First International Dark Sky Park In Ireland Receives Accreditation
The International Dark-Sky Association has granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Ballycroy National Park & Wild Nephin
County Mayo, situated in western Ireland, is widely celebrated for its rugged and unspoiled landscape on the edge of Europe’s wild Atlantic coastline. A Gold tier classification is an honour reserved for the most exceptional of dark skies and stunning nightscapes. This recognition completes the “360 degree experience” that this stunning region has to offer.
The award is the first International Dark Sky Park in Ireland and is a wonderful recognition for the region’s pristine skies, enhancing its existing protected landscapes and wilderness regions. This is the second IDA designation in Ireland. The first is Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve in County Kerry.
Ballycroy National Park and the adjoining Wild Nephin (Coillte) expands over 110 square kilometers of mountainous Atlantic blanket bog and forest. Viewing sites for visiting astronomers have been designated and graded by ease of access and facilities available. Signature viewing sites include the Claggan Mountain Boardwalk, Letterkeen Bothy and Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre, which have excellent interpretive and parking facilities.
The Mayo Dark-Sky designation follows a lengthy period of night sky surveying and quality monitoring by students of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Assisted by Professor Brian Espey of Trinity College Dublin’s Astrophysics Department, the research resulted in collaboration among communities in Newport, Ballycroy & Mulrannny together with Ballycroy National Park, Coillte Forestry, Mayo County Council, Mayo South West Development and Galway Astronomy Club. The group formed the “Friends of Mayo Dark-Skies” steering committee.
The Mayo International Dark Sky Park already has some exciting events planned for the coming months, including The Mayo Dark-Sky Festival to be held 28-30 October.
About the IDA Dark Sky Places Program
IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, 14 Communities, 33 Parks, 10 Reserves, two Sanctuaries and three Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction have received International Dark Sky designations. For more information about the International Dark Sky Places Program, visit http://darksky.org/idsp.
The International Dark Sky Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, U.S., advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating policymakers and the public about night sky conservation and promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. More information about IDA and its mission may be found at http://www.darksky.org.
Ballycroy National Park – Bríd Colhoun, Head Guide (Brid.Colhoun@ahg.gov.ie). Telephone + 353 98 49888