Benbaun – highest point in the Twelve Bens and Galway
Hiking Benbaun from Glencorbet
At 729 Meters Benbaun is the highest point in county Galway. It’s also the highest peak in the Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins in Connemara, a range of mountains that offer a wide variety of sometimes challenging terrain in a remote and beautiful location.
Our walking route for Benbaun which started and finished in the Glencorbet valley took 4 1/2 hours.
One of the first things to note is that if you are coming from Dublin you can access this part of the country quicker than ever now that there is motorway all the way to Galway. My pal Ross and I left Lucan at 0940 and were walking away from our car in Glencorbet at exactly 1pm, giving a journey time of 3hrs excluding a pit stop for coffee. So with an early departure a long day’s walking in Connemara is now quite possible.
We parked up beside the road which leads into Glencorbet – it’s off the R344 about 2k before it meets the N59 – leaving the car at a point where a rocky trail leads further into the valley. [L796573]
We followed the trail for about 20 minutes or so, before crossing the Kylemore river at a point about 30 meters to the left of the bridge over the river, which is collapsed. [L791561]
From here we continued to follow the path up through some atmospheric ruins beside a remote farmhouse. While passing through we bumped into the farmer who was perched against one of the fallen buildings checking on his sheep with his binoculars. The sheep were fine, he said, and we were welcome to walk in the area.
Carrying on, we followed the path until it ended before hopping a gate on our left and ascending the field for a short period before finding a suitable spot to climb our final fence and enter open hillside. [L787557]
During my research for this walk I had selected a route from Joss Lynam’s Best Irish Walks which takes in Muckanaght before passing over Benfree to get to Benbaun. I had also printed off a handy guide entitled Benbaun circuit from Glencorbet from MountainViews.ie which outlines a similar but slightly shorter walk. However as it felt a little late in the day and the promised indian summer weather had not materialised we decided to push for the summit and consider our options once this main objective had been achieved. This correctness of this decision was confirmed shortly after when we met a descending group of hardy Ulstermen who were calling it a day after enduring severe winds at higher altitudes.
So, we commenced our ascent along the descent route of the northern party [L785555], travelling almost directly south up steep slopes and gradually moving away from a stream we had crossed lower down.
Once the ground levelled off we took a quick coffee before continuing south for ten minutes or so and then heading south-west [L787544] for the final climb to the summit. [L785539]
This final pull was quite steep indeed with very strong gusts of wind coming from our left. With nothing but bare rock and shards of scree on the ground it was curious to see how there was no vegetation at all on this upper slope to stir and give evidence of the wind that was howling past.
After twenty minutes of so of ascent the ground levelled off and two minutes more brought us to the smashed trig point at the top. Occasional the clouds tumbling into the vortex in the lee of the summit broke and we could see dramatic views down towards Muckanaght, Benfree and the winding stream in the valley below. Stunning country, a shame we couldn’t see more of it.
With the gusting wind and cloudy views we didn’t hang around, turning to retrace our steps back down towards more level ground. With both of us slipping once or twice on the loose scree – and Ross narrowly avoiding bashing his new camera in the process – we concluded that this was not the ideal place to find out what happens when you take an injury. Strangely enough, just two days later I hurt my ankle pretty badly hopping off a three-foot fence near my home. The pain was unbelievable and it took me an hour to make the normally ten minute journey home. I’d hate to think how long the walk out would be if one got hurt high in the hills.
Once the ground levelled off we headed South East to a point where we could admire Bencollaghduff, Bencorr and Bencorrbeg on the otherside of the Gleninagh valley. With their near vertical faces they looked most unwelcoming and illustrated how wild and isolated this part of the country feels.
At this point we hiked to the North until we could begin to see back into Glencorbet, before swinging North East to walk out along the Knockpashemore ridge. The going along here was slow with some deep depressions between peat hags. We didn’t do ourselves any favours by contouring below the top of the wide ridge on the Glencorbet side, thus having to negotiate some severe indents made by streams as they flow down the hillside. We did manage to shake a prowling fox out of some long grass though. This wonderfully healthy looking animal took off up the hill running straight past the sheep we presumed he was stalking before our rude interruption.
We chose to descend following the course of a stream [L794555] that was almost directly above the place where we had earlier crossed the Kylemore, arriving back at the car after 4 1/2 hours, including about 40 minutes of stoppage time.
This was a fine walk that was let down by poor visibility and our not having time to cover as much ground as we had planned. I had led Ross to believe that we were in for an epic hike in wild, spectacular country, and while the potential is clearly there our day in the Twelve Bens didn’t quite deliver. I’d love to revisit these hills, particularly as so many of them (Bencollaghduff, bencorr and others) receive such high-ranking in the MountainViews’ best rated Irish mountains list…maybe next year when the county tops are all completed I’ll take a hike down there at leisure.
Resources for Benbaun
Below you’ll find an image of the parking spot and the track from Google Streetview.
Be aware that this is a pretty remote area with a fair deal of steep ground. You’ll definitely need map 37 to get around and you’ll need to be able to navigate.
While you are not supposed to rely on phone coverage to dig yourself out of a scrape it’s still nice to know that you could make an emergency call if you needed to. Well, not in the Twelve Bens. I’m on the 02 network and had no signal for the day once we turned off the main road. Ross is on Vodafone and seemed to have coverage all day, so bring him or another Vodafone customer with you if you plan on taking a fall.
As ever, there are plenty of tips on Benbaun and the walking route referenced above to be found on MountainViews.