The forest walk is hands-down our favourite Benbulben walk. It’s easy, the views are great and it’s a fine way to stretch the legs in one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland.
It’s also a stone’s throw from many of the best things to do in Sligo, which means that you can pair it up with other nearby attractions.
With its instantly recognisable flat top rising up to a gaudy 1,726 ft, Benbulben Mountain in Sligo is an imposing sight that dominates the Sligo countryside.
There are several walking routes up Ben Bulben but you don’t need to climb it to appreciate its majesty. In fact, did you know there’s a deadly little forest trail right at its base?
The Benbulben forest walk is a lovely ramble that anyone can take on and makes for a perfect outdoor escape without having to expend too much energy.
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The Benbulben Walk: Some quick need-to-knows
Also known as the Gortarowey looped walk, this Benbulben walk is a looped route that starts in a sheltered forest before emerging alongside the grandeur of Benbulben, the most unique of the many mountains in Sligo.
After a stroll in the shadow of the ancient mountain, you’ll then loop back to encounter some stunning panoramic bay views before then turning for home.
How long it takes
Coming in at a breezy 5.5km, the Benbulben forest walk should take you around 1.5 hours to complete in full. Add on a bit of time if you want to gawp at the mountain or take in the sea views. And get some great photos, of course.
As this Benbulben walk doesn’t actually involve climbing the mountain, the trail is quite flat and should be no bother for those with even a medium-level of fitness! Its length and simplicity also make it ideal for families.
Where to park for the Benbulben Forest Walk
The car park for the Benbulben walk is located just off the N15, 8km north of Sligo. Stick ‘Gortarowey Forest Recreation Area’ into Google Maps and it’ll take you to the car park. The turnoff is signposted and it’s a simple walk from there once you’re parked up.
What to bring with you
While not the most the challenging walk, it’s still important to be comfortable on the Benbulben forest loop. Take some sturdy walking boots and weather appropriate coats or jackets depending on what the weather is set to be like.
Check your weather app in the morning and pack appropriately. A bottle of water and a few snacks never go amiss either.
The Benbulben Loop Walk: An overview of the route
So, you’ll kick this walk off from the car park at Gortarowey Forest Recreation Area. As always, never leave anything of value on-show in your vehicle. Better to be safe than sorry.
The start of the trail
From the car park, the initial stretch is a short walk through pretty shaded woodland that nicely hides the splendour of what’s to come.
Once you’re through the preliminary section of forest, you’ll emerge into an opening where the vast form of Benbulben head rises up on your right-hand side.
Follow this gravel path and appreciate the striking close-up views of Benbulben mountain that this path affords you. If you’re here on a sunny day when the light glints off the side of the mountain, even better!
Reaching the forest
Once you’re parallel with the mountain summit, thick forest on the left-hand side starts to form and will stay alongside the path for the majority of the trail.
On this Benbulben walk, you’ll come across an array of colourful flora, as well as foxes and wild hares. The Sligo countryside also contains many varieties of tree to look out for on the way.
The path then turns right, providing the best chance of getting up close and personal with the mountain.
Once you’ve got your close-up photo of Benbulben, the path then loops left and the landscape totally changes, presenting gorgeous sloping views beyond fields, forest and roads towards Donegal Bay.
Views, views and more views
WB Yeats is buried in nearby Drumcliffe and its unsurprising that so much of his poetry was inspired by the scenery around here and by Benbulben itself.
Speaking of stunning views, if you take on a Benbulben hike and the weather is playing ball (never a guarantee), you should even be able to get a glimpse of Croagh Patrick from the summit!
Continuing the path along the forest and with Benbulben to your left, you’ll eventually be treated some more spectacular vistas, except this time it’ll be Sligo Bay that you’re looking towards.
Beyond the slanting countryside, farmland and shimmering water, the grand outlines of the Ox Mountains will be visible in the distance. The unusual but no less magnificent outline of the 1000ft-high Knocknarea should also be clear.
Making your way back to the car park
The path will eventually turn left, and you’ll head back through a forest trail and towards the car park where the loop comes to an end.
Timing is never easy but for the most epic experience of the Benbulben walk, try to head out on a clear day at late afternoon or early evening (depending on the time of year) so you can catch the golden light of the low sun on the steepest sides of the mountain.
You’ll also be able to catch a gorgeous orange sunset as it goes down beneath Sligo Bay.
Other great spots to visit in the area, if you have the time, include Strandhill, Mullaghmore and Glencar Waterfall.
Things to do near the Benbulben Forest Walk
There are hundreds of things to do near the Benbulben Forest Walk, from scenic drives and hikes to castles, the Caves of Keash and much more.
Hop into our guide to Sligo to discover heaps of things to see and do!