Reaching Benbulben


Benbulben, Co Sligo

Reading Roger Garland’s letter (September 27th) reminded me of an unpleasant incident about 20 years ago.

My wife and I were leading a group of young French walkers in the Sligo area. One day we climbed onto the rough grazing land of the Benbulben plateau, to be confronted by a foul-mouthed, angry farmer telling us in no uncertain terms to clear off.

The French visitors may or may not have visited Ireland again but this type of behaviour hardly encouraged them or their friends. Nor would they be encouraged to know that this could happen anywhere in Ireland, not just in this area.

That was the situation on access to the countryside then and it is the situation now. Nothing has changed.

In stark contrast to other European countries, landowners have absolute rights over their lands, no matter how unused, no matter how remote. With untold damage already caused to our tourism interests (among others) one would expect the State to do something other than sit on its hands. Some hope!

David Herman,


Access to Benbulben (Irish Times letters page)

Previously: Missing Sligo?

Pic: Active Me

44 thoughts on “Reaching Benbulben

  1. Gabby

    Under bare Benbulben
    Yeats got laid.
    Cast a cold eye on life on death
    Horsemen and tourist hillwalkers pass by.

        1. Chuckenstein

          There are doubts that the remains at Drumcliffe are those of Yeats. Could very well be in France.

          1. Gabby

            Spurious doubts were cast in 1966 when the remains of Roger Casement were exhumed from Pentonville Prison and laid to rest in Glasnevin, after a solemn state funeral. Some wags said they were the remains of poisoner Dr. Crippen. Oscar Wilde rests in Cimetière du Père Lachaise in gay Paree, not too far from where the mortal remains of Edith Piaf rest. Nous ne regrettons rien.

  2. Fact Checker

    This same letter-writer has written dozens of missives on exactly this topic over the years.

    Nonetheless he is quite right. It’s a uniquely Irish combination of:
    -Extreme constitutional protection for property rights
    -Many small landholdings (legacy of Land Acts)
    -EU subsidies for land that would otherwise be unused

    Tourism is probably more beneficial economically than farming in many parts of Ireland now.

    The Mayo Greenway has been a huge draw for tourists and I believe they are waking up to the idea in other places now too.

  3. badatmemes

    You don’t have to be a farmer on the top of a mountain to shout at tourists, but it helps.

      1. Frilly Keane

        he was a Carpenter tho
        waddn’t he?

        oh, maybe he was a Shepard
        ara I dunno
        wasn’t there talk about him been a Healer too at one stage

  4. Jimmey Russell

    agreed, the government needs to take the lands back from these uneducated yokels and give it back to the people

  5. MoyestWithExcitement

    It’s a bit surprising that someone would act surprised that a man might get territorial over his property. But yeah, there’s certainly a conversation to be had over land rights.

    1. badatmemes

      Tell anyone that you own a farm on a mountain.
      Some of them will laugh.
      Some of them will worry.
      One or two might ask you about goats…

      …just sayin’…

  6. $hifty

    I’ll never be able to understand people’s indignation at the fact that they cannot do what they want with other people’s property.
    Would you let a load of French tourists walk around your back garden?
    Why should the farmer, then?
    Because there’s a better view?

    1. shitferbrains

      Except there’s hardly an inch of Ireland that’s not owned. Got the worst public spaces in Europe , and the average Irish farmer wants to look out of his window and see nothing except a Fresian eating Italian ryegrass; no wild animals no trees, nothing. And woe betide you if you should walk on ” his ” road and look over ” his ” hedge , he’ll jump into his poverty stricken 4 X 4 and hare off after you to see what you’re doing. He’ll never mention the fact that his income is coming from the public purse though.

      1. Gabby

        You won’t see any 4 X 4 vehicles on Benbulben. Sheep hill farmers don’t make much money in the west and north-west of Ireland. As a sticker on the rear window of motor cars used to say:

    2. ahjayzis

      My back garden isn’t acres of unenclosed wilderness.

      Other people’s property we pay them thousands a year in EU social welfare to maintain.

      1. Cian

        I’m not sure if that is a good enough reason. Should we be allowed to walk through the houses of people who have social housing just because we pay thousands a year in social welfare to maintain them?

        I think there needs to be some change to make it easier to access these spaces.

        1. ahjayzis

          It’s not a reason, it’s a counter-argument. They’re not feudal barons who exist separate and above the rest of us landless peasants. In the 21st century there shouldn’t be a problem with us dispossessed going for a walk across undelineated, uncultivated land because someone inherited a piece of paper saying he is it’s master.

  7. Harry Molloy

    w@nker farmer meats w@nker hill walker.

    One of the above or a combination of the two are true.

    1. Harry Molloy

      There’s others where they aren’t paid to maintain walks but do it for a sense of community pride. Depends on the farmer I suppose.

  8. badatmemes

    ‘GERROFF MOI LARNDD’, seems to work overseas.
    -Failing that, ‘I haz two dawgs,an wan o’ dem has a shotgun’ usually does the trick.

    Surely I’m not the only one who thinks this will work?

    1. badatmemes

      Actually, I’m not stupid.
      This is all about magic mushrooms, isn’t it?

      You’re fooling nobody, so-called ‘farmers’.

  9. Truth in the News

    Is there any connection with this letter writer and an objection to the building of a
    dwelling near Colaney Co Sligo some years ago, it would seem ironic if an individual
    wants to walk on a farmers land, yet opposes the building of a house.

  10. Murtles

    I know said shouty farmer was nicknamed “The Bull”, don’t know if he’s still around. However when David and the French went off hillwalking on Ben Bulben they probably got their information from the tourist office at the time which had an unofficial route map on how to get up the mountain. Nothing was ever agreed with the land owners and The Bull and others understandably got a bit pished off when dozens of wandering tourists plodded through their lands leaving gates open, scattering livestock and scaring them with dogs (why walkers feel their dog needs to go up a mountain is beyond me, leave the mutt at home for once).

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