Bouldering in Glendalough

Glendalough (The glen of two lakes) is a beautiful valley filled with granite boulders, about one hours drive south of Dublin in the Wicklow Mountains. The bouldering is centred on the old mining village above the upper lake on beautiful coarse granite. There is more than one hundred problems from scrambling to desperate 8as, with quality spread throughout.

Diarmuid Smyth on one of the path side boulders.

The walkin is a pleasant twenty five minute ramble through the pine trees beside the upper lake, you turn a corner and you see the boulders tumbled down the side of the valley, there are thousands I suppose, never counted, and it can be a shocking sight first time. The walk to the mining village is very popular with tourists and hikers so be prepared to answer lots of question about your bouldering mat.

A visitor here for a day or two will only need to focus on the most accessible boulders and truth be told they are the best however there are some interesting problems to be found in the scree.

The combination of the beautiful setting, good selection of classic problems and easy access from Dublin make Glendalough the most popular bouldering area in Ireland.

For detailed topos download the Bouldering guide to Ireland by right clicking and selecting "Save Target As..."

.doc 1.9 Mbs

.pdf 1.4 Mbs



When to visit

An old dicarded millstone beside the Upper Lake.

The trick is get a balance between the cold conditions of the winter and the slightly more reliable weather and longer days of Summer (in late June the sun sets at half ten and in late December the sun sets at four). Hence Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit. Midgies start appearing in late May and disappear around late September but they are only a problem on humid still summer evenings. Due to the steep valley walls the sun doesn't reach the valley floor from early November till the start of March.

The annual Irish Bouldering Meet which is on the first weekend in Marach based in the IMC hut in Glendasan is a good time to visit.

While only at 150 meters the valley can be a funnel for wind and cloud coming from the mountains above. If a shower sweeps in its well worth sitting it out in one of the many caves, if there's a decent wind, the rock will dry in minutes on many of the problems.

The Dublin/Wicklow mountain rescue site has a good forecast specifically for Glendalough. Met Eireann is best for more general forecasts for all of Ireland.




The An Oige youth hostel in Glendalough is on the road to the boulders, its plush beds are around EURO20 a night however it can be busy at weekends so it would be wise to book in advance. Another good option is the not so plush Irish Mountaineering Club Hut in Glendasan Valley this costs EURO7.50 a night and you will need a sleeping bag. Both the hut and the hostel are about forty minutes walk from the boulders. There are loads of B+B and a few hotels in the area if you want a bit more luxury, see here for a list.

Getting here

Scots pine line the path along the lake.

To get to Glendalough from Dublin Airport using public transport, take the Aircoach to the City Centre (EURO12 return) then get the St Kevin's Bus to Glendalough (EURO16 return). St Kevin's Bus leaves Dublin twice each day around noon and in the evening and returns from Glendalough to Dublin each morning and afternoon.

It can be handier to bring your own car on the ferry from Holyhead. Look out for special offers on fares on the following websites:

Irish Ferries Dun Laoghaire/Dublin Port - Holyhead
Stena Line Dublin - Holyhead
PO Irish Sea Dublin - Liverpool
Norse Merchant Dublin - Birkenhead







From Dublin airport take the M50 ring road south to the N11 and follow this for about twenty kilometres then turn left at Kilmacanogue (back over the overpass) for Glendalough. Follow the signs for Glendalough through the villages of Roundwood and Annamoe, after the bridge in Laragh turn right, go past the hotel and park in the carpark where the road ends. Follow the path along the north side of the upper lake after about twenty minutes the boulders will come into view.


A pad and a spotter are useful on all problems and essential on some. Don't bring a wirebrush, a nylon brush and some elbow grease will suffice even on new problems. Insect repellent might be useful in the summer and lots of warm clothes for the winter. If you are planning doing any hiking or exploring good boots and a map of Wicklow (sheet 56) are useful.


There are over a hundred problems in Glendalough. The potential for more is obvious and its possible to scramble around the scree and find a new problem whenever the whim takes you.

One of the advantages of glendo is the density of the bouldering, its possible to start at the Ruins and boulder ones way up the valley for about a kilometre without touching the ground.

The established problems are mostly in the range from Font 4 to Font 7 as this is the range that most of the locals operate in. There are plenty of easier and harder new problems to be done.

The style of climbing is technical, the holds are slopey and the angle is usually close to either side of vertical with some steep starts.

To help the visitor focus their attention here is a list of the classic problems:

Original route



This is one of the first problems you see when you enter the Ruins area. In wet weather, the ground around the Ruins boulder can get very marshy.


Upper Path.


A lock from the jug to the slopey groove and then a worrying rockover. You will be sure to attract curious stares from the walkers. Like Original Route this problem was done "back in the day" by the real climbers on their way to the crag.

The Rails

Lower Path.


A long reach from the rail to a slopey sidepull. The Nu Rails to the right is a more modern sitstart.

Problem No. 2

Big Jim.

Possibly the most popular problem in glendo, delicious smearing and weird undercutting. Very falloffable.

The Plum



This is just left of Original Route. The slopey ramp leads to a selection of slopey edges then rock up and hope you don't fall off onto that big wedge of granite right below you.

Problem No. 6

Big Jim.


Two slopey sidepulls lead the way on this one move wonder. Andy Harris recently added a sit start to this.

Arete Right Of The Fin



Crap name, great problem. Technical, balancy arete climbing. A small area with great views down the valley, nice grass to laze on and excellent problems.


Upper Path.


Steep roof in the scree just behind the Uberhang. Start as far back as you think is reasonable and pull through the slopeyness.


Lower Path.


Jump from the sidepulls on the underside of the roof to the lip, then try and try and hold the vicous??? swing. Easy to say hard to do. Superswinger takes the flake to the right.

Cuppa Chub

Upper Path.


Highball a fingery start and steady after that. The landing is a sloping patch of grass.

Andy's Arete

Big Jane.


Lots of different sequences for this one. Andy Crome on a visit from the UK did the first ascent. The groove to the left is excellent with a very hard sitstart first done by John Gaskins.

Problem No.6

Upper Path.


This slightly overhanging face is right on the path. The sitstart is powerful and sustained. The top section can be solved in a few ways the thuggish (and tall) jump past all the holds the rest of us climb.

The Fin Sit start



A really hard morpho first move slap to the sloper. First ascent Michael O'Dwyer.

Dec Tormley on The Original Route (right).
Ped McMahon on the back of Big Jim.
Diarmuid Smyth on The Plum.
Ped McMahon on the arete of Big Jane.
Al Sharan on Andy's Arete.
Diarmuid Smyth on Original Route.
Dave Flanagan on the arete beside the Fin.