Benbulbin & the Dartry Mountains
Looking south to Benbulben’s tabletop from the megalithic court cairn at Gortnaleck near Grange. There are many megalithic structures, mainly court cairns and wedges, scattered around the base of the Dartry Mountains. A ruinous court cairn is located about 2.5 km north of here back towards Benwisken. The bare patch in the left side of the mountain is known locally as the Fairy Door.
Benbulbin / Ben Bulben / Benbulben (Binn Ghulbain – “Gulban’s Peak”or “jaw-shaped peak”) (526 m / 1,726 ft), a large rock formation in the Dartry Mountains, supposedly named after Conall Gulban, a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, is Knocknarea’s only rival for the most dramatic mountain in County Sligo. It’s steep buttressed western extreme and flat top looms over the road from Sligo to Donegal like a huge mythological beast. The hulking outline of Benbulben is visible from all around Sligo and it dominates the landscape to the north of the county.
Benbulben is but one section of a range called the Dartry Mountains, named after an iron age tribe who inhabited the area. The other heads and peaks of Dartry are Kings Mountain, with it’s fantastic Pinnacle Gully, Truskmore, which is the highest part of the range, now crowned by a series of tele-communications masts, Benwisken, a beautiful ridge shaped like a frozen wave. The highest cave in Ireland, Diarmuid and Grainne’s cave is located at the top of the cliffs at the rear of the beautiful Horseshoe valley behind Benwisken. Tievebawn has another cave, Cormac Reagh’s Hole, high up on it’s slopes.
Originally a large ridge, its present shape is the result of moving glaciers during the last Ice Age.
The Dartry Range is composed of limestones on top of mudstones. These rocks formed in the area approximately 320 million years ago. Uppermost in the limestone layer is a thicker, harder limestone called the Dartry Limestone Formation. Below this is a thinner transitional limestone formation – the Glencar Limestone Formation. Further down, the lower slopes consist of shaly mudstone known as the Benbulben Shale Formation. Scree deposits are found near the base. Fossils exist throughout the layers of the mountains. All layers have many fossilised sea shells. The shale layer also holds some corals.
Barytes was mined at Glencarbury near Benbulbin in the Dartry range between 1894 and 1979.
Benbulbin, viewed from The Hill in Sligo Town
Benbulbin is an established climbing destination. If climbed by the north face, it is a dangerous climb. That side bears the brunt of the high winds and storms that come in from the Atlantic Ocean. However, if climbed by the south side, it is an easy climb, since that side slopes very gently. Upon reaching the summit, the climber is rewarded with a magnificent view of Yeats Country. The land adjacent to the impressive western edge of the ridge is privately owned farmland and not accessible to the general public. However, there is a paved path up the south face to the east near Glencar Waterfall just over the County Leitrim border.
Flora and fauna
Benbulbin hosts a unique variety of plants, including some organisms found nowhere else in Ireland. Many are arctic-alpine plants, due to the mountain’s height, which allows for cooler temperatures than is normal. These plants were deposited when the glaciers that created Benbulbin melted. Wild hares and foxes inhabit Benbulbin.
In 2012, research revealed that the Fringed Sandwort had survived the Ice Age and is perhaps 100,000 years old. In Ireland the plant is unique to Benbulbin. The discovery calls into question the prior consensus that Ireland’s flora and fauna date from or after the end of the Ice Age.
In Irish history
Another view of Benbulbin’s northern side, this time from a farther distance.
Benbulbin is the setting of many Celtic legends. It is said to be the dwelling of the Fianna, a band of warriors who lived in the 3rd century. One example is a story in which the warrior Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (Diarmuid) is tricked by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) into fighting an enchanted boar, which later kills the warrior by piercing his heart with its tusk. The mountain is said to be Diarmuid and Gráinne’s resting place. Also, in the 6th century, St. Columba led 3,000 soldiers up Benbulbin to fight for the right for the saint to copy from a Psalter he had borrowed from St. Finnian.
Irish Civil War
On 20 September 1922, during the Irish Civil War, an Irish Republican Army column, including an armoured car were cornered in Sligo. The car was destroyed by another armoured car belonging to the Irish Free State’s National Army, and six of the IRA soldiers fled up the Benbulbin’s slopes. In the end, all were killed, allegedly after they had surrendered. They are known as the “Noble Six”.
Brigadier Seamus Devins TD, Div. Adj. Brian McNeill, Capt. Harry Benson, Lieut. Paddy Carroll, Vols. Tommy Langan and Joe Banks were those killed on the mountain. The six anti-treaty fighters were hunted down on the slopes of Benbulbin and put to death by Free State forces which were out to avenge the killing of Brigadier Joseph Ring eight days earlier. Two of those killed and Ring were ancestors of current and recent politicians: Ring is the grand uncle of Michael Ring, McNeill is the uncle of former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell and Devins is the grandfather of Jimmy Devins. Mary O’Rourke once narrated a radio documentary telling how her grandmother’s home was used as a safehouse.
Benbulbin’s northern side.
Another photograph of the northern side.
As seen from the south.
Benbulbin, with Sligo Bay in the foreground.
An eastern view.
A section of the north face of Benbulbin.
The summit of Benbulbin.
A snowy Benbulbin, seen from Streedagh Strand.
Taken on the N15, north of Sligo town, near the townland of Shannoneighter.
During World War II there were two plane crashes in the Dartry mountains close to Benbulbin.
On 9 December 1943, a USAAF Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress plane (en route from Goose Bay, Labrador to Prestwick, Scotland) crashed on Truskmore just east of Benbulbin. 10 airmen were aboard, of whom three died, two at the scene and one from injuries sustained in the crash. Local residents undertook a rescue mission, taking the injured off the mountain where they were then transferred to Sligo County Hospital. Substantial wreckage of the plane stayed on the mountain for many years following the crash and today limited amounts of aircraft fragments still remain at the site.
Near the location of the Flying Fortress crash, there was an earlier crash also involving a military aircraft. On 21 March 1941, an RAF Catalina flying boat (AM265) using the Donegal Corridor crashed into the mountain at Glenade, Co. Leitrim on the east side of Truskmore. All nine airmen aboard died in the crash.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Sinn Féin had engaged in a slogan campaign around the theme ‘Brits out of Ireland’. Roads and walls throughout Ireland had been marked with these slogans as was Benbulbin in 1977. It was marked first with ‘Brits Out’ (180 ft wide and 25 ft high) and then later with the slogan ‘H-Block’.
Benbulbin overlooks the village of Mullaghmore, the site of the assassination of Lord Mountbatten in 1979.
Andy “The Bull” McSharry, involved in a famous 17-year-long dispute over his land, lives near Benbulbin.
Benbulbin features prominently in the poetry of W. B. Yeats, after whom Yeats Country is named.
This was Yeats’s final poem, published in The Irish Times. He is now buried in nearby Drumcliffe Churchyard
Grange (Irish: An Ghráinseach, meaning “The Granary”) is a village on the N15 national primary road in County Sligo, Ireland.
A short distance to the north are the towns of Ballyshannon – which has links with Tony Blair, Rory Gallagher and Bram Stoker among others – and Bundoran, known as a seaside resort and surfers’ paradise. An even shorter distance to the south are Drumcliff, burial place of poet and Nobel laureate W. B. Yeats, and Sligo, responsible for gifting the world three quarters of Westlife.
Located in a scenic area between Ben Bulben mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, Grange cannot itself match the achievements of its neighbours. However, its one claim to fame is as the birthplace of Lola Montez – dancer, courtesan and mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s the village experienced a period of rapid expansion. The population quickly grew – eventually exceeding 100 people – and the number of houses and businesses increased exponentially into double figures, leaving a legacy of ghost estates, mass unemployment and badly structured transport links.
2012 was an eventful year for the locality. Grange was briefly featured in the national news when someone discovered early 20th century Mills type 36 grenades at a private residence in the village. An army team descended on the locale and exploded the grenades. Grange then made national news in August that year when local farmer Brian Barber had 105 of his herd of sheep stolen in one swoop. The sheep were Cheviots and Mayo horned ewes combined, and a number of red markings were reported on each. That same month, the road going through the village had some work done on it, prompting serious traffic delays, numerous angry motorists and media coverage.
Two shops are located in the vicinity; SuperValu is the main store in the village, and Londis is located at the Texaco petrol station just outside the village. A third shop, Rooney’s, which sold newspapers and buckets and spades, has shut down since the recession hit.
Grange is also less than ten minutes from Freeze Frame Productions studio. FFP specialize in all aspects of film and video production, including Music videos, Weddings, Events, Festivals, Commercials, Sport, Concerts, Promotions, Interviews and anything else you feel needs a video solution. www.freezeframeproduction.com
Food is served at three locations in the area: Lang’s Bar and Restaurant has more recently been joined by Chinese restaurant The Emperor, and Riva fast food restaurant and takeaway outlet. Wheeler’s, another restaurant, was hit by the recession and is no more.
North Sligo Sports Complex is located in the village, close to the Post Primary School. The complex has an indoor soccer pitch, also used for badminton and basketball. There is a squash court, racquetball court and changing room facilities and meeting room in the complex. Outside the complex there is a running track, where North Sligo Athletic Club meet (as well as at Oxfield Sports Centre), a grass soccer pitch and an all weather soccer pitch. There was also a community park, now converted to a playground. At the north end of the village is a pitch, Molaise Park, where local Gaelic football teams train and play. The local GAA club celebrated its centenary in 2007.
There are two schools in the village, a church, church hall, post office, hardware store, laundrette, tile and bathroom store, tap store, barber shop, beautician and others. Among the pubs scattered throughout and around the village are Barry’s, Lang’s, Moran’s, Waters’s 
The local Roman Catholic priest is Christy McHugh, who has replaced the Very Rev Cyril Haran in recent years.
The village has no resident police officers but is served by Sligo Town gardai.
Streedagh is a townland of Grange, the location of a sandy beach and an area of Special Conservation. Three Spanish Armada ships – La Lavia, La Juliana and the Santa Maria de Vison – were lost off Streedagh in 1588, and this is commemorated by a monument close to the beach. One of the survivors, Captain Francisco de Cúellar, recorded the events of the time in detail. He documents his shipwreck at Streedagh, the subsequent events ashore, and his attempts to find hospitality from local chieftains (O’Rourke and McClancy) in the then English garrisoned North Sligo, as he made his way back to Spain via Antrim and Scotland.
Streedagh Strand was where storm-driven ships of the Spanish Armada wrecked in September 1588 were uncovered by marine archeologists in 1985. Streedagh is a great place for walking or horse riding.
North Sligo is home to Ireland’s largest flock of Barnacle geese. Over 3,000 geese leave north-east Greenland each year to spend winter on the Sligo coastline. Scores of the geese can be seen retuning to roost on Inishmurray Island each evening after a day spent grazing on the mainland.
Cliffony & Mullaghmore
Tullaghan (Co. Leitrim)