Gleniff Horseshoe – A getaway

Aside from Bundoran, the Gleniff Horseshoe in north county Sligo is my favourite place in the world. First introduced to it by my parents when I was smaller, the horseshoe brings back lots of happy memories. Now it’s my getaway for a walk, some quality time with my niece and nephews, me time for podcast listening or just a drive if i need to get away for a half hour.

The Gleniff Horseshoe is a 9km looped drive in a valley of mountains. Tievebaun and Truskmore to the left and the back of Benbulben and Benwiskin to the right. It is located off the main N15 road between Bundoran and Sligo. Coming from Bundoran, take the left turn at the crossroads just after Creevykeel court cairns. Taking the right will bring you to Mullaghmore Head.

As you get closer, the mountains get bigger and you wonder if you’re going in the right direction. Don’t worry – you are! Entering the horseshoe drive there’s a short distance to the parking area. Immediately to your left is the old Barytes mill. Barytes (used in the manufacture of glass, paints, china, wallpaper and pre-Xray barium meals), was mined here until the middle of the 20th century.


Here, there are two nice trails into the woods – indeed the one on the right of the road will bring you to the other side of the horseshoe.

The view out to Donegal Bay from the trail at the Gleniff Horseshoe
The view out to Donegal Bay from the trail at the Gleniff Horseshoe

There’s also a really cool sculpture and fairy trail behind the barytes mill!

Fairy Trail at Gleniff Horseshoe
Fairy Trail at Gleniff Horseshoe
Sculpture Trail at Gleniff Horseshoe
Sculpture Trail at Gleniff Horseshoe

As you drive on round the horseshoe, you’ll first come to the “magic hill”.  This is a hill that’s so magic, that your car will reverse up a hill on its own. Apparently!!


Further around to your left, you’ll see a large mast on Truskmore mountain. This is the main communications hub for the entire north west area. It’s from where we receive all terrestrial radio and television transmissions for the area as well as housing other mobile phone and emergency towers. It certainly is an important mountain! The land is private property and not accessible by the public.

The mast at Truskmore handles many of the communications antennae for the north west.
The mast at Truskmore handles many of the communications antennae for the north west.

You’re now about half way around but the best is yet to come!

The wow moment

As you continue around the southern end of the horseshoe, you’ll start driving through forestry. In a few moments, you’ll turn a corner. There you’ll be greeted by this view!

The Gleniff Horseshoe
The Gleniff Horseshoe

Impressed? I knew you would be! It really is a moment to stop the car and just stand and take it all in. Obviously there’s lots of photo opps too! Back in the car, drive around 400 metres until you get to a ruined building.

The old schoolhouse at the Gleniff Horseshoe
The old schoolhouse at the Gleniff Horseshoe

This is an old schoolhouse and provides another great photo opportunity. As you stand in front of this, look high up to your right. There you’ll see “Diarmuid and Grainne’s Cave”.

Diarmuid & Grainne's cave at the Gleniff Horseshoe
Diarmuid & Grainne’s cave at the Gleniff Horseshoe

The horseshoe’s most famous residents

I had included a short synopsis of the story of Diarmuid and Grainne but then I came across this account from my friend Paul which I think sums it up nicely!

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A few photos from the schnow about a month ago up on the Gleniff horseshoe. Diarmuid and Grainne’s cave can be seen in the first one. What’s the schorey with the cave I hear you say?..Well Fadó,Fadó in hÉireann, Grainne was betrothed to Fionn McCumhaill,who was a bit of a legend in his day but well past his prime by the time Grainne came on the scene. Grainne had eyes for another and legged it wesht of the Shannon with a strapping young Fianna warrior by the name of Diarmuid. They escaped to the cave at the top of the horseshoe where they were both mauled and eaten by a hibernating bear.


Fionn was heartbroken on hearing his beautiful bride to be had been eaten and swore to reap a terrible vengeance on the bear. He jumped on his magical white horse,Tír na nÒg, and galloped,flat to the mat, up to the cave at Gleniff. Fionn was old,but the bear had a terrible case of indigestion and was badly out of shape having spent the winter lying about scratching himself in a cave. Fionn caught him lovely with a sneaky uppercut and dragged him by the ear as far as Mullaghmore pier. He then shipped the bear off on a voyage with St Brendan who happened to be heading to America from Mullaghmore that same evening and…

Bears banished

That’s how Fionn MacCumhaill banished all the bears from Ireland. Nearly sure that’s how it goes anyway…🤔 Disclaimer: Story may or may not have been entirely or partially fabricated whilst bored on a bus journey 🐻 #truestory#notawordofalie#gleniff#sligowhoknew#gleniffhorseshoe#mywildatlanticway#ireland_gram#irishlegends#bestofsligo#irishcentral#irishpassion#mountainphotogaphy#sligo#mullaghmore

A post shared by Paul G (@polg33) on


A pleasant drive will return you to the start of the horseshoe drive. Hopefully you’ll feel refreshed and invigorated!

Check out the drive in 12 minutes below!

Check out other top attractions in the locality here

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