The stunning Dun Chaochain cliffs, with Benwee Head (the Yellow Cliff) as the highest summit, is one of Mayo’s hidden gems.
And, as the northern side of Benwee drops dramatically into the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a sight best seen from the sea.
However, if you don’t fancy climbing into a kayak, you can always soak up the sights and sounds of this gorgeous corner of Ireland on the Benwee Head Walk.
In the guide below, you’ll find out everything from where to park, how long it takes and what to see along the Benwee Head Loop Walk.
Some quick need-to-knows about Benwee Head in Mayo
A visit to Benwee Head isn’t as straightforward as some of the more popular places to visit in Mayo, and a bit of planning is required if you want to do the walk.
Here are some quick need-to-knows about the Benwee Walk. You’ll find a map and an overview of the walk later in the guide.
The north coast of County Mayo is a place less travelled. Wild, rugged, and majestic, its landscape dares rather than invites you to explore its secrets. It’s a 5-minute drive from Carrowteig, 30 minutes from the Mullet Peninsula and 60km from Westport.
2. A very hidden gem
If you want to explore North Mayo, with all its rugged beauty and ancient history, you’ll have to go looking for it. From Sligo, it’s approx. 130km of magnificent scenery, or 91km from Westport. It’s a place to be experienced rather than simply admired, so leave the car and get the wind in your hair. You won’t regret it.
3. The walk
Benwee Head Coastal Walk is one of the most spectacular walks in the country. The trail is well marked with purple arrows, and on your left, a low sheep fence runs alongside almost to the summit. It’s a strenuous walk and allow 5 hours.
Like any cliff walk in Ireland, safety is required. The cliffs here are unguarded, so caution is required. Please keep your distance from the edge and mind yourself at all times. This is a long walk and it’s tricky in places – if you’re not an experienced walker, give this one a miss.
About Benwee Head
Benwee Head (An Bhinn Bhuí or the Yellow Cliff) is located in North Mayo and provides one of the most magnificent coastal views in the country.
The Cliffs overlook Broadhaven Bay and the 4 Stags of Broadhaven islands, and you can enjoy the views from either land or sea. The majesty of nature is all around, with the towering cliffs, steep tracks, and thunderous waves attacking the coast, resulting in huge sea stacks and rock formations.
At 304 metres, Benwee Head is the tallest in the Dun Chaochain range, and it’s remarkably different to other Irish mountains with a strange yellow colour, although it complements the green surroundings wonderfully.
The sheer north face of the cliff seems to fall vertically into the Atlantic Ocean. The Stags of Broadhaven are 4 islands rising 100m above sea level and are a popular attraction for divers.
Seeing Benwee Head on one of the Carrowteige Loop Walks
So, there are several different walks in and around this area; the Benwee Loop, the the Carrowteige Loop, and the Portacloy Loop.
In this guide, we’re going to tackle the Benwee Head Walk, but I’ve heard good things about the other trails, also.
Parking/where the walk starts
You’ll find plenty of places to park in the village of Carrowteig. When you’re ready to rock, the walk starts from here. The trail is way-marked with black posts with purple arrows.
Thie Benwee Head Loop Walk stretches for between 12 and 13km and it’ll take around 5 hours to complete (allow longer for stops). This isn’t a casual walk and proper hiking gear, snacks and a fully charged mobile phone are required.
This is a strenuous walk and a good level of fitness is required, as there are plenty of inclines and the trail is tricky to navigate in places. The wind here also adds to the difficulty, so make sure to factor that in, too.
What you’ll see on the way
A breath-taking series of postcard-type views accompany all the walks around Benwee Head. Most of the time, it’ll be only you, the sheep, the mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the key features is the Children of Lir sculpture, part of a series of the Spirit of Place Sculpture Trail. The climb to the top is strenuous but worth it for the views of the bay and the whole Mullet peninsula.
Benwee Head is where you can view the 4 Stags of Broadhaven. These sea stacks are up to 950 million years old and reach 100 metres out of the water. From here, take your time on the gentle journey back and enjoy the scenery.
Things to do after the Benwee Head walk
One of the beauties of the Benwee Head Walk is that, when you finish it, you’re a short spin away from some of the best places to visit in Mayo.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Benwee Head (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Portacloy Beach
Portacloy Beach is one of my favourite beaches in Mayo. This is a remote and beautiful place on the North Mayo coast. The beach is short, but being sheltered, it’s perfect for swimming. The harbour is much like it must have been 2 hundred years ago, but the simplicity is part of its charm. Just watch out for the sheep.
2. The Erris Head Loop Walk
The Erris Head Loop Walk takes you around the headland to the tip of Erris Head, where you can stop and admire the views of Illandavuck Island, Pigeon Rock, and sea arches. There’s a fair bit of climbing, but nothing too strenuous and the resulting views are spectacular.
3. Ceide Fields
If you see nothing else in North Mayo, you must visit the Ceide Fields. They date back almost 6,000 years and are the oldest known field systems in the world. They consist of fields, dwellings and megalithic tombs, which are covered by Atlantic Blanket Bog. It’s believed that the people who farmed here cleared the land of its forests which in turn allowed the soil to become waterlogged and leach the earth of its nutrients.
4. Downpatrick Head
Between Ballycastle village and the Ceide Fields, you’ll find Downpatrick Head with its fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Stags of Broadhaven and Dun Briste, a sea stack close to the cliffs. Saint Patrick founded a church on the headland, and its ruins are still visible, along with a statue of the saint and a stone building used as a lookout post during the second world war.
FAQs about the Benwee Head walk
Since mentioning the Benwee Head walk in a guide to Mayo a few years ago, we’ve received a clatter of questions asking about the trail.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is the Benwee Head walk hard?
Yes. This is a walk for the more seasoned walkers, as the trail is tricky in places and requires experience.
How long does the Benwee Head loop take?
Allow at least 5 hours to complete this walk.
Is Benwee Head worth visiting?
Yes! The North Mayo coast is home to some of the most unspoiled scenery in Ireland. The Benwee Head walk treats you to glorious views throughout.