One of the best ways to stay inspired and stretch out creative muscles, while living in a fast-paced society, is to head out into the countryside, rain or shine. I firmly believe that being in the wild will push you to new limits, and I believe that by exploring the diverse world of rurality will broaden your horizons. And, in return, you’ll be empowered by the ability to see how everything in our lives has a purpose.
Despite the constantly changeable weather conditions and ongoing pandemic crisis, we’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time outdoors recently, which has been especially healing. From physically exerting myself in the ocean by taking up cold water swimming and enjoying the powerful effect of the Atlantic ocean to exploring nearby woodlands and valleys on those rare sunny days; we thrive on all of the challenges nature throws at us.
Having lived in Sligo for three years, we’ve always thought of Benbulben Forest Walk as a small oasis of tranquillity that provides hikers with the relaxation they need. We love spending early mornings in the woods for the chance to see the sun hitting the soft leaves. There’s something special about early morning light and there’s something special about the softness and quietness of the surroundings.
With its easily identifiable flat top rising up to 1,726 ft, Benbulben Mountain, named after a Gaelic chieftain, is one of Sligo’s most recognizable landmarks. The mountain is formed from Dartry limestone and there are many routes up the mountain if you wish to reach its summit to get a birds eyes view of Yeats Country.
But you don’t have to scramble up the steep slopes to fully appreciate its unique shape and size.
Within a short drive from Sligo town lies a lovely looped trail that can bring you right to the imposing mountain, and with the warmth gradually returning to Sligo, we set out to explore Benbulben Forest walk once more a few weekends ago. The rain soon caught up with us as we meandered on back roads.
The sun filtered and sifted through the abundant cloud cover yet never made an appearance. We stayed around for an hour, drinking hot tea and watching young, playful lambs frolicking through the grassy fields, but as the conditions didn’t improve, headed back home.
We returned again last week and were greeted by blooming rhododendrons and a gorgeous blue sky.
A Fantastic Walk for a Weekend: Benbulben Forest Walk in Beautiful Sligo
There’s no secret that Sligo’s stunning scenery and unique landscapes offer a real escape from the hectic lives so many of us are living and that’s why there’s no better way to soak up the true essence of Sligo’s charm than to head into the great outdoors.
For visitors and locals alike, Sligo is home to a wide range of stunning walks. From Queen Maeve Trail to Killaspugbrone Loop walk, it’s hard to pick a favourite trail, but Benbulben Forest Walk comes pretty close in my book.
In this blog post, we are sharing everything you need to know about the beautiful loop walk, including how to get there, what to bring along and things to do nearby.
If you love using weekends and free time for outdoor activities, then keep on reading.
What to expect from Benbulben Forest Walk
On the Benbulben forest walk also known as the Gortarowey looped walk, you’ll be rewarded with peaceful surroundings and panoramic views. You’ll love the distinctive shape of the mountain and the ever-flowing beauty of its ragged edges.
Rhododendrons – Although they are a non-native, invasive species in Ireland, with its vibrant, eye-popping curtains of pink and purple blooms covering Ireland’s landscape in the months of May and June Rhododendron is a sight to behold. Easily recognisable by its distinctive flowers and large dark green, oval leaves, the plant can be found in the wilder parts of the Irish countryside, Benbulben Forest walk including.
Unique Fauna – There are many plants around Benbluben that you won’t find anywhere else in Ireland and many of them are artic in origin. A rare plant known as Tea Leaf Willow or Irish Willow grows high up on the North Face Gullys of Benbulben.
The Mountain – The trail offers a fantastic opportunity to be up close to this epic mountain and when the walk loops around the first bend, you’ll get the added beauty of the magnificent Benbulben, so beloved and immortalised by William Butler Yeats.
Tranquillity – Nature is a source of beauty that can increase pleasant feelings and reduce stress. Listening to the sounds of nature nurses the well-being of the mind and makes us much happier.
The Views – Expect beautiful woodlands, scenic views of Donegal Bay, Slieve League and the Blue Stacks Mountains.
Quick facts about the trail
Benbulben Forest Walk is a very well maintained and signposted loop walk and a great way to spend a couple of hours if you haven’t time for a big trail.
Getting there | To explore the forest trail at the base of Ben Bulben, take the N15 road north of Sligo for 8km. Continue for 1.6km after Drumcliff village where W.B.Yeats is buried. It shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to reach the trail.
The Trail | The trail is 5.5km in lengths, waymarked with red arrows and shouldn’t take longer than 1.5 hours to complete. The loop runs around the outside of the wood and finishes by running through a logged out area and can be used for running, walking and hiking.
Difficulty | Benbulben Forest walk doesn’t involve climbing the mountain and given its simplicity and length make it perfect for families.
Parking | About 400m from the main road you can leave your car in a designated parking lot. Parking and an entrance to the looped walk are free of charge.
What to bring on a hike
Heading out for a day hike is a delightful way to explore natural surroundings, but before you set out on the walk, make sure weather conditions are good enough for being outdoors, otherwise, there isn’t much cover if it starts lashing down. And as you know, it rains quite a lot in Ireland.
Weather circumstances are quick to change on Ireland’s West coast. particularly during the winter month, so make sure you are equipped with the right clothing and footwear, even if it’s a short trail. To determine what you need to bring on a hike, think about how far you plan to hike, how remote the area is and what are you planning to do after.
On a misty day you may not be able to see the views or the mountain itself, so do check the weather forecast before you set out.
Appropriate clothing – Good sturdy boots or runners would be perfect for this walk as the ground is uneven in places and can be muddy in wet conditions.
Camera – Don’t forget to bring your camera. While hiking Sligo’s green valleys and exploring mountainsides, you’ll want to capture the moments and sweeping views.
Food – Also bring plenty of food (like energy bars and nuts that you can eat easily on the trail) and plenty of water.
Things to do nearby
Benbulben Forest Walk is located within close proximity to many other interesting tourist attractions which means that you can pair it up to make your day even more exciting.
Raghly Harbour | Designed by the famous Scottish engineer, Alexander Nimmo and located only 13.5 km from Benbulben Forest Walk, Raghly Harbour takes in beautiful views of Sligo’s majestic mountains, rugged coastline and picturesque countryside. There are also several sea birds to be spotted in the area the dark-bellied Brent and the red-throated diver among them.
Lissadell House | Situated on the shores of Sligo Bay, Lissadell House and Gardens make for a perfect stopover for anyone interested to learn about the history of the Gore-Booth family and the famous Countess Markiewicz. The setting of the estate, the stunning backdrop of the surrounding mountains, the sea at your feet and alpine gardens
Drumcliff | Why not visit the village of Drumcliffe famous for being Yeats resting place? Located in a peaceful churchyard under the mighty Benbulben, W.B.Yeats grave is adorned with a simple headstone. Close by is the site of a 6th Century Columbian monastery and coffee shop selling home-baked goods and various crafts.
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Now, over to you!
Have you ever been on Benbulben Forest Walk? Let us know in the comments!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Sligo and have travel-related questions!