The Gleniff Horseshoe drive (or cycle/walk) is one of my favourite things to do in Sligo.
And, on a fine day, there are few walks in Sligo that can go toe-to-toe with the wild, unspoiled scenery that this corner of the county boasts by the bucketload.
The drive takes around 30 minutes and it’s a fine way to spend a rainy afternoon, while the walk stretches for around 2.5 hours and treats you to some glorious Sligo scenery.
In the guide below, you’ll find a Google Map with the walk and drive plotted for you along with some handy need-to-knows.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Gleniff Horseshoe
The Gleniff Horseshoe is a 10km loop that offers spectacular views of the Dartry Mountains, and Donegal Bay. Although a visit is fairly straightforward, there are some need-to-knows.
This fantastic glacial valley is in the north side of the Dartry mountain, in Carbury, North Sligo in the province of Connacht on Ireland’s west coast. Here’s where it is on a map.
2. How it formed
The valley was formed during the last Ice Age, which lasted until about 10,000 BCE, when the landscape was covered by glaciers more than 1km thick. When the ice melted, the glacier retreated north and scraped out a hollow in the mountain.
3. What you’ll see if you visit
Raw and wild scenery aside, there are many megalithic monuments spread out along the mountain’s northern slopes, and a court cairn as well as a large cave high up on the cliff that might have been a sacred place to the ancient inhabitants of the area. Look out for Benwiskin – the wave-shaped mountain at the entrance of the valley and the Byrites Mines at the back.
4. You can drive or walk the Horseshoe
The Gleniff Horseshoe is arguably best explored by foot or on a bike but, if you’re stuck for time (or the weather isn’t playing ball), you can do the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive. It’s nice and short and the scenery, on a clear day, is glorious.
An overview of the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive
The Gleniff Horseshoe Drive tends to be busy during the summer months but, as you can see from the photo above, if you visit during the winter it’s usually fairly quiet.
Here’s what you need to know about the drive (we’ve plotted the driving route on the Google Map below – ignore the turn off that leads to the yellow pointer – this is for the walk).
This 10km route puts you in the heart of magical mythical Ireland and takes just 30 minutes to drive if you leave from the starting point below (it’ll take 1 hour to cycle).
Where it starts and ends
You start and finish the Gleniff Horseshoe Drive at the village of Cliffoney (aim for O’Donnell’s pub and follow the route on the map below).
An overview of the route
For the drive, you head towards the N15 Sligo to Donegal road, cross the N15 and turn into the road that is signposted Yeats County Gleniff Horseshoe. Your first stop will be at the Gleniff Bartyes Mill site.
When your drive ascends, you’ll spot the massive cave, called Grainne and Diarmuid’s cave and, at 400 metres, it’s the highest cave in Ireland. You’ll also be able to see the Annacoona cliffs.
This is one of those routes where it’s virtually impossible to get lost, as you’re following a nice big loop. You’ll find some places to pull in. Keep an eye out for walkers and drive slow.
The Gleniff Horseshoe Walk (aka the Benwisken Trail)
The Gleniff Horseshoe walk is one of the more popular walks in Sligo, and it should be nice and doable for those with a reasonable level of fitness.
On the map above, ignore the loop at the start (this is for the drive). The walk begins at the yellow pointer and then follows the trail down from it).
The Gleniff Horseshoe walk is a nice 14km loop along quiet roads with spectacular views of the dramatic and wild Dartry Mountains. The walk also provides dramatic views of the Donegal Bay and beyond when the weather is nice and clear.
Where it starts and ends
You kick-start the walk at the Benwiskin Centre (the ‘B’ on the right on the map above) You’ll find plenty of parking in front of the Church nearby, just make sure you don’t block the road.
As you can see from the map above, the walk is a nice, straightforward loop. The one thing to be wary of is approaching cars, as the roads are narrow and there are no paths.
Now, you’ll find some guides online that recommend that you take a detour up to Grainne and Diarmuid’s cave – unless you’re an experienced hiker, don’t attempt this climb.
The Gleniff Horseshoe walk, like the drive, is nice and easy to follow and the scenery really is breath-taking.
Things to do near the Gleniff Horseshoe
One of the beauties of the Gleniff Horseshoe is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best places to visit in Sligo.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Gleniff Horseshoe (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Benbulben Forest Walk (20-minute drive)
2. Glencar Waterfall (30-minute drive)
Glencar Waterfall reaches 50 feet high and can be found at the Glencar Lough. The wooded walk has several viewing platforms from which you can watch the magnificent crash of water. Learn all about the walk here.
3. The Devil’s Chimney (30-minute drive)
The Devil’s Chimney is another amazing waterfall. The Irish name is Sruth in Aghaidh, which means stream against the height and in certain weather conditions when the wind blows from the south, the waterfall is blown upward and back over the cliff. Here’s a guide to the walk.
4. Mullaghmore (15-minute drive)
Mullaghmore is a picture postcard seaside resort in County Sligo, and it is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. There’s a charming 19th century harbour from where you can watch sailing boats come and go. You can visit Mullaghmore Beach and get an eyeful of Classiebawn Castle.
5. Bundoran (20-minute drive)
Another lively coastal town on the Wild Atlantic Way, Bundoran is a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts. There are heaps of things to do in Bundoran, from surfing and the coastal walk to food and more.
FAQs about the Gleniff Horseshoe walk and drive
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the Glenveagh Castle Gardens to the tour.
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.
How do I get to the Gleniff Horseshoe?
You’ll find the Gleniff horseshoe on the north side of the Dartry mountain, in Carbury, North Sligo, a 30-minute drive from Sligo Town.
Can you drive the Gleniff Horseshoe?
Yes, the Gleniff Horseshoe drive is one of the more popular things to do in Sligo when it’s raining (the route can be found on the map above).
Where does the Gleniff Horseshoe drive and walk start?
The walk begins at the Benwiskin Centre while a popular starting point for the drive is the village of Cliffoney (aim for O’Donnell’s pub).
Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.