Ireland (Republic of Ireland)

Languages: English, Irish

Currencies: EUR · Euro (€)

Capitol: Dublin

Continents: Europe

Borders: United Kingdom

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Area: 70,273km2

Population: 4,994,724

Traffic/driving side: left

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +353

Timezones: UTC

Last updated on April 7, 2024

Wel that was a surprise to find such difficult mountain trail in hilly Ireland. Hiking Glencoaghan Horseshoe Loop 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 you are hiking alone – like me, and weather is not on your side, which happens quite often for Glencoaghan. Plus a very good fitness level is required to undertake this trail! 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, it’s very likely the visibility will be limited.

Glencoaghan Horseshoe peaks

Hiking Glencoaghan Horseshoe loop!

Glencoaghan is a valley in the Twelve Bens in stunning Connemara National Park (County Galway). This caldera contains 6 peaks, with the tallest – Benbaun 730m and the smallest – Benglenisky at 516m.

The Glencoaghan Horseshoe is a popular and challenging hiking route located in the Twelve Bens mountain range. This circular route offers stunning views of rugged peaks, cliffs, and corrie lakes. The route is about 14 kilometers long.

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. I didn’t have any online maps, I hiked alone and was able to find the route – but I believe in cloudy conditions it might be challenging.

How to get to Glencoaghan Horseshoe?

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 a really quiet, pleasant morning and rewarding views. 

Hiking Glencoaghan Horshoe Loop starting point.

The typical starting point for the Glencoaghan Horseshoe is at the parking area near Ben Lettery Youth Hostel.

From there, you follow the trail that ascends the steep slopes of Ben Lettery before reaching the ridge that forms the horseshoe shape. The route then takes you over several peaks, including Ben Breen, Benbreen North Top, Benbreen Central Top, Benbreen South Top, and Benbrack.

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!

  1. Start your hike at 7-8 a.m. at the latest (remember it takes time to reach the starting point).
  2. The trail is 12 km long, leading through number of peaks
  3. It took me more than 9 hours to accomplish it. 

Benelttery Youth Hostel - where to stay in Connemara?

For majority of hikers the walk finishes at the Benelttery Youth Hostel – also called Ben Lettery Hostel. When you take southwest direction before the last mountain Benlettery, you’ll be able to reach Ben Lettery Hostel. 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 from Benelterry Youth Hostel back to your car, but I was so tired I could not imagine looking for anyone to give me a lift.

Best places to stay when hiking Glencoaghna Horseshoe Loop.

As mentioned above Ben Lettery Youth Hostel is quite typical starting point for hiking Glencoaghan Horseshoe, thus a lot of people choose to stay there for the night prior hiking day. You can secure a place in advance on

Two alternatives stays I can highly recommend:

How difficult is hiking Glencoaghan?

This last 2 hours felt like eternity, I was really struggling walking down the steep valley, even though it seemed like an easy walk from the top of the mountain. I remember passing all those sheeps that 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 I would be right now if the weather was against me! It was even hard to imagine that!

GENERAL ADVISE FOR hiking Glencoaghan – you should be prepared for steep and rocky terrain, as well as some scrambling in sections. Proper hiking gear, including sturdy hiking boots, layered clothing, waterproofs, plenty of water, snacks, and a map and compass, are essential for this challenge. 

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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’s probably too steep to climb it, but it’s also a private property). I took left well ahead of the mountain, toward the valley and through 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.

Benlettery mountain - IMPORTANT NOTICE.

Hiking Gleancoaghan Horseshoe Loop anticlock wise way, Benlettery would be last mountain on your way. It’s very important to know Ben lettery is a private property and there is no permission for public to walk over the mountain and  surrounding farm land. Most hikers would probably not be aware of this fact, but walkers cause many issues on the farms: damage of fences, anilams disruption and cause biosecurity isuues. The land owners are extremely kind people, so please try to be respectful toward their work, private nature space and help them avoid all those problems: try not to disturb fauna and flora life 😉 and avoid fenced territories. 

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 (last – the private one).

What to bring hiking Glencoaghan:

  • 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
  • maps

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.

Explore Connemara National Park.

Glencoaghan Horseshoe Loop is only one of many stunning hiking and walking trails in Connemara National Park. This whole protected Wildlife Service area is a part of the Wild Atlantic Way, most routes would treet you with stunning mountain views and pieceful nature landscapes.

Visitor Centre is located near Letterfrack Village, check the website for more information:

You cannot visit Connemara without seeing the magnificent Kylemore Abbey and its victoria gardens– a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara.

Kylemore Abbey – a Benedictine monastery

Looking for exceptional adventures - Check most scenic hikes in Ireland!

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!