A major land acquisition is to increase the size of Ballycroy National Park in Co Mayo by almost 50%.

Lands owned by Coillte are being transferred to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, bringing the total area of the park to over 15,000 hectares. 

The agreement between the two State agencies has been 15 years in the planning. It will see the so-called Wild Nephin area, comprising 4,600 hectares, incorporated into Ballycroy National Park. 

The transfer will lead to easier access to the eastern area of the existing park, which is a considerable distance from a visitor centre on the fringes of the amenity. 

The bulk of the national park is in the Owenduff/Nephin Special Area of Conservation. 

Coillte operated commercial forestry on its site for several decades but says the focus is now on ensuring that the area is returned to a natural wilderness that will augment the existing park lands. 

Ballycroy is one of six such State amenities around the country. 

It was recently designated as a ‘Dark Sky’ park in recognition of the absence of light pollution in the area, that allows unrivalled views of the night sky in the west of Ireland.