Hiking The Benbulbin Forest Walk In County Sligo

Created by Colleen Sims * 1 June 2022 * Updated 3 January 2024

Hiking the Benbulbin forest trail in the shadow of glorious rhododendron bushes in flower.

In 2021 we watched a TV program hosted by Adrian Dunbar (of AC12 and Line of Duty fame). He travelled around Ireland’s coast, visiting well known and lesser well known places.

One such place was Benbulbin and Drumcliffe along with other destinations on the Wild Atlantic Way.  Of course we fell in love with the idea of visiting County Sligo, visiting this famous grave but most of all hiking the stunning Benbulbin Forest Walk.

We’ve been swapping homes for two decades and after discovering Ireland with Adrian Dunbar, I searched for possible home-swaps so we could go explore ourselves.   We found two and spent three glorious weeks visiting, hiking and walking through this beautiful Emerald Isle.

Colleen and Gerry hiking the Benbulbin Forest Walk in Sligo Ireland

Benbulbin : Ireland’s Table Mountain

Benbulbin is a large flat-topped rock formation in County Sligo and forms part of the Dartry Mountains in an area known as “Yeats Country”.

The mountain is sometimes referred to as Ireland’s own Table Mountain, with this most distinctive peak being formed during the ice age by massive glaciers segmenting the landscape.

You can climb to the top of Benbulbin or you can skirt around it along a hike called the Benbulbin Forest Walk.

The mountain is less than 600m high so we considered climbing; the approach from the south is far more gentle than the sheer sides of the northern face. However, time was against us, so we opted for the more gentle hike. It may have been shorter but it was no less spectacular.

View of the trail to the top of Benbulbin in Ireland

How Easy Is The Benbulbin Forest Walk?

The Benbulbin Forest Walk is a fairly easy hike in glorious nature with a mix of a hard surface and easy level trail.  It’s a circular trail and should take around 1.5 hours to hike.

It starts from a little secluded forest car park before opening to a rural landscape, providing genuinely stunning up-close views of Benbulbin.

  • Hike Distance : 5.8 kilometres
  • Total Elevation Gain : 72 metres
map showing the benbulbin forest walk in sligo ireland
Benbulbin Forest Walk marked on the map, with the car park and trailhead marked by the red star
map showing the elevation of benbulbin forest walk in sligo ireland
Elevation profile of the Benbulbin Forest Walk

Our Thoughts On Hiking The Benbulbin Forest Walk

After leaving the car park we followed a short stretch through a shaded woodland full of rhododendron in full bloom. We stopped for a while and took photos of the flowers, Benbulbin and looking back to the distant sea views.  The hike was already surpassing our expectations.

We paused to let a group of hikers by and soon found ourselves alone on the trail.

As we emerged from the rhododendron forest we were treated with amazing views of Benbulbin and more distant views of the beautiful blue sea beyond. We could not have chosen a more perfect day for a hike.

a collection of the views from the Benbulbin Forest Hike

For a few kilometres we walked along the side of the mountain, I took so many photos and looking back now I realise that they were all pretty much the same. But it was all so majestic that I couldn’t help myself. 

The more we walked the more the mountain receded behind us and we were back again in a forest.  There must have been a huge storm as many trees had fallen, in some places places three of four fell together taking the earth and grass and soil with them. But the trail was always clear.

the trail through the forest on the Benbulbin Forest Walk

Mountains, Forests And Coastal Views

As we left the forest, the path opened up again and the mountain was behind us. We could see the higher trail leading up to the top and were tempted to follow, but we didn’t have enough time to walk the route safety.

Instead, we turned away from the mountain and headed towards the sea views. We were rewarded again with gorgeous views across fields, forest and roads all the way down to the Donegal Estuary.

Today was all about Benbulbin but a close second came the stunning coastal views and we both agreed that we could happily spend a while just sitting there, looking out at that view. We’re resolved to return to Ireland again in the not too distant future.

Looking out to Galway Bay in Ireland

Drumcliffe Village And W.B. Yeats’ Grave

After our walk and picnic lunch beside the sea at the stunning village of Mullaghmore. we had one more stop to make in the sleepy little village of Drumcliffe that Yeats wrote about; it was after all this famous poet who led us to hike this glorious little trail.

We parked in the church car park beside Yeats’ Road and opposite the very ancient cross that he wrote about .

We walked down towards the church and there, indeed in the shadow of Ben Bulbin, we found the final resting place of one of the great modern poets.

Under Ben Bulben

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid,
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago; a church stands near,
By the road an ancient Cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase,
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

W. B. Yeats : 1838

We drank the last of our flask tea in the car park looking up at this glorious flat topped mountain before heading back to our temporary home in County Clare. Oh what a fabulous day.

Yeats Grave in the Shadow of Benbulbin

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel overseas it’s imperative to travel with a good travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve had the mis-fortune to end up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal and Ireland; every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy now for an extended global trip and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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