Bouldering in Ireland

Bouldering in Ireland is not just about Glendalough there are plenty of other areas spread around the country. Climbers have recently only started hunting out boulders on the hills and shores.If you want the best bouldering in the world go to Fontainebleau, Ireland will never match that, it has something different to offer; scenery, history, solitude, wild places and the odd boulder here and there.

Looking for bouldering will take you off the beaten track and give you a different perspective on some of Ireland most famous landmarks and tourist attractions. For more information about all these areas download the bouldering guide

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AreaRockNumber of problemsDescription
DublinLimestone/Granite110Portrane and Bullock are coastal, Dalkey is best for routes. Three Rock is on the south edge of the city.
WicklowGranite300All hilly areas; mostly in the valleys that converge at Laragh.
DonegalMostly Granite 160Centred around three areas, the Bluestacks Mountains, Gweedore and Inishowen.
Connemara Granite/Limestone/Sandstone 90A few small areas in Killary harbour in the north; the relatively unexplored area of Derryrush; and the limestone of the Aran Islands.
MournesGranite50?Granite bouldering with long walk-ins in a hilly setting.
FairheadDolerite20?Boulders in the scree below the extensive crag.
SligoLimestone/Granite30?Aughris Head is good, though needs the right conditions.
Other areasLimestone/Granite/Gabbro/Sandstone?Either little-explored or of local interest only.

East

Dublin


Lan Mara, photo by Diarmuid Smyth

Portrane on the north side of Dublin is not far from the airport. It has about fifty problems on smooth limestone. Its quite sheltered from any strong wind and being low lying is a good alternative on marginal days to the mountainous areas in Wicklow.

Three Rock is one of the north most of the Dublin mountains. On top surrounded by radio masts are about a dozen problems on very rough granite with excellent views over the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
AreaRockWalk inNumber of problems< 4+5 - 6c+> 7a Weather
PortraneSmooth limestone1 min5510405Some areas are tidal, can be greasy
Dalkey QuarryQuarried granite1 min206140Sheltered quarry
Bullock HarbourRough granite1 min201460Sea cliffs, mostly non-tidal
Three RockVery rough granite15 mins uphill on a good track14770Very exposed hill top at 450m

Wicklow


Glenmacnass, photo by Dave Flanagan

Electic Mountain, photo by Diarmuid Smyth

Wicklow has the greatest concentration with Glendalough, Glenmacnass, Glendasan, Lough Dan, Mall Hill, Lough Bray.

For more information about Glendalough check out the other article, it is enough to say that Glendalough is without a doubt the best bouldering area in Ireland.

Glenmacnass is on par with Glendalough, it has about eighty established problems and a lot more to do at all grades. Glenmacnass is hard work but it is very rewarding. The walk in is long, about 45 minutes, and the ground can be quite boggy. However there is an upside. The valley is beautiful and very isolated there will be on one else for miles. The boulders stretch along the hillside below Mullaghcleevaun, the third highest mountain in Wicklow. Some classic problems worth mentioning include The Rasher Traverse, Tombstone Arete, Solidarity (Solidarity was the only Irish problem in Simon Panton's list of the top 50 problems in the British Isles), Full Irish, Le Joker and Fiontar.

Glendasan valley just north of Glendalough is home to Ireland's hardest problem, Darkness before the dawn (8a+) which was climbed by John Gaskins a few years ago and tackles the steep face of the Tank boulder. Just roadside in Glendasan is St Kevin's Slab (6a) a pristine line up the middle of the razor cut slab, Ireland's Science Friction.

Lough Dan, Mall Hill and Lough Bray are all smaller venues well worth a visit. Mall Hill in particular has the best granite in Wicklow and is only a few minutes from the road and is quite sheltered.

AreaRockWalk inNumber of problems< 4+5 - 6c+> 7a Weather
Lough BrayVery rough granite10 mins on boggy path, up and downhill 15393Quite sheltered at 450m
Lough DanRough granite30 mins on good track, up and downhill (one river crossing)305250Sheltered hillside at 250m
GlenmacnassRough granite45 mins, quite muddy, slightly uphill 80104010Exposed hillside at 450m
Mall hillGranite5 mins including stream crossing4010 2010Sheltered felled hillside 250m
GlendasanGraniteFrom 1 to 20 mins uphill20585 Exposed hillside at 300m
GlendaloughGranite25 mins on flat track110355520Valley at 150m

North

Fairhead, Mournes

Fairhead and the Mournes are probably best known for their trad routes and rightly so. The North Tor of Slieve Binnian in the Mournes has a good reputation as a bouldering venue however it is something of an unknown quantity, if you are curious be ready for a Himalayan approach.

Donegal


Carrickfinn, photo by Dave Flanagan

Burtonport, photo by Dave Flanagan

Donegal has two good concentrations of bouldering Inishowen in the north and Gweedore in the West. Inishowen has two venues Dunaff Bay and Rubonid Point, both coastal. Gweedore is a granite coastline with a few areas close together. Carrickfin is a great dome on a sandy beach near Donegal Airport. The coastline around in this area is packed with small coves and inlets and there is a huge amount of climbable rock here both routes and problems. Polldoo Glen deep in the middle of the Bluestacks Mountains is worth a mention for Split Arete alone, this highball slopey arete at around 6b is an awesome line on an awesome boulder deep in the middle of nowhere.

AreaRockWalk inNumber of problems< 4+5 - 6c+> 7a Weather
Barnesmore GapGranite2 mins8350Valley at 200m
Polldoo glenGranite20 mins17980Exposed hillside at 300m
Malin BegQuartzite2 mins12660Non tidal rock platform
Muckross HeadSandstone5 mins010100Non tidal rock platform
CrollyGranite1 min347270Low level
Cruit/BurtonportGranite1 min+92+70Tidal beach
MullaghdooGranite10 min191054?Non tidal rock platform
CarrickfinGranite1 min264211Partially tidal beach
Dunaff BayGranite1 min283250Tidal beach
Rubonid PointDolerite5 mins325270Non-tidal, beside the sea

West


The Chief in Derryrush, Photo by Jenny Halford

In the area surrounding Killary Harbour on the border between Galway and Mayo is a few minor areas all close to the road that make for an interesting day exploring.

Derryrush is a tiny village in the middle of the bog between Galway City and Clifden. Happily the bog is scattered with granite boulders sadly the going can be extremely boggy and some of the rock sharp but the Chief boulder, the largest boulder in Connemara, is worth a look.

The Aran Islands are three solid lumps of limestone about ten kilometres off the coast of Galway. In theory offering endless potential the reality is that the majority of the rock is too sharp to boulder on enjoyably however one exception has been found so far, The Wormhole. Named after a huge rectangular hole eroded out of a nearby tidal platform, The Wormhole is a section of limestone cliff between two and four meters high and one hundred meters long. The rock is great, far enough from the sea to be dry be near enough to be smooth and solid.

Further north in Sligo is Aughrish Head. Not far from the surfing village of Easkey, Aughrish is a sheltered cove surrounded by steep wave smoothed limestone walls. The problems are very physical and there is nothing slabbier than vertical. Its an atmospheric place especially on a stormy day when the waves are shifting the rocks on the beach. You can enjoy the views across Donegal Bay towards the huge cliffs of Slieve League and Glencolmcille while you are resting between burns on one of the many steep squeezey problems.


Inis Mor, photo by Eoin Lawless

AreaRockWalk inNumber of problems< 4+5 - 6c+> 7a Weather
BarnaQuarried granite1 min192143Low lying
Inis MorRough limestone10 mins276210Exposed rock shelves
DerryrushRough granite1-5 mins13940Low lying
Jim's NookMudstone10 mins7331Non-tidal beach
Prehistoric BoulderSandstone5 mins4310Low lying
LeenaneGritstone5 mins5050Low lying
BundorraghaGritstone1 min3120Low lying
DelphiCobbled Gritstone5- 20 mins12750Exposed hillside at 150m

South


The gap of Dunloe, photo by Dave Flanagan

The south of Ireland is not as blessed with established areas as the rest of the country that is not to say that there isn't loads to be found so this is a chance to leave your mark. A good place to start exploring would be the mountains on the Cork/Kerry border.