Twelve Bens facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsTwelve Bens (Twelve Pins)
|Irish: Na Beanna Beola; the peaks of Beola|
View of the range from Roundstone village.
|Elevation||729 m (2,392 ft)|
|Area||161.3 km2 (62.3 sq mi)|
|English translation||The peaks of Beola|
|Language of name||Irish language|
|Location||Connemara, County Galway, Ireland|
|Provinces of Ireland||Connacht|
|Topo map||OSI Discovery 37, 44|
|Age of rock||Precambrian-Cambrian|
|Type of rock||quartzites, grits, graphitic|
The Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins (Irish: Na Beanna Beola; the peaks of Beola) is a mountain range of mostly sharp-peaked quartzite summits and ridges located in the Connemara National Park in County Galway, in the west of Ireland. The widest definition of the range includes the Garraun Complex to the north as well as several isolated peaks to the west, and is designated a 16,163-hectare Special Area of Conservation.
Topographically, the range is partnered with the Maumturks range to the east of the Inagh valley (a Western Way route); and both share a common geology being largely composed of metamorphic marine rocks, being predominantly resistant quartzite but with deposits of schists in the valleys (known as Connemara Dalradian rocks). The highest point is Benbaun at 729 metres (2,392 ft). The range is a popular location for hill-walking activities with the 16–kilometre 8–9 hour Glencoaghan Horseshoe (Irish: Gleann Chóchan), considered one of the best ridge-walks in Ireland.
"Ben" an anglicized translation of the Irish language word "Binn", meaning "peak". According to Irish academic Paul Tempan, "An odd thing about the Twelve Bens of Connemara is that nobody seems to know exactly which are the twelve peaks in question", and noting that there are almost 20 peaks with "Ben" or "Binn" in their name. Tempan notes that term "twelve peaks" can be at least dated to the Irish historian Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh, whose writings in 1684 said: "On the north-west of Ballynahinsy [Ballynahinch], are the twelve high mountaines of Bennabeola, called by marriners the twelve stakes [stacks], being the first land they discover as they come from the maine [sea]", but he did not list them.
The most common list of the twelve peaks in question are the peaks with an elevation above 500 metres in the core range, and that are not considered subsidiary peaks (e.g. they have a non-trivial prominence, and have been traditionally noted as peaks on historic maps, per Twelve Bens § Notes below).
Tempan notes the issue of "twelve" does not arise in the Irish language name as they are simply labelled "Na Beanna Beola", which translates as "the peaks of Beola". Beola was a leader of the Fir Bolg, and a giant; his name appears in the Connemara village Toombeola, or Irish language "Tuaim Beola".
The Twelve Bens range is a core massif of 22 peaks above 100 metres in elevation, centred around the highest peak in the range, Benbaun 729 metres (2,392 ft). To the north of this core massif lies the separate subsidiary massif of the Garraun Complex with 9 peaks around Garraun 598 metres (1,962 ft). To the west of the core massif lies 7 other isolated or subsidiary "outlier" peaks, thus giving a total of 38 Bens with an elevation above 100 metres.
While the Bens are not as high as those of the ranges in Kerry (e.g. MacGillycuddy's Reeks and the Mountains of the Dingle Peninsula), their rocky peaks and ridges contrast with the surrounding sea-level landscape (unlike Kerry, there are no mountain-passes in Connemara), and give the range an imposing feel.
The range is bounded by the Inagh Valley and the R344 road to the east, while the N59 road (or, the "Clifden Road"), circles and bounds the core massif (and most of the outliers), from the southerly, westerly and northerly directions. The Garraun Complex lies to the north of the N59 road at Kylemore Lough.
The 22 peaks in the core massif of the Twelve Bens range naturally split into three sections:
- Southern Bens, 12 southern Bens form a horseshoe around the Glencoaghan Valley, and include the 7 major Bens of: Derryclare, Bencorr, Bencollaghduff, Benbreen, Bengower, Benlettery, and Benglenisky; and 5 subsidiary Bens of: Bencorr North Top, Benbreen Central Top, Benbreen North Top, Binn an tSaighdiúra, and Bencorrbeg; and
- Central Bens, 7 central Bens that sit along a large east-west ridge with Benbaun at its centre, and include the 4 major Bens of Benbaun, Benfree, Muckanaght, and Bencullagh; and the 3 subsidiary Bens of Knockpasheemore, Maumonght, and Maumonght SW Top; and
- Northern Bens, 3 northern Bens that lies on the small massif of the major Ben of Benbrack, and include the 2 subsidiary Bens of Knockbrack and another smaller peak called, Benbaun; just beside the Northern Bens lies the outlier Ben of Diamond Hill.
The core massif is also known for its deep glaciated U-shaped valleys, around which groups of Bens lie in a "horseshoe formation":
- Glencoaghan: most southerly valley from which the Glencoaghan river flows; the Glencoaghan Horseshoe is a major hill-walking route in Ireland;
- Owenglin: western valley from which the Owenglin river flows; the Owenglin Horseshoe is also a noted hill-walking route;
- Gleninagh: eastern valley from which the Gleninagh river flows; contains Carrot Ridge, an important area for rock-climbing;
- Polladirk: north-westerly valley from which the Polladirk river flows; a popular scenic view from Diamond Hill is into this valley;
- Glencorbet: north-easterly valley from which the Kylemore river flows; the Glencorbet Horseshoe is a popular route in the Bens.
The core massif of the Twelve Bens range are largely composed of metamorphic marine rocks, being predominantly resistant quartzite but with deposits of schists in the valleys (known as Connemara Dalradian rocks).
These rocks derive from sediments that were deposited in a warm shelf sea some 700 to 550 million years ago (e.g. Precambrian-Cambrian). Movements in the earth's crust, and the closure of the Iapetus Ocean, transformed these sediments into crystalline schists that lie underneath the base of the mountain range, which local erosion and uplift then brought to the surface. The summits of the core massif (and some outliers) are made of weather-resistant quartzite, while the sides of the peaks are composed of schists and grey marbles.
In contrast, the mountains to the north of the core Twelve Bens massif, the Garraun Complex, have a different type of geology, that is composed of gneiss and different forms of sandstones and mudstones.
The final Ice Age, circa 10,000 years ago, also sculpted the landscape leaving behind deposits of sand and gravel; there are widespread boulder-clay and erratic boulders across the range.
Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
The entire Twelve Bens range (including the Garraun Complex) is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) (Site Code:002031), as selected for a range of habitats and species listed under the Annex I / II of the E.U. Habitats Directive. The items of note on the SAC habitats list includes: Oligotrophic Waters, Alpine Heaths, Active Blanket Bogs, remnants of Oak Woodland, Rhynchosporion Vegetation, and Siliceous Scree and Rocky Slopes; while the species list includes: Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Atlantic Salmon, Otter, and Slender Naiad. In addition, the 16,163-hectare site includes a some of the rarer Red Data Book species of plant. The SAC directive on the range describes it as "One of the largest and most varied sites of conservation interest in Ireland".
The range is popular with hill walkers, fell runners, and rock climbers,
The Irish Times outdoors correspondent, John G. Dwyer, said of the Twelve Bens, "These are true kickass mountains, with criminally stunning views [..]".
The 16–kilometre 8–9 hour Glencoaghan Horseshoe (Irish: Gleann Chóchan) is noted as providing some of the "most exhilarating mountaineering in Ireland", and is called "a true classic" by guidebook authors. Other similar distanced "horseshoe" loop walks are the 19–kilometre 10–12 hour Owenglin Horseshoe, the 15–kilometre 8–9 hour Gleninagh Horseshoe, and the 14–kilometre 6–7 hour Glencorbet Horseshoe.
However, an even more serious undertaking is the 28–kilometre Twelve Bens Challenge, climbing all 12 Bens in a single 24-hour day.
The Twelve Bens have a number of rock climbing locations, the most notable of which is in the Gleann Eighneach valley at the eastern spur of Benncorr (from Binn an tSaighdiúra to Bencorrbeg; also called "Carrot Ridge" Irish: Meacan Buí). The climbs vary from Diff (D) to Very Severe (VS) and range from 150 metres to 320 metres in length, with notable routes being Carrot Ridge (275m D), and Seventh Heaven (330m HS).
In addition, the large easterly corrie between the summits of Derryclare and the summit of Bencorr, known as Irish: Log an Choire Mhóir (meaning "wood of the big corrie"), also contains several large 200 metre multi-pitch graded rock climbs at grades of Diff (D) to Very Diff (VD), the most notable of which is The Knave (VD, 225 m); and the smaller corrie between the summit of Bencorr and the summit of Bencorr North Top, known as Irish: Log an Choire Bhig (meaning "wood of the small corrie"), has a number of shorter but harder climbs including Corner Climb (VS 4c, 30 m).
List of peaks
The following is a download from the MountainViews Online Database, who list 38 identifiable peaks in the wider Twelve Bens range (i.e. core massif, Garraun complex, and various outliers to the west), with an elevation, or height, above 100 metres (328 ft)
The list below highlights the 12 Bens most associated with being the Twelve Bens from Ó Flaithbheartaigh's original record. Of the standalone "Bens" (e.g. not listed as a "Top" of a parent Ben) that are over 500 metres (1,640 ft) in height but are not listed in this 12, Binn an tSaighdiúra has a prominence of only 8 metres and would not qualify as an independent mountain on any recognised scale (the lowest prominence is 15 metres for the Vandeleur-Lynam classification); Maumonght does have a prominence exceeding 50 metres, and even has a subsidiary peak (Maumonght SW Top), however, Maumonght rarely appears on historic maps of the range and is not considered a "Ben"; Bencorrbeag also has a non-trivial prominence of 42 metres, however, it is considered unlikely given its positioning that it could have been distinguished by mariners from the sea (Ó Flaithbheartaigh's original premise).
One of the original Twelve Bens; equated to all non-subsidiary peaks in the core massif with height above 500 metres (1,640 ft)Marilyn: Any height, and prominence over 150 metres (492 ft).
|Name||Irish Name (if different)||Translation||Area||Height
|1||1||Benbaun||Binn Bhán||White Peak||12 Bens - Core||729||684||2,392||2,244||37||L786539|
|2||4||Bencorr||Binn Chorr||Pointed Peak||12 Bens - Core||711||306||2,333||1,004||37||L812522|
|3||10||Bencollaghduff||Binn Dubh||Black Peak/Peak of Black Hags||12 Bens - Core||696||191||2,283||627||37||L798530|
|4||11||Benbreen||Binn Braoin||Braon's Peak||12 Bens - Core||691||186||2,267||610||37||L783515|
|5||38||Bencorr North Top||—||—||12 Bens - Core||690||5||2,264||16||37||L809524|
|6||31||Benbreen Central Top||—||—||12 Bens - Core||680||25||2,231||82||37||L781520|
|7||16||Derryclare||Binn Doire Chláir||Peak of Derryclare||12 Bens - Core||677||129||2,221||423||37||L815510|
|8||35||Benbreen North Top||—||—||12 Bens - Core||674||16||2,211||52||37||L784522|
|9||9||Bengower||Binn Gabhar||Goats' Peak||12 Bens - Core||664||196||2,178||643||37||L783507|
|10||12||Muckanaght||Muiceanach||Hill like a Pig||12 Bens - Core||654||179||2,146||587||37||L767541|
|11||37||Binn an tSaighdiúra||—||Peak of the Soldier||12 Bens - Core||653||8||2,142||26||37||L811528|
|12||24||Benfree||Binn Fraoigh||Peak of the Heather||12 Bens - Core||638||48||2,093||157||37||L778544|
|13||14||Bencullagh||An Chailleach||[Peak of] The Hag/Witch||12 Bens - Core||632||154||2,073||505||37||L756537|
|14||23||Maumonght||Mám Uchta||Pass of the Breast/Ridge||12 Bens - Core||602||54||1,975||177||37||L749539|
|15||2||Garraun||Maolchnoc||Bald Hill||Garraun Complex||598||553||1,962||1,814||37||L767610|
|16||36||Benchoona East Top||—||—||Garraun Complex||585||15||1,919||49||37||L766616|
|17||7||Benbrack||Binn Bhreac||Speckled Peak||12 Bens - Core||582||264||1,909||866||37||L766558|
|18||28||Benchoona||Binn Chuanna||Peak of Cuanna||Garraun Complex||581||36||1,906||118||37||L763617|
|19||21||Benlettery||Binn Leitrí||Peak of the Wet Hillsides||12 Bens - Core||577||62||1,893||203||44||L775495|
|20||26||Bencorrbeg||Binn an Choire Bhig||Peak of the Little Corrie||12 Bens - Core||577||42||1,893||138||37||L816533|
|21||29||Garraun South Top||—||—||Garraun Complex||556||31||1,824||102||37||L763606|
|22||32||Garraun South-West Top||—||—||Garraun Complex||549||21||1,801||69||37||L755607|
|23||8||Doughruagh||Dúchruach||Black Stack||Garraun Complex||526||211||1,726||692||37||L751594|
|24||33||Doughruagh South Top||—||—||Garraun Complex||525||17||1,722||56||37||L751592|
|25||25||Benglenisky||Binn Ghleann Uisce||Peak of the Glen of Water||12 Bens - Core||516||48||1,693||157||37||L766501|
|26||27||Benbaun (477 m)||Binn Bhán/Maolán||White Peak||12 Bens - Core||477||42||1,565||138||37||L765568|
|27||30||Maumonght SW Top||Binn Bhreac||Speckled Peak||12 Bens - Core||454||29||1,490||95||37||L744534|
|28||5||Diamond Hill||Binn Ghuaire||Guaire's Peak||12 Bens - Outlier||442||277||1,450||909||37||L732571|
|29||22||Knockbrack||Cnoc Breac||Speckled Hill||12 Bens - Core||442||55||1,450||180||37||L749565|
|30||34||Knockpasheemore||Binn Charrach||Rocky Peak||12 Bens - Core||412||17||1,352||56||37||L807557|
|31||3||Tully Mountain||—||—||12 Bens - Outlier||356||331||1,168||1,086||37||L673611|
|32||6||Letterettrin||Binn Mhór||Big Peak||Garraun Complex||333||268||1,093||879||37||L796620|
|33||15||Cregg||—||—||12 Bens - Outlier||297||142||974||466||37||L715524|
|34||20||Currywongaun||Corr Uí Mhongáin||Uí Mhongáin's Hill||Garraun Complex||273||109||896||358||37||L731596|
|35||18||Townaloughra East Top||—||—||12 Bens - Outlier||216||112||709||367||37||L688541|
|36||19||Gortrumnagh||(unknown)||(unknown)||12 Bens - Outlier||174||110||571||361||37||L628516|
|37||13||Maumfin||Mám Fionn||White Pass||12 Bens - Outlier||172||157||564||515||37||L647588|
|38||17||Knockaunbaun||An Cnocán Bán||White Hillock||12 Bens - Outlier||146||128||479||420||37||L605596|
Twelve Bens Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.