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.
Slieve Donard from the Trassey Track and the Mourne Wall
I have seen it said that if the Mourne Mountains were located across the Irish sea in Britain they could well surpass the popularity of the Lake District fells. From my recent walk along a section of the Mourne Wall I can’t argue with that sentiment. I can only be thankful that the Mournes are just a short drive up the M1 from Dublin, and that for the moment we have them all to ourselves.
Our walk of approximately 15 kilometers took in the Trassey Track leading to the Hare’s Gap. From here we turned left to follow the Mourne Wall over Slievenaglogh, Commedagh and Donard. We marched up and down steep slopes taking in ever-changing views for 5 and a half hours and were left with a lasting impression on our memories…and the muscles in our legs.
Note: For a driving route, click ‘P’ on the map and select Directions.
As we were based in Newcastle for the weekend, my walking buddy Enda and I took a lift to the Trassey Track carpark before setting off up the track which begins just past the parking area. This starting point is only a ten minute drive from Newcastle, yet it allowed us to make our way to Slieve Donard before dropping back into town with minimal backtracking.
The Trassey Track offers a gentle warm-up as it makes its way into the mountains, offering glimpses of the route ahead as the valley grew around us and large crags hung above.
As the ground steeped before the climb up to the gap we began to encounter groups of people making their way up the same route. In fact, the hills were very busy, with the Mourne Seven Seven’s walk under way and huge crowds in Newcastle for a festival featuring a display from the Red Arrows. In short, I saw more people on the hills that day then I had on all my other walks combined. I suspect these mountains are always relatively busy given their proximity to Belfast, the wealth of trails to be found and the ease of navigation afforded by the Mourne Wall.
The climb up to the Hare’s Gap certainly got our pulses going as we followed the rough steps up to our first sighting of the wall which crosses the gap. From here we could see into the heart of the mountains with Slievelamagan and the jagged top of Binnian in the distance.
Most impressive was the steep climb of the wall ascending Slieve Bernagh, with walkers spread like ants along the route.
From the Hare’s Gap we had a choice between staying low and taking the Brandy Pad as far as the col between Commedagh and Donard, or going high and tracking the Wall around to the same point. We chose the latter and pushed on up a set of steps hacked into the hillside which quickly climb above the gap towards Slievenaglogh. Passing several groups who were enjoying their lunch by the wall while sheltering from the now stiff breeze, we swung to the east towards Slieve Corragh where the views down to Ben Crom Reservoir and the surrounding peaks got better and better.
At this point we were faced with a third steep climb of the day, up to Slieve Commedagh. With busy hearts and tiring legs we were surprised to see tents huddled against the wall as we neared the summit. It appears that plenty of people go wild camping in the Mournes. I’d love to do it sometime, and imagine that waking to the sunrise on a Summer morning must be an amazing experience. If you’d like inspiration check out this great blog post about camping along the Mourne Wall.
We hopped the stile and walked out to the summit of Commedagh to take a well-earned cup of coffee and some sandwiches on board before the final push to Donard which we could now see across and above us.
As we began descending towards the col we could see steams of people heading up along the wall towards Donard, which made us glad to have taken the higher route earlier on as we saw relatively few people during that section of the walk. At the bottom of the col the first runners of the Seven Sevens challenge we passing by on their way towards Newcastle, but we still had to tackle the climb which is fairly relentless.
Gusts of wind were whistling through the wall which provided great shelter as we laboured our way up the hillside, eventually reaching the summit where the wind really was howling. From here we could see back into the mountains and down into Newcastle and on to Dundrum bay and Strangford Lough. To the south we could just pick out the Cooley Mountains.
After finishing our lunch in the sun against the wall we walked down to the minor Cairn to the north of the summit and considered a free-style walk down to Newcastle before deciding to retrace our steps and follow the path down the Glen River Valley. This was a tough enough walk going down so I was very happy that we hadn’t chosen to come up this way. Having said that the walk has plenty of variety featuring steps towards the top, a walk down the valley along the river and then a pleasant stroll through the woods as the town draws near.
Upon reaching town we walked up the main street and stepped out of the Percy French bar with an ice-cold beer apiece just moments before the Red Arrows began their display. A perfect end to a great day in the hills.
Slieve Donard Walking Route Resources
The Walk NI website has fantastic guides to walks all over the Ulster, and the Mournes are no exception. Our hike could be replicated by stitching together the Trassey Track walk to the Hare’s Gap and the Slieve Donard from Glen River walk. (You’d need to decide if you wished to follow the Brandy Pad or go high and follow the wall)
Want to do this linear walk but don’t have two cars? There are lots of taxi companies in Newcastle who could take you up to the Trassey Track Car park for a modest fee.
Maps. We used the Mournes Activity Map on a 1:25,000 scale. The details on this are far superiour to the 1:50,000 scaled map sheet 29.
Mountainviews.ie has copious commentary on all of the peaks in the Mournes, with plenty of route suggestions.
Here’s an interesting article on the Mournes that appeared in the Telegraph a couple of years ago.
The Red Arrows do not generally help you celebrate the end of a hike, but you can always request a fly past.
Hiking Mweelrea from the west
Mweelrea is the highest mountain in both Mayo and Connacht. Standing at 814 meters the peak offers panoramic, nay dramatic, views of surrounding mountains as well as The Sheffry Hills, the Twelve Bens, Killary Harbour, Croagh Patrick and some of Mayo’s finest beaches. With all these wonders on offer you’ll not be surprised to learn that these vistas are not given lightly, but are earned no matter what direction you approach this sometimes forbidding mountain from.
Together with two friends I climbed Mweelrea from the relatively easier Western side.
Our walk took 5hrs 45 minutes including about 1.5 hours of breaks and searching for a pair of lost sunglasses…
Note: For driving direction to Mweelrea you can click on the map above and select ‘Directions’. The map will then open in a larger format and allow you to specify your start point.
While researching walking routes for Mweelrea – through a combination of guide books and comments on Mountainviews.ie – I came to the conclusion that approaching using the ‘classic’ route which involves starting from Doo Lough or Delphi and tackling “The Ramp” sounded a little too hairy for my liking. Phrases like ‘I had my heart in my mouth’ and ‘A rope may be required’ turned me off bringing two friends up this route without having experienced it for myself in advance. Whether or not the route is actually as exposed and unnerving as some accounts would suggest is something I’ll just have to find out some other time. Have you walked Mweelrea using this route? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
With that in mind I chose to approach from the West, a walk which is a lot less dramatic but still offers views of the dramatic ridges that more hardy walkers will have crossed to reach the saddle between Benbury and Mweelrea.
Driving from Louisburgh we followed signs for the wonderful Silver Strand beach before parked up at a lay by just past a pink house at Dadreen [L687762], just a minute or two before the road ends at the beach itself.
From here a couple of minutes walking up a rough track that parallels a stream will see you through a gate and into the open hillside. At this point you should be able to see the col between Ben Bury and Mweelrea just to the right of straight ahead.
We headed towards the col, making steady progress through the boggy grass until one of our party noticed that his sunglasses were missing. This was about two minutes after we had stopped to admire some of the numerous frogs that are living on the hillside, so we backtracked as best we could and searched for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, the featureless grass and heather gave us little to reference and we had no luck. Dammit, if only we had littered during our stop we probably would have been able to find the glasses! Having marked the general area with our GPS we pushed on, gradually veering to our right until we met a stream which has etched a channel for itself into the hillside. We crossed this at around 350 meters and followed it on up towards the col.
At around 550 meters the ground steepens for the final rise to the col. We could have altered course to the left to take a slightly easier route, but being three guys we bulled our way up the steeper ground for 5 – 10 minutes to emerge about 30 meters or so above the central section of the col, around point [L794674].
A moments walk further towards the East opens up spectacular views down towards Delphi and around towards Ben Lugmore which was for the most part covered by cloud but occasionally cleared to show its jagged ridge.
After a break for lunch we pushed on towards the summit which was in cloud. It took just a few minutes to reach the cairn from the Col, with the ascent looking more difficult than it turned out to be.
With no sign of a break in the clouds we didn’t loiter at the top and instead retreated back to the saddle for another cup of coffee. We had considered venturing up Ben Bury and out towards Benlugmore but with little prospect of being able to see down from these heights due to the clouds we opted instead to head for home.
We stopped for a half hour or so to search for the missing sunglasses (without success) before strolling back down to the car and off towards Westport for a well-earned meal.
Mweelrea was my 19th county highpoint of 26 I plan to walk this year. It’s a mountain I’d love to walk again, next time approaching from Doo Lough.
Planning a walking route for Mweelrea
Mweelrea and surrounding mountains BenBury and Ben Lugmore get plenty of attention on mountainviews.ie where there are lots of accounts of walking routes people have used.
The highest point in Longford
Highs don’t come much lower than Corn Hill in County Longford, in fact at 278 meters it’s the third lowest county high point in the country, with only Mullaghmeen in WestMeath and Slieve Na Calliagh/Loughcrew in Meath boasting lesser elevations. (All three of these mountains offer child friendly walks, the latter two situated in particularly interesting surroundings.)
However, with a pleasant access road leading to the transmission mast on the ‘summit’ Corn Hill is a fine locale for a family outing, taking only 15 minutes or so each way. Having said that, I’m not sure it would be worth a specific journey if you weren’t on a mission.
I had the pleasure of walking up Corn Hill (aka Cairn Hill) with my parents and my son. After a pleasant drive from Edgeworthstown spent enjoying the lush summer fields and spotting Celtic Tiger houses, the mast on Corn Hill comes into view a couple of miles out.
We parked up outside the access road gates and from there it’s a simple walk up the grassy track to the summit, which is just past the mast. Unfortunately the views in many directions are hidden by trees and with my parents around I didn’t dare urge my three-year old to shimmy up the mast in order to see more.
In spite of its low elevation, Corn Hill does have decent views particularly to the south. Every time I go up the hills I tell myself I need to bring an overview map of Ireland so that I can identify mountains in the distance.
Corn Hill was the last of the easy walks for this challenge and I have now reached the top of all the mountains that are close to Dublin and relatively simple to ascend. All of the remaining mountains are mountains, such as Slieve Donard, Galtymore and Mweelrae. I look forward to tackling them.
Hiking Corn Hill – Resources
I didn’t buy map sheet 34 for this walk as this is probably the shortest and easiest County Top to reach.
To reach Corn Hill we drove to Edgeworthstown and followed signs for Derrynacross. In reality though, we used GPS navigation as there are plenty of turns involved in the journey.
We had lunch in a cafe called ‘Bia Deas’ in Edgeworthstown. They serve coffee in teapots and heinz tomato soup as soup, in a room furnished with brightly coloured fake flowers. No michelin star as of yet.
I revisited Truskmore a couple of days ago, as my previous walk up this mountain saw me forgetting to take in the cairn that marks the highest point in Leitrim.
This time around the weather was a little better than before, with the clouds only scraping the tops of the transmission masts rather than descending lower down the hillside.
The Gleniff Valley continued to radiate its unwelcoming vibe, this time in the guise of a beat up old Ford Escort that I approached from behind shortly after entering the road which loops through the valley floor. The driver of the car slowed down to about 15 kmph, effectively slowing my progress as the road is too narrow for overtaking. He also seemed to anticipate my hillwalking intentions by stopping at the gates to the access road, pulling in just past the only good spot to park.
And then we just sat in our cars fifteen feet apart. Neither of us moving. After a couple of minutes I decided that the old man was going to sit on me ’till I left so I got out of the car and made like a tourist by taking pictures of the valley before driving on past him and out of sight.
I stopped again at an obvious place to take photos and waited for a few minutes before doing a u-turn, hoping that Old Man Escort would be gone. No such luck, I met him coming towards me on the narrow road. He did pull in to allow me pass, but turned his head away from my acknowledgement as I squeezed by.
After that little episode I closed the windows in case a volley of harmless arrows started hitting the car from the surrounding forest – a la Apocalypse Now- but I reached the parking spot unharmed and decided, once again, that I wasn’t going to hang about for too long.
Having stripped my bag of all but the minimum gear I climbed the gate and started jogging / fast walking up the road. It’s a steep, steady climb and the rain joined forces with a decent breeze to prod me up the hill towards the clouds.
Despite the forbidding gate that guards the access road the folks who work on the Truskmore masts seem to be a friendly bunch who either give a nod or offer a lift when they pass. I refused the lift (I promise) and reached the top after about 35 – 40 minutes, finding the trig point behind the main mast among the support stays. Views towards the other side of the valley from here suggest that a full trek around the horseshoe would be a spectacular undertaking – not reflected in my photos I’m afraid.
From here a further five minutes or so brought me to the South East Cairn of the mountain where I took ownership of the highest point in Leitrim and enjoyed the views towards Tievebaun and the lower reaches of Truskmore before they sharply drop into the Glenade Valley.
Having eaten my lunch while walking up the hill – with the rain and little shelter there was no point in stopping – I now turned for home. I soon figured out that it took a lesser toll on my legs to run down the steep road than walk, so run I did. It was great as the breeze was now in my face and helped me keep my speed under control. After 20 minutes or so I was on the home stretch by the time the muscles in my legs were replaced with jelly. I reached the car and eased my way into the seat before carrying on for Seltannasaggart in the Arigna Mountains.
As Gordon Ramsey would say: Sligo and Leitrim, done.
Seltannasaggart – the highest point in county Roscommon
I can think of three reasons to visit Seltannasaggart.
- You are hiking the County Tops and therefore need to visit the highest point in Roscommon by taking in the South East slope of this hill.
- You are walking the Arigna Miners Way which passes through the area.
- You work on a wind farm.
I reached the scarred top of this heavily industrialised hill which is also known as Corrie Mountain by subjecting my car to a rocky access road. It was cloudy and raining. I didn’t linger.
To reach the ‘summit’ and its wind farm you need to drive up into the Arigna hills following signs for the Scenic Drive and then crawl on for about 2 kilometers up the access road, which is unpaved and gave me a healthy dose of puncture anxiety. After passing several junctions where tracks branch off towards the bases of the wind turbine towers, a flat area bounded by piles of sand, wind turbines and machinery is reached. It’s not exactly clear if you are allowed to drive up here as it feels like a construction site. I had the benefit of cloud cover to hide me from the trucks and security vehicles that were dotted around the site.
The summit itself is hard to pick out as the hill-top has been so throughly dug up and levelled by industry. The highest place I could see looked to be on top of a pile of sand. (bearing in mind that I could see about 30 feet in any direction!) I was after the highest point in Roscommon though, which is shy of the summit and lies within a kink in the county boundary line to the South East of the mountain top.
With no views to take in I walked around and admired the wind turbines which were all around me but disappeard into the clouds. Up close they seem both incredibly powerful graceful at the same time. It’s easy to forget that the huge blades are being turned by the wind as they generate electricity, rather than consuming energy to turn themselves.
There’s no clear location for the correct part of the South East slope to mark the highest point in Roscommon, though some folks over on mountainviews.ie have pointed out a rock with a yellow arrow on it as a suitable choice. I found a couple such rocks and retreated to the car to roll down the hill out of the clouds and back to the security of a hard topped road.
Resources for the Arigna Mountains
The Arigna area features the Arigna Miners Way, for which I can’t find much information on the internet. (Note, I’ve since discovered a full route description for Arigna on IrishTrails.ie, which seems to be a decent guide to walking trails throughout Ireland.)
The well-regarded Arigna Miners Experience museum is nearby too and is reported to be well worth a visit.
There are a wealth of megalithic sites including the country’s greatest concentration of sweathouses, which are believed to have been the inspiration for the Scandinavian sauna.
Due to time constraints I didn’t get to visit any of these attractions and as I drove into the clouds shortly after driving up into these hills overlooking Lough Allen I got a minimal impression of the area.
As usual, if you are seeking information on pretty much any mountain in Ireland you’ll most likely find it on Mountainviews.ie.