The Glencorbet Horseshoe, 12 Bens, Connemara

Glencorbet, at the northern end of the 12 Bens range in Connemara, Co. Galway, does not immediately inspire like it’s southern counterpart, the Glencoaghan horseshoe. And whilst on a sunny day Glencoaghan will attract many hikers, you can find relative solitude to the north.

Glencorbet, like all the glens here, was formed by scouring glacial processes during the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, and is currently drained by the Kylemore river, which flows into the lough of the same name. Here you will find the well know tourist destination of Kylemore Abbey, with its Victorian gardens and well stocked tea rooms.
Not for us today, though, as we seek the quieter and more solitary slopes of the hills that overlook the lough.
On the grassy, northern flank of Glencorbet
The route starts on the northern flank, up wet slopes of mountain heath and grasses to the beginning of the ridge at the modest Minnaumore. From here we follow the ascending broad crest to a final pull to our first top, Benbaun. This is not the Benbaun that boasts to be the highest point in Galway, that comes later, but a hill of lesser stature using the same name, masquerading if you will.
From here you can look down to Kylemore Lough and the abbey, the cars on the distant road and the milling visitors unaware that they are being observed.
Now we are turning south, over rockier ground, and climbing through bare pale grey quartzite outcrops to reach the summit of Benbrack. On this day the cloud was low, barely above our heads and this gave the mountain a Mordor like feel, dark and somewhat foreboding.
Benbrack in low, glowering cloud.
From Benbrack we must descend 260 metres to the grassy col that separates Benbrack from Muckanaght, an imposing pile of rock with steep ascents all round, much of the route here is on steep grass and in wet weather it should be approached with a good deal of caution.
Another descent to another col before a grassy ramp leads to the long rocky and scree strewn pull up to the summit of Benbaun, the big fella this time, and at 729 metres, (2392 ft.), the highest point in Galway. (Now I know my American readers will think this a bit odd that I describe a mountain of this modest altitude as a ‘big fella’, but round these parts that’s respectable, and the route does start at around 40 metres above sea level).
Benbaun summit looking north towards Benbrack
By now we had clearing skies and magnificent views of the rugged ramparts of Bencollaghduff and the mountains to the south, Bencor and Benbreen. These craggy tops form the headwall of Glencoaghan, most often climbed from the south as part of the horseshoe of that name.
Our route now takes us down over boulder, rock and scree, as we head east on the southern flank of Glencorbet. The scree gives way to grass, heath and eroded peat hags along a gently descending and narrowing ridge, before we reach the outcrop of Knockpasheemore, and the end of the horseshoe.
Bencollaghduff from Benbaun
A step grassy descent north is followed by the crossing of the valley floor, a precarious undertaking in wet weather, but dry enough in July, where we find a conveniently placed foot bridge over the Kylemore river, and a short hike back to our starting point and waiting transport.
Though maybe modest looking on the map, this is a fine outing with several re-ascents during the day and some difficult terrain for the less experienced.

As with all mountain routes, treat it with respect, and pick a day when you can enjoy the superb views.

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Kate

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