Near the top of my own Irish wishlist is a visit to Ben Bulben, in beautiful Co. Sligo, in Ireland’s northwest. I would just love to throw on my hiking boots and challenge myself to a trek to the top. By all accounts it’s a fair challenge, but one that’s well rewarded with the views you get when looking down from above, over County Sligo.
Part of the Dartry Mountain range, in an area known as Yeats Country, this striking looking “table top” mountain is the setting for many Celtic legends, including those of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne a warrior of the Fianna, Fionn mac Cumhaill, a mythical hunter-warrior, and of Gráinne, the daughter of Cormac mac Airt, in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology. The panoramic view, and the stunning physical characteristics of Ben Bulben, are enough alone to make me want to head to Sligo to see it, but the mythological connection adds to the attraction even further.
Hiking Ben Bulben
As I have not personally climbed Ben Bulben (yet ) I can only share with you the findings of others whose accounts of the climb I’ve read or watched. It seems that there are multiple ways to approach your climb with the north side being the most difficult, and the most dangerous. From what I have found, most people will advise you against this route, as it is extremely steep, and susceptible to very strong winds blowing in off the north Atlantic.
The climb from the south side seems much more manageable, and enjoyable, but of course you still need to take all the normal precautions that you might when climbing any mountain. The videos below give you some idea of what to expect. The guys who made the video give you a pretty good rundown of the physical characteristics, the dangers, the sights, how to get to Ben Bulben, and in one of them they even give you a B&B recommendation if you’re planning on staying in Sligo.
Ben Bulben Facts
- the mountain was formed during the ice age, approx 320 million years ago
- it is composed primarily of limestone
- there are fossilized sea shells throughout the mountain
- there are plants to be found on Ben Bulben that cannot be found anywhere else in Ireland
- in 1977 the phrase “Brits Out of Ireland” was written on the mountain, in 25 foot tall letters
- at it’s highest point, Ben Bulben is 1726 ft.
- The GPS coordinates for Ben Bulben are 54°22′N 8°28′W
Photos of Ben Bulben
As much as I’d love to share my own photos with you, I’ve had to grab a few from around the web for this post. That may not be such a bad thing anyway – I’m sure there are far better photographers than me out there Enjoy! (image credits below)
The W.B. Yeats connection to Ben Bulben
Although born in Dublin, Yeats did spend much of his early childhood in Co. Sligo, and it is claimed that he expressed a wish to be burried there. Yeats died in France in 1939, and almost 10 years later his body was moved to Drumcliff, County Sligo, to be reburied. Below is an excerpt from Yeats’ final poem, “Under Ben Bulben” in which he describes what he saw in this part of the country.
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!
—Under Ben Bulben, W.B. Yeats
Video of Ben Bulben
This father/son team hiked Ben Bulben together. They give you some pretty good tips on what you can expect.
This video covers a closer look at the facts of Ben Bulben. I’d call it the ‘Wikipedia’ version.