Rock Climbing Adventures in County Donegal
The county of Donegal on the North West tip of Ireland boasts two major Irish mountain ranges, over thousand kilometres of coastline, one hundred sea stacks and many diverse climbing locations from the mudstone roofs at Muckross in the South West of the county to the Granite slabs of Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point, there is a wealth of diverse and unique climbing venues throughout the length and breadth of the county.
Donegal currently plays host many lifetimes worth of world class rock climbing in some of the most beautiful and unspoilt places in Ireland.
The scope for further exploration and the opportunity to discover unclimbed rock is unlimited, as there is an unexplored adventure waiting through every mountain pass and around every remote headland, rock climbing venues, routes and unclimbed rock than the rest of Ireland combined. There is a wealth different types of climbing venues found throughout Donegal from easy accessible road side venues though to huge mountain cliffs found high in the remote Donegal mountains. B&B Ireland Adventure Seekers Bed and Breakfasts in Donegal offer specialist services to cater to the needs of Rock Climbers such as storage and drying rooms, packed lunches and much more.
With over 2250 recorded rock climbs on over 150 cliffs including Irelands highest sea stack, Irelands longest rock climb, the highest mountain cliff in Ireland and Irelands highest recorded ice climb, Donegal plays host to many adventurous locations for both the exploratory expert rock climber and beginner alike.
The Islands of Cruit, Arranmore, Gola, Umphin, Owey and Tory provide many lifetimes worth of outstanding sea cliff climbing and between them are home to a further 20 or so, superb Granite sea stacks. These islands are a step back in time with an idyllic setting, unchanged in many ways as the rest of civilisation marches with modern pace, with each of these islands providing many lifetimes of unclimbed rock.
Cruit Island, in the heart of the Rosses, provides over 300 rock climbs on its many immaculate granite sea cliffs and separating these sea cliffs are some of the most beautiful sandy beaches it is possible to imagine. All the crags on cruit are less than 5 minutes walk from the car and provide excellent single pitches routes mostly in the V.Diff to HVS grade range. Download the free rock-climbing guide to Cruit Island and go and explore this beautiful island.
The West Coast
Stretching the length of Western Donegal is An Ghaeltacht, an area of outstanding natural beauty, a place where the rugged granite mountains meet the untamed Eastern Atlantic Ocean. Scattered along this coastline in some of the most beautiful and remote locations in Ireland live a collection of truly outstanding sea cliffs and Sea Stacks.
An Port, one of the most remote, beautiful and unspoilt places in Ireland. This lonely rugged coast stretches from Glencolmcille in the south to Maghera in the East of the county. The gentle rolling uninhabited uplands of Slievetooey mountain provide the backdrop for this 30 KM stretch of 200m high quartz sea cliffs. To be found either side of the An Port road end is 30 of the most inaccessible and outrageous sea stacks it is possible to imagine.
End’s of the Earth Crag
At the most remote tip of the Slievetooey peninsula in one ofIreland’s most remote locations, sits the End’s of the Earth crag, a perfect 40m hanging slab of quartz. There are currently 14 recorded routes up to HVS, with all the routes being worth at least 2 stars and a very real feeling of being totally and utterly alone. This crag is best visited during an angry south west sea as there is a perfectly located blowhole at the high water mark which creates large explosions of salt spray as the big sets roll in.
Ireland’s Longest Rock Climb
To the south of An Port sits the Sturrall Headland living equidistant from Glencolmcille village to the south and the Port road end this is the mother of all ridges. The Sturrall Headland is an extremely inaccessible and foreboding place to visit. Access is by a steep scary scramble and a wee 300m sea passage deep into the realms of chaos.
There are over 100 sea stacks dotted along the Donegal coastline providing over 150 recorded climbs to their summits. Many of the stacks found along this coast will require you to use considerable nautical, vertical and spiritual guile, to reach the summit of these beasts. An adventurous spirit and a sense of humour are essential components of a day in the company of Neptune, Gaia and the forces of nature.
For truly awesome climbing in a mind blowing location Cnoc Na Mara and the twin summits of An Bhuideal just to the North of An Port road end are both equal in their quality to a couple of very famous Old Men found north of the Scottish border.
Cnoc na Mara is an iconic and truly outstanding sea stack, when I first saw this 100m sea stack from the overlooking clifftops it was the inspiration to make the first ascents of all 100 of Donegal’s unclimbed sea stacks. It is safe to say this stack represents all that is great about adventure climbing. It’s impressive soaring 150m long landward arete provides one of the most rewarding and adventurous rock climbs in Ireland. It is easily an equal to the mighty Old Man of Hoy off the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland.
Access is by a monsterous steep grassy descent followed by a 20m abseil to a storm beach at the entrance to Shambala. As you descent this steep slope sitting out to sea Cnoc na Mara grows with height as you descend reaching epic proportions as you get closer to to beach. Gaining the beach alone is an adventurous undertaking in it’s own right and is an excellent taster off what is to come. From the beach paddle out for about 120m to the base of the stack.
The Landward arete is climbed in four pitches each pitch being much more atmospheric than the last. The fourth pitch is the money shot, a 58m ridge traverse with 100m of air either side of you as you negotiate the short steep sections along this outstanding ridge traverse.
Gaining the summit is like being reborn into a world where anything is possible it truly is a surreal and magical place to be. The whole world falls away below and around you, as you are perched on a summit far from anything else. This sea stack requires a great deal of care and attention to detail as the potential for epics are huge but the rewards are even greater.
An Bhuideal sits approximately 1.5km north of An Port and is quite simply an iconic sea stack. It’s twin summits provide three rock climbs that have few equals in the country. It is easily an equal to the much better known Old Man of Stoer off thenorth west of Scotland.
The slender North tower, which looks like an old fashioned milk Bottle from the sea, provides one of the most exposed and scary rock climbs in Ireland. The summit feels like it sways slightly as you sit on it. The abseil off this summit is not for the faint hearted as it is incredibly exposed and relies on a summit cairn as the primary anchor.
The peninsula of Inishowen represents Donegal’s entire climbing scene in a much smaller land mass. With the centre of rock climbing activity concentrated around Culdaff Village with over 200 recorded routes on the road side crags and sea cliffs around this extremely scenic isolated village. Further down the coast from Culdaff at Kinnego Bay lives a an excellent collection of sea stacks and further sea cliff climbing.
At http://www.uniqueascent.ie/ we have spent the last 5 years exploring the better and lesser known climbing locations thoughout the county and have developed and recorded over 500 new routes in all areas of Donegal. We have explored and developed the Island of Cruit, recording over 300 rock climbs making Cruit Island the most developed rock climbing location in Ireland. We have played on the previously unclimbed sea stacks creating some of the most adventurous and atmospheric rock climbs in the country.
What we offer at Unique Ascent is the opportunity for people of all abilities to visit and climb in places of outstanding natural beauty where solitude and a truly great outdoor experience is guaranteed. We offer a full range of experiences, courses and holidays with the goal of maximizing your potential and knowledge by building on your previous experience and knowledge. Our goal with every client is to educate, instruct and guide you to allow you to reach, achieve and fulfil all your rock climbing ambitions.