Participants on the Soilse Spéire Acla sunset walk at the Deserted Village in Achill on Sunday evening. Photo from Mayo Dark Skies Facebook page.

Mayo is celebrating International Dark Sky Week

INTERNATIONAL Dark Sky Week, taking place from April 16 to 22, is a global affair, organised annually by the International Dark Sky Association. On this global stage, Ireland is playing a leading role, particularly in County Mayo, home of Mayo Dark Sky Park.

Mayo Dark Sky Park consists of 15,000 hectares of natural wilderness in the Nephin mountains, a very special and unique place, much loved by the close-knit rural communities surrounding it. Those communities have planned a virtual roadshow of the county, taking in the dark sky communities of Newport, Mulranny, Ballycroy and Achill Island and welcoming urban areas in Westport and Castlebar as well as new hosts in Blacksod for the first time.

“We are so lucky here in Mayo, as we have some of the darkest skies in Europe, a resource that the world is starting to appreciate more and more, as excessive levels of artificial light continue to obliterate our view of the night sky,” according to Georgia MacMillan, Mayo Dark Park development officer. “We are only now beginning to appreciate just how important natural skies are for our planet. Many of us think of science and stargazing when we think of the night sky, but it is also vitally important for biodiversity, human wellbeing and culture.”

Each evening a different community will celebrate one of the facets of our dark sky story, and it started yesterday evening (Sunday) in Achill Island at the Deserted Village, for Soilse Spéire Acla - a sunset walk.

Today (Monday) moves to Lough Lannagh in Castlebar for Urban Dark Skies and Biodiversity, along with a talk by Duncan Stewart, patron of the Mayo Dark Skies community group.

Tuesday's visit to Newport is a more traditional astronomy event with expert astronomer and Irish Times columnist John Flannery in Hotel Newport for a talk on naked eye astronomy and an introduction to telescopes.

On Wednesday, April 19, the plan is to go Gabh an Oíche (Carpe Noctem) walking in the grounds of Westport House Estate as daylight fades, with guides from Wild Nephin National Park. Thursday night is Music of the Stars by Basya-Rose and Cónan Kilcoyne in Mulranny Arts Centre and Friday, 21st, will navigate the night sky at Blacksod Lighthouse with guides and members of the Coastguard.

To close the week and round off the roadshow, Ballycroy Visitor Centre at Wild Nephin National Park will be the venue for Dánta in the Dark, an evening of poetry in praise of the night sky. Attendees will receive a specially published free booklet to mark the occasion, including poetry by President Michael D. Higgins. The evening's writers and reciters include Seán Lysaght, Pauline McSorley, Michael Chambers, Sheila McHugh and Kate O'Brien, along with guest reciters to present the work of others not present but who gave consent to use their work.

Whether you are an avid amateur stargazer, a budding naturalist or just curious about our natural world, there is something for everyone at Mayo’s roadshow, celebrating International Dark Sky Week 2023!

Tickets are free but booking essential and available on