Last updated on November 14, 2022

Glencoaghan Horseshoe loop!

Wow..hiking Glencoaghan was probably one of the toughest expeditions I did in my entire life. You definitely need to be prepared for a challenging adventure heading this caldera. Especially if the weather is not on your side, which happens quite often for Glencoaghan. Plus very good fitness level is required! Weather, as in all mountains, is unpredictable, so you should always be prepared for bad, cold and wet conditions. Glencoaghan Horseshoe peaks are usually covered with clouds, so the visibility might be very limited.


Glencoaghan Horseshoe peaks

How to get to Glencoaghan Horseshoe?

Glencoaghan is a valley in the Twelve Bens, Connemara. This caldera contains 6 peaks. The walk should be done anticlockwise, as there are few steep rocky sections and it’s much easier to do it this way. I have to say the beginning of the ‘trail’ is completely not visible. If not 5 other hikers ahead of me, I would struggle to find the way up. And let’s be honest, most of the trail is just a sheep track, as the route is not maintained. I left my car on a tiny road – farming area, closest I could get to the starting point of the trail. 

Driving the main road N59 west direction toward Lutty town (google says Ten Bens Cottage is there) this is a tiny road on your right. It’s the closest road visible on a map to Derryclare – the first summit of Glencoaghan Horseshoe Loop. However, this starting point is not convenient for the finish, as you need to walk back 5 km to reach your car from the Benelttery Youth Hostel or… take a ‘shortcut’ which is more of a survival trail than a shortcut! Anyway, the start of the trail is tough, but I was very lucky with the weather and it gave me rewarding views and really pleasant morning. You should start around 7-8 a.m., as the trail is 12 km and it took me much more than 8 hours (which was advised online).

How long it takes to hike Glencoaghan?

Actually I’m quite surprised people say an average time for this walk is 8-9 hours, as it’s really tough and I would rather say it takes 9-10 to accomplish the loop. Hiking Glencoaghan Horseshoe Loop (6 peaks) takes all day. In the middle of the trail I was already quite tired, because some sections are really steep with pure rock climbing, demanding but still pretty safe. I remember reading it is advised to carry a rope with you – no surprise at all!

Benelttery Youth Hostel.

For majority of hikers the walk finishes at the Benelttery Youth Hostel (when you take southwest direction before the last mountain Benlettery). Although it leaves you 5 km from your car (the starting point). Last decent is very steep and stony, and may be challenging for tired legs. Some hikers told me there’s always somebody who will give you a ride back to your car, but I was so tired I could not imagine looking for anyone to give me a lift.

How difficult is hiking Glencoaghan?

This last 2 hours felt like eternity, I was really struggling walking down the steep valley, which seemed like an easy walk from the top of the mountain. I remember passing all those sheeps which were looking at me piecefully chewing the grass. I don’t know how I managed to reach my car, at the very end I was so tired that I could feel every single bone howling in my body. The sun was giving me a warm goodbye and I couldn’t stop thinking where would I be right now if the weather was against me! It was even hard to imagine that!

I’m always the master of my own ceremony, so that’s why I left all other hikers and took the shortcut to get to my car. Just at the last stage – you’ll see an extremely steep mountain Benlettery ahead of you (it is not possible to climb it, so you’ll know it’s whether you should take right or left). Instead of going right, I took left leading through the valley and muddy fields. 

Don’t take this road if it’s raining, you will get stuck in a mud and it will be very hard to get through. It was a very dry day for me. I took a chance but still got a bit wet and had to cross 3 rivers. At that stage it didn’t make any difference to me, as my feet were dying and I was praying to reach the end of my trail. The only thing I felt was a horrible pain in my feet and disturbing headacke.

Hiking Glencoaghan the views are stunning, unless the weather is very bad. All the summits of Glencoaghan Horseshoe loop are: Derryclare, Bencorr, Bencollaghduff, Benbreen, Bengover, Benlettery.

What to bring hiking:

  • good hiking shoes are a must
  • compass
  • whistle
  • mirror
  • water (enough for 12 hours) and snacks (nuts, protein bars), sandwich
  • windproof and rainproof jacket, warm clothing
  • hiking poles – you could but not essential
  • painkillers, basic first aid kit
  • power bank

What I can advise is don’t overdress. I did this mistake, as everyone was telling me how bad a weather is usually there. I dressed really warm and got sweat quickly… Wear lighter clothes especially on the beginning. Where you are on a lower level and only begin to climb, you quickly get warm. The whole region around Connemara National Park is spectacular. It’s worth driving around, as the views are stunning.

Have any questions, drop me a message anytime! 🙂 In the meantime, take a look at Lughanquilla hike, which could be a great training beforehand.

Don`t forget to visit well known Connemara National Park and stunning Kylemore Abbey – a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara.

Kylemore Abbey – a Benedictine monastery
Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!