Known by few, Benbulben Mountain (also spelled Benbulbin or Ben Bulben, from Irish "Binn Ghulbain") can be a great alternative weekend destination from the Irish capital, Dublin. Not crowded with many tourists and not difficult to climb from the south side, offers amazing views from the top over the Sligo town, the coast and the sea. Ben Bulben, at the elevation of 526 meters (1727 ft.) above sea level, is in fact a part of the Dartry range and its distinctive, table mountain-like shape was formed by moving glaciers during the Ice Age.
How to get to Benbulben Mountain
The easiest and practically the only way to get to the mountain is by car. The drive from Dublin to Sligo takes around 2.5 hours (200km, 124 miles). There are no signs pointing to Benbulben, but when you are in Sligo, it's difficult not to notice the mountain itself. Once you've passed Sligo, keep following the main road along the coast and when you get closer to the mountain, turn right in one of the little roads (towards Ballintrilick) and you will come across a water treatment station there. Keep driving until you get to a stone bridge on a stream, follow the stream and there you can park your car and start climbing.
There are no tours or public buses that could take you there. There are however bus or train services from Dublin to Sligo. If you are stubborn enough, it is possible to walk from the town of Sligo but the climb is extremely long and strenuous. I know it because I did it myself since I got to Sligo by bus. The mountain didn't seem so far away, so I decided that I would walk. I got to the top from the wrong side, because to reach the easily accessible south side, I would have had to go around the mountain and add a few kilometers. I was forced to cross the farmlands and fields with sheep and climb steep and slippery side of the hill, so as long as you are not craving for something extreme, I'd recommend you choose the appropriate way up the southern, gentle slopes.
What makes Ben Bulben so special is the way it changes its shape while viewed from different angles. From the north side, it looks like a table mountain, from the other sides, it merges with the neighboring hills forming a single entity. Climbing up, the landscape changes, the bare peaks give the impression of a different, alien world. The ubiquitous peat bogs, collapsing and creating all sorts of shapes, pits and grooves in the ground, emphasize this feeling even more.
While climbing Benbulben, you have to be prepared for changeable weather conditions. Heavy showers interspersed with sunny spells may occur several times within one hour, not to mention unceasing winds. The top is mainly flat and easy to walk on. The view is stunning, especially close to the edge. Sometimes you can observe helicopters flying below the level of the mountain over the neighboring woods.
Although Benbulben is the biggest and most distinctive object in the Sligo area, the whole Dartry mountain range is worth visiting. Not far from Benbulben, while coming back to Sligo, if you follow the road alongside the mountain, you will reach the Glencar Lake and Glencar Waterfall. It's a perfect place for a summer picnic, so much different from the bare peak of Benbulben. Situated in a green, wooded area, it resembles a little piece of an exotic jungle, so on the way back, don't miss this spot!
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