The unimaginable happened this weekend. Curiosity stirred by photos and accounts of our recent walks finally won over my teenage daughter, who announced that she wanted to see what all this hill walking malarkey was about. Praying for sunshine, we chose Benbulbin as a suitable challenge for an unfit, inexperienced teenager, hoping that the limestone topography might inspire her to greater heights in her geography Leaving Cert!
As we approached the towering, deeply scoured walls of the Benbulbin massif from the Mullaghnaneane Crossroads, she announced that they resembled the knuckles of a clenched fist and looked about as welcoming! We parked the car at D (G70300 46791)
just across a small concrete bridge then picked our way across a flat boggy area once cut for turf, heading for a waterfall tumbling down from the lowest point of the plateau above. Climbing steeply upwards alongside the waterfall to the incessant trilling of a skylark and amid mutterings such as “I can’t believe you two do this for fun”, clumps of greenery and rocks she would usually trample underfoot suddenly became of infinite interest, a good excuse to pause for breath. We photographed the Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage, Hares-tail Cottongrass, Common Dog-violet and excellent examples of crinoid fossils in the limestone.
Once on the plateau we headed towards Kings Mountain, a truncated version of Devils Tower in Wyoming, past what she correctly identified as swallow holes, and through a mazy run of eroded peat hags, to race up the slopes to the summit. The views towards Lough Gill, Sligo Town, the Ox Mountains and distant Nephin Begs are enchanting, but she was equally engrossed by our debate about the accuracies of the summit co-ordinates as the GPS and OS map did not seem to agree: parental infallibility, she always knew this was a lie!!
Descending, we struck out across undulating ground towards Benbulbin Head, a promontory of rock that resembles the prow of a great battleship ploughing hard into the oceanic realms of the setting sun. Even my sandwiches, crusts and all, were as delicious as the landscape here in Yeats Country. Poetry flowed spontaneously from lips more accustomed to rap and hip hop…
And so on to the summit of Benbulbin, traversing the tops of cliffs offering stomach churning views down precipitous gullies. OS pillar kissed and summit bagged, we bore SE to descend steep ground at E (G69554 46256)
above the Glendarragh Valley. Emboldened by her day’s achievements, my teenage couch potato became a gazelle, bounding over the little terraces created by soil creep to beat me to the bottom where we picked up a rough track leading back to the car. Her beaming smile at my endorsement of her first 10km walk will linger in my mind hopefully as long as her memory of the cliffs of Benbulbin; no longer a clenched fist, but transformed into a giant mammoth’s tooth, fantastical, ancient and mysterious in the fading sun. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/402/comment/4680/