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.