website here. Do please note that The Bangor Trail, which skirts the Owenduff Bog, cannot be accessed from the Visitor Centre.

See the Conservation Plan for the Owenduff Nephin complex, from NPWS, here.

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Slieve Carr

Heading out on our 8-hour hike of Slieve Carr, deep in the north Mayo bogs, we were in great spirits. We would attack the mountain from the Bangor Trail, to its southwest and retreat later along the Western Way, to its southeast.

We were lucky with the weather throughout, being subjected to only one, poor quality rain shower. The ground was reasonably dry and, even at the summit cairn, the wind was almost non-existent.

This is a lovely mountain, very remote and with great views in all directions. The climb itself involves a pretty tough and steep ascent from the twin Scardaun Loughs, but the top of Slieve Carr is pretty much a plateau, albeit at three slightly different levels. There are great views out across Blacksod Bay to Achill, The Mullet and the various islands beyond. Inland, it is the vast swathes of plantation forest that lie below, with the Bellacorick wind turbines, Nephin and Lough Conn beyond. But it is the corrie lakes immediately below us on the eastern flanks of the mountain that make this day very special. Each is really beautiful.

Slieve Carr

Slieve Carr | Laghtdauhybawn Cairn

Slieve Carr corrie lake

Lough Adanacleveen, Slieve Carr

Of course, tackling Ireland’s wet western hills doesn’t always work out, as the following account of a different day’s hike recalls :

We parked the car at  F 95 10 on The Western Way and headed north along the forest track, with Lough Kilnabrinnia as our first target, on the SE flank of Slieve Carr. Our plan was to ascend the mountain from a direction we had not previously taken. From Kilnabrinnia, we intended to move northwards along the E side, up as far as Lough Drumderg and the small, unnamed lake to the NW beyond.

But it didn’t happen. Even as we left the car, the rain was pouring down and the sky was very low indeed. We couldn’t see much of Nephin Beg, which should have been looming above us immediately to the W.

By the time we got to the end of the disused forest track at F 936133, where it meets a stream, we were pretty deflated. Our gear was holding up with no problem, but the spirit was somewhat damaged. The unending rain can do that to you, especially when there’s no view.

We ploughed on, starting the gentle slope towards the lake above. By the stream, we came across an area of deer activity – the bracken had been crushed and trampled, leaving a space of some 6m x 4m flattened in the middle of the otherwise 60cm high undergrowth. With deer droppings all around, this was a wallowing site.

We eventually gave up and retreated, still dry after 3 1/2 hours, but disappointed that we had not achieved more. On our return to the car, we came across some conifers that had been ‘barked’ by the deer. Barking occurs where the deer remove strips of bark for food. We also saw an impressively large frog and lots and lots of rain!

Slieve Carr (721 m) Hike

From the Scardaun Loughs up and back down is 8 km and an ascent of 470 m. Depending on where you start and finish, you may need to allow for up to 18 km extra hiking in and out.

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Cycleway from Newport to Mulranny

I took a trip out yesterday to check on the progress of the cycleway / walkway from Newport to Mulranny that is currently under construction. The route follows the old Achill railway line for the most part, with only very short stretches not on the disused line.

Its total length is something like 18 km, with hopes that it can be further developed in both directions in the years to come, forward towards Achill and back towards Westport.

The track will be a truly great additon to Mayo’s tourism offer.

The track will take us through the Atlantic blanket bogs of West Mayo, affording stunning views of both Clew Bay’s many little quiet inlets to the West and The Nephin Beg mountains and its lakes to the East. The first stage of the track ends just beyond Mulranny village, at the junction between the roads to Ballycroy and to Achill.

Here are just some photos I took yesterday to give you an idea of what this wonderful new amenity will offer. I’ll be walking its full length before the end of the year and will add new photos here as I do so.

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Ballycroy National Park

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Visitor Centre, Ballycroy National Park.

Ballycroy National Park has existed for 11 years, pretty much without anybody knowing. However, last month saw the opening of its visitor centre at Ballycroy village, midway between Mulranny and Bangor Erris on the little travelled N59.

Ballycroy is Ireland’s sixth National Park, after Wicklow, Glenveagh, Killarney, Burren and Connemara.


Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

Boardwalk through Bog, Ballycroy NP.

The NP has 11,000 hectares of more or less Atlantic blanket bog landscape, with the wonderful Nephin Beg mountain range as its central spine. The Bangor Trail goes in and out of the NP for much of its journey from above Newport to Bangor village.

Animals to be found in the Park include Fox, Badger, Otter, Pine Marten, the invasive Mink, Red Deer and birds, like the White Fronted Goose, Skylark, Merlin and maybe the odd Peregrine Falcon.

The Bangor Trail, which I have walked many times, is a great old highway from northern Mayo down towards Newport and Westport beyond. In days of old, when there was no true road from the Bangor area southwards, this was the only way. Nowadays, it is in mostly poor condition. Some parts are reasonably covered in loose stones and rocks. Much of it is not. The parts which are not are being reclaimed by the bog, particularly the stretches north and south of the bothy / refuge below Corslieve.

To walk the Bangor Trail is a real experience. And that is exactly what I mean – a real experience. It is tough going, but hugely rewarding. Will you get wet ? Definitely.


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