With the wonderful weather we’ve been having, this weekend’s night time walk on Ben Bulben should be even more spectacular than usual. Now in its 7th year, the walk is led by the Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team (SLMRT) and is the group’s main fundraiser for the year. The event will most likely sell out early, so pre-booking is advised.
For people who want to try out hiking as a pastime, this is a great first step. Not only will you access one of Ireland’s most iconic mountains led by a team of experienced guides, you will also get to do so at night, which is both unique and rewarding.
Emer Knowles is an environmental scientist living in Strandhill, and is taking on the night time walk for the 4th time. “I’ve walked Ben Bulben by day and by night, and definitely night time is much more dramatic. The first year we did it, I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s an incredible sensory experience. Because you can only see as far as your head light will allow, you notice things you don’t really see in the day like the shadows on the cliffs or the lights away in the distance.”
Emer will be one of over 100 walkers who will do the night time walk on Saturday. Another is Áine Herlihy, originally from West Cork, and who moved to Sligo 7 months ago. She is looking forward not only to the walk itself, but also what it represents.
“I’ve not had the opportunity of climbing Ben Bulben before, and there’s something extra special about doing so with a group of people and for such a great cause. The SLMRT provide invaluable service to the community, and this is a small way of supporting the service. None of us know when we might need their assistance.”
Áine and Emer will be among the many people who will gather at 7pm at Oxfield GAA complex near Carney on the evening of the walk on Saturday. There, the walkers will be briefed and divided into groups, before taking a bus as far as Luke’s Bridge, from where the walk will begin. The first group will start the walk at 8pm, the other will follow afterwards. Each group will be accompanied by a number of guides.
The walkers start by road, heading towards Ballintrillick Bog. They cross the bog – the underfoot conditions can be soft, even in this dry weather, so ensure you wear hiking boots – and begin the summit to the mountain. There, they will head across as far as the trig (highest) point before, weather permitting, they walk towards the headland to enjoy spectacular views across towards Sligo and Donegal.
Alan Sayers, a member of the SLMRT, hopes that because of the good weather, this year’s event will be one which will enable the walkers to enjoy spectacular views.
“The weather is, as usual, the great imponderable factor, it is fair to say that we have experienced everything from biblical downpours to warm African winds, this year we are of course very hopeful of clear conditions, people love to be above the cloud line and to be able to enjoy a clear panorama, fingers crossed.”
People travel from far and wide to do the Ben Bulben night walk. To encourage youth participation, reduced rate tickets are also available for U16s, who must be accompanied by an adult. It’s suitable for all ages and levels of fitness, and a member of the SLMRT will stay with anyone who needs a little more time to complete the walk. Last year, 2 inspirational ladies travelled all the way from Limerick to take part – Íde, aged 75, and Clara, aged 82, and, according to Alan, “they walked up into the clouds and were the life and soul of the party.” Others travel from around Ireland, even from the UK to take part, as well as from all over Sligo and neighbouring counties.
You can register for the walk as an individual or with a group of friends. Either way, you are bound to meet up with plenty of other like-minded people on the mountain. So for a night to remember register now at www.sligoleitrimmrt.ie or find them on Facebook. You’ll also find all of the information needed there on what to bring, as well as suitable clothing and footwear.
For details on all walks in Sligo, visit www.sligowalks.ie.