Ireland has a rich diversity of traditional (trad) climbing on different types of rock from granite, sandstone and quartzite, as well as some conglomerate and limestone cliffs. There is climbing on sea cliffs and in the mountains often in the most beautiful parts of Ireland. This coupled with almost guaranteed solitude makes Ireland a great place for a rock climbing holiday.
The map opposite shows the main rock climbing areas in Ireland, though there are many other smaller venues. The best and most popular climbing areas are at Ailladie, Fair Head, the Mournes Mountains, Glendalough and Dalkey Quarry, all of which are described in more detail below.
Main Rock Climbing areas in Ireland
|No||Crag||Rock Type||Single or Multi Pitch||Setting|
|8||Gap of Dunloe||Sandstone||Both||Valley|
|9||Dun Seanna Head||Sandstone||Single||Sea Cliff|
|12||South West Donegal||Quartzite||Both||Sea Cliff|
|13||North West Donegal||Granite||Both||Sea Cliff|
Ailladie is an 800m long limestone sea cliff, and is considered one of the best crags in Ireland. The rock is generally rough but solid, with the majority of the routes following corners or thin cracks. The best routes are graded at E2 and above, but are generally well protected especially with nuts. Whilst this is a sea cliff some of the routes are non-tidal.
However the title of the best rock climbing area in Ireland definitely goes to Fair Head. This dolerite crag stretches for over 5km, and hosts over 400 routes, that range from single pitch to multi-pitch up to 90m long. The rock is steep and the best routes start from the VS/HVS grade range, with many of the routes in the E grades. The majority of the classic routes follow well protected corners and cracks, whereas the harder routes tend to be on blank walls where the protection is not as plentiful. Below the crag is an extensive boulder field with around 500 boulder problems.
The Mourne Mountains contain well over 20 different climbing areas and over a thousand routes. The Mournes are Ireland’s largest mountain climbing area with many of the crags in remote areas requiring a long walk-in. The exceptions to this are the crags at Pigeon Rock and Hen Mountain. The granite rock is well weathered and there are plenty of routes across a wide range of grades.
Donegal in Northwest Ireland is home to huge variety of rock climbing with everything from sea cliffs, and sea stacks, to islands and the mountains. The area is famous for its sea cliff climbing and includes around 100 sea stacks, over 1,000km of coastline and some great islands such as Gola. In additional there are mountain crags, some of which are with a 20 minute walk from the road to the others that provide a great days adventure with their committing walk-ins. The type of rock found in Donegal varies from Quartzite to granite and has a wide range of single and multi-pitch routes. The rock climbing in Donegal guidebook covers a selection of the best 1,000 routes in Donegal and is available to buy from our shop.
The bouldering at Glendalough near Wicklow is probably the best bouldering area in Ireland (though the bouldering at Fair Head is also very good). The bouldering is on good quality granite rock with around 150 problems.
Dalkey Quarry is one of the most popular climbing areas in Ireland due to its close proximity to Dublin, and for an urban quarry the climbing is surprisingly good. The granite rock in general is solid with mainly single pitch routes.
To view a larger photograph showing the variety of rock climbing to be found in Ireland, please click on the thumbnail images.
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Read Iain Miller’s article describing the beautiful, remote and unspoilt rock climbing that is found in in Donegal. Read more…