Glencoaghan Horseshoe loop!
Gosh.. hiking Glencoaghan was probably one of the toughest expeditions I did in my entire life. Definitely you 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 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 route.
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 it this way. I have to say the beginning of the ‘trail’ is completely not visible. If not 5 hikers ahead of me, I would struggle to find the way up. And let’s be honest, most of the trail is just sheep tracks, the road is not maintained and for the most of the trail it’s your choice which way to follow. I left my car on a tiny road – farming area, closer to the start of the trail. When you drive west direction main road N59 this is the tiny road right toward Lutty town /google says Ten Bens Cottage is there/. This is 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 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 7-8am, as the trail is 12km and it took me much more than 8 hours /which was advised online/. 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 takes all day, just remember this especially when the say is shorter in colder months. In the middle of the trail I was already very tired, some sections are really steep and it’s a pure rock climbing, although pretty safe but very demanding for your feet. I remember I was reading it’s good to carry a rope with you, no surprise at all!
For majority of hikers the walk finishes at the Benelttery Youth Hostel /that is when you take south -southwest direction before the last mountain Benlettery/ but as I said that 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 somebody to give me lift. And 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 – so at the last stage – before an extremely steep mountain – Benlettery /it is not possible to climb it, so you’ll know it’s whether right or left/, instead of going right, I took left, 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 and I took a chance but still got a bit wet and had to cross 3 rivers, which at the end, didn’t make any difference to me, as my feet were dying and I was praying to reach the end of it. The only thing I felt was a horrible pain in my feet and disturbing headacke. 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!
Hiking Glencoaghan you get stunning views, unless the weather is very bad. All the summits of Glencoaghan Horseshoe loop are: Derryclare, Bencorr, Bencollaghduff, Benbreen, Bengover, Benlettery.
What to bring:
- good hiking shoes are a must there,
- water and snacks /nuts, protein bars/, sandwich,
- rain jacket, warm clothing
- hiking poles – you could but not essential
- painkillers /my head was wrecked/, basic first aid kit.
What I can advise is don’t overdress – I did this mistake, as everyone was telling me how bad 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 very beautiful. It’s worth driving around, as the views are stunning.
If you’ve any questions drop me a message anytime! 😉 In the meantime, take a look at Lughanquilla hike, which could be a great training beforehand.