I spend most of my working week with my head stuck in a computer. Which means at this time of the year, with the shorter days, I definitely don’t get enough walking done in the evenings. So when the weekends come around I take every opportunity to spend most of them outside and as much as possible in trees, by the sea or up a mountain.
I’ve had it in my head to walk Mount Errigal near Gweedore in Co Donegal, since late last year, but as I am relatively new to mountain walking I’m waiting for the weather to warm up a bit before we do.
In the meanwhile I had been looking in the Sligo direction and stumbled across a really nice website (https://sligowalks.ie) listing all of the different walks and trails throughout the county. So over last weekend we thought we’d leave Galway early on Sunday morning and walk the Benbulben Forest Park trail and do the sea shore walk in the dunes in Strandhill. Actually there were so many trails to choose from I would need to spend at least a week in Sligo.
Benbulben (Gortarowey) Looped walk
Length 5.5 km, Ascent 60 m, Time 1.5 hours
Benbulben Forest walk
Opting for the Benbulben forest walk was the most obvious one for me, the mountain itself rises dramatically from the side of the forest and is part of the Dartry Mountain range. (Note to self definitely want to walk the mountain)
Benbulben sits distinctly on the horizon as you drive into Sligo, and I really just wanted to see it up close. The forest park is a perfect opportunity to do this and with the day being so sunny I couldn’t resist. The walk itself is really easy to find, I have included the directions below or you can visit the Sligo Walks website https://sligowalks.ie/walks/benbulbin-gortarowey-looped-walk/ for more details. The walkway runs directly parallel to the mountain giving ample opportunity to take in all its features and on a sunny day they are spectacular. In all it took us just over an hour to walk it. The walk itself runs around the circumference of the forest and the path is quite hard with loose small stones so I would recommend good walking shoes.
Take the N15 road north of Sligo for 8km. Continue for1.6km after Drumcliff village. Take the right-hand turn signposted Barnaribbon up by a thatched cottage. Follow the road straight ahead, and keep left where the road veers right. This will bring you to a car park on your left under Benbulben.
As we didn’t want to lose any of the precious daylight, immediately after we finished the forest walk, we headed straight over to Strandhill, which is just a 30-minute drive, and we were directly on the Wild Atlantic Coast.
As the day was sunny and bright, Strandhill was quite busy; we opted to park away from the beach and walk down to the start of the prom, take a right and do the beach walk alongside the dunes. If you follow the walk all the way out, it brings you past Sligo airport.
Strandhill Beach Walk, Sligo
Tips for walking:
Wear comfortable walking shoes, and clothing in layers. I find it is easier to regulate my temperature by taking on and off the layers, also at this time of year I always have a hat and gloves.
What I bring with me:
I always bring a small backpack with me so my hands can be free. In it I have water, small snacks such as bananas, nuts, fruit bars, if it’s a longer walk I always pop in a sandwich as well. And of course my phone, fully charged, I love taking pictures as I go. I also have a USB battery pack for my mobile, just in case I get carried away taking pictures. Then finally I have a small collapsible bowl, water and a small packet of food for my permanent doggy companion Missy, she comes everywhere with us.
Tracking my walk:
I like to track most of my walks using an app; the one I most use is Wikiloc. There are loads out on the market at the moment and they can be good fun for collecting all the walks you do in one place and keeping a record of them.