A lovely day out for all ages Ballycroy National Park is the largest active blanket bog system in western Europe. Located in the small village of Ballycroy (Baile Cruaich, the town of turf or hay stacks) between Mulranny and Bangor
Before setting off on the nature trail to discover the bog up close, a trip into the visitor centre offers an interactive exhibition on the habitats in the area as well as printed guides to the plants and birds of the trail. If you see peregrines, red grouse, otters, red stags or badgers as you ramble, your guide willhelp you identify them and improve your general wildlife identification skills. After a bracing walk around the trail, with stops to take in the breathtaking views of Slieve More on Achill Island, the Tea Room replenishes the spirit with warm soups, lunches and cakes, while taking in yet more views of Ballycroy, Achill Island and Blacksod Bay tearoom page.
In 1937 Irish naturalist and writer Robert Lloyd Praeger wrote in the The Way That I Went:
“Indeed the Nephinbeg 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, I `confess I find such a place not lonely or depressing but inspiriting. You are thrown at the same time back upon yourself and forward against the mystery and majesty of nature.”
The majesty of nature comes in many guises, incorporating mountains and rivers, vast tracts of bog and a wide variety of flora and fauna as well as birds and mammals.
Some of the species of bird which visit or dwell here include Peregrines, Red Grouse, Merlin and Golden Plover. Greenland White-Fronted Geese migrate here for the winter from October until April and their habitats are protected.
Atop Corslieve Mountain stands a cairn which dates from the Neolithic period (4,000 B.C.). This cairn, constructed as a high pile of stones served as a trail marker and is associated with the pagan king Daithi Ban (White-haired David). ‘Wayside cairns’, stone piles adorned with twigs and grass, mark the spot where someone died. Such a wayside cairn was discovered in this region on the Bangor Trail.
Noteworthy Species to look out for include birds (Golden Plover, Merlin, Peregrine, Red Grouse, Greenland White-Fronted Geese--October to April); plants such as Ivy-leaved Bellflower, Marsh Saxifrage and Shining Sickle Moss; and mammals such as the otter, Irish hare, red stag and badger. Otters can sometimes be seens around bog pools and feed on eels and salmon.
An interesting phenomenon which has taken off around the world in recent years is Bog Snorkelling, which takes place in bog rivers, murky black channels of run-off bog water. A mixture of mud wrestling and swimming, this competitive sport is not for the faint of heart.