Nestled within the heart of the Dartry Mountains in County Sligo, The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk offers an unforgettable experience for those looking to spend an afternoon disconnecting from the hustle bustle of daily life.
This easy trail offers hikers views of the prominent Benbulben from different angles as they make their way through the Irish countryside.
The mountains unique appearance was formed during the ice age as glaciers carved through the surrounding landscape and left us with one of Ireland's most distinct mountain peaks.
In this post, I'll share insights from my visit to Benbulben, provide essential tips for tackling the trail, and showcase some of the beautiful photos I took of the surrounding area during my visit!
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Where is Benbulben located?
Benbulben is located in County Sligo, near Ireland's western coast. It is considered part of the Dartry Mountains and resides just north of the town Sligo. The mountain is in close proximity to a number of other smaller villages and the popular Streedagh Beach. The coastline here is considered part of the infamous Wild Atlantic Way coastal route.
While Sligo is the closest town that makes sense for exploring this area, during my visit to Ireland I used the town of Donegal as my jumping off point for seeing Benbulben. Donegal resides about 45 minutes north by car but provides easier to access to the epic Slieve League Cliffs and roadside Assaranca Waterfall.
If you're trying to nail down accommodations for your trip I can recommend The Gateway Lodge Hotel which is one of the budget friendly hotel options in Donegal. Alternatively, I'd suggest browsing for hotel deals in Sligo.
Regardless of where you stay, you're going to need a car to visit Benbulben. The mountain sits 3 hours west of Dublin where most visitors will initially touch ground on Irish soil. Rental cars book up quickly during the summer months in Ireland so I'd suggest securing a rental car for your trip well in advance.
You'll quickly realize that the best way to see all that Ireland has to offer is by planning an epic roadtrip across the island which naturally requires a car. You might start in Dublin, but the only way to connect the dots between far flung places like the Dingle Peninsula, the Dark Hedges and Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway is to get on the road!
What are some interesting facts about Benbulben?
The name Benbulben is derived from its old Gaelic name of Binn Ghulbain which translates into Jaw or Beak Mountain. The mountain is part of the Dartry Mountains and is situated within the Yeats Country, an area named after the famous Irish poet W.B. Yeats, who drew inspiration from the landscape.
The mountain has a rich history and is associated with several Irish legends and folklore, including the tale of Diarmuid and Gráinne.
How much does The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk cost?
There is no entrance fee for The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk, making it a budget-friendly option for those in the area. Parking at the Gortarowey Forest Recreation Area, where the trail begins, is also free of charge.
How long does it take to do The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk?
The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk is approximately 7.24 kilometers (4.5 miles) in length and will take most visitors about 2 hours to complete. The trail has a negligible amount of elevation gain and is well maintained. You won't need anything special for this nature loop but sturdy hiking boots, water and sunscreen are always good things to pack.
If you're looking for something slightly shorter, there are two turnoffs where you can shorten the trail distance. Be sure to examine the map before you head out on the forest walk to ensure you understand the path and don't get turned around!
Keep in mind that the forest walk is a much different and completely separate trail from the one that will take you to the mountains flat top summit. That hike originates slightly east of the forest walk (in a separate parking lot) and has quite a bit more elevation gain.
Visitors looking to summit Benbulben should prepare for a 9.2 km (5.7 mile) hike that includes nearly 400 meters (1,300 feet) of elevation gain. If that's more your appetite, consider checking out my complete day hike packing list while trip planning to ensure you don't leave any essentials behind.
Are dogs allowed along The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk?
Yes, dogs are allowed along The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk, provided they are kept on a leash and under control at all times. Be sure to clean up after your pets and practice leave no trace principles during your hike.
Are there bathrooms at The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk?
There are no public restroom facilities available along The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk or at the car park. I'd strongly suggest finding and using a restroom on your way to beginning this hike.
Either keep an eye out for gas stations during your drive to the trailhead or make a detour to Sligo town which is about 13 minutes south of the car park.
What is the best time of year to visit Benbulben?
The best time of year to visit Benbulben is during the summer months and shoulder season, typically from April to September. Timing your visit to Ireland during this window gives you the greatest possibility of having favorable weather and more daylight.
I visited Ireland during the first week of June, just before summer season officially began. The weather was still incredible and we managed to avoid peak tourist season on the island.
The combination of good weather and fewer crowds is great for visiting other popular Irish landmarks such as the Cliffs of Moher.
Avoiding peak tourism season can help you avoid crowds and get better pricing on your travel accommodations. If you need help planning your travels be sure to check out my list of money saving airfare hacks and guide to planning a trip abroad. These guides cover tons of strategies I use to book hassle free travel for less.
What is the best time of day to visit Benbulben?
Morning and late afternoon hikes can offer cooler temperatures and softer lighting, which can be ideal for photography and avoiding peak sun exposure. Midday hikes may provide more sunshine and warmth, but can also be busier with other visitors.
I would have preferred to complete this hike during sunset when the lighting would have been better for photographing Benbulben itself, but I had already committed my evening to visiting Slieve League.
Regardless, I had a great time visiting during midday and despite the weather being warm and sunny, I didn't have an issue with parking. From my experience it didn't seem like this trail gets overly busy.
If you do attempt this hike later in the day, just be sure to make it back to your vehicle before sunset or hike with a flashlight!
Do I need a reservation to hike The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk?
No, you do not need a reservation to hike The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk. The trail is open to the public and can be accessed at any time. Simply park at the Gortarowey Forest Recreation Area and follow the marked trail to begin your hike.
Is The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk safe for children?
Yes, The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk is safe for children, as the trail is well-marked, flat and doesn't encounter any dangerous sections or steep drops. Just ensure your children are comfortable completing a hike of this length before setting out on the trail.
Is The Mount Benbulben Forest Walk worth it?
Yes, the Mount Benbulben Forest Walk is definitely worth it for those who want to take in views of the iconic Benbulben flat top mountain. The walk offers a unique opportunity to explore the beautiful Irish countryside that surrounds the mountain.
To get the most out of an afternoon exploring County Sligo I'd suggest making your way over to Streedagh Beach when you're finished with your hike. The beach here seems to stretch on to infinity and the horizon is dominated by Benbulben's prominent table top shape.
There isn't a better way to refresh your feet after an afternoon hiking than by dipping them in the crisp blue waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. Just be prepared to park your car in the sand on busier afternoons!
Be sure to check out some of my other Ireland travel guide content as well. I go into detail covering one of Ireland's best beaches, what to expect when scaling Skellig Michael Island and I even put together a list of the most beautiful Irish landscapes we encountered during our travels across the Emerald Isle.
If you're looking for some scenic relaxation and Irish inspiration, I also created an hour long ambient drone video available on my YouTube channel showcasing some of Ireland's best scenery from above.
I hope this post helps you decide whether or not to include the Mount Benbulben Forest Walk in your Ireland travel itinerary!