Rock Climbing Around Carrick
BY
Iain miller

Carrick Village sits in the centre of a stretch of coast line that provides some of the best sea cliff, sea stack and adventure climbing available in Ireland. On this 500KM stretch of Atlantic freeboard starting at Muckross in the south and following this dramatic coastline past Slieve League, Malinbeg, Glencolmcille, Port and continuing around to Maghera Village there are over 400 recorded rock climbs of all grades of difficulty from very easy to the very difficult XS graded climbs.
 This stretch of coastline provides many life times of rock climbing for all levels of rock climbing ability and with an almost unlimited amount of still unclimbed rock in the area, the opportunity for any visiting climbers to make Donegal climbing history by climbing new rock everyday of their visit is a very real proposition.   

Muckross

Muckross Head is a very unusual crag composed of horizontally bedded sandstone interspersed with thin bands of mudstone that have been eroded faster and have produced the characteristic overhangs that make the rock climbing here excellent. The climbing is in the main steep and strenuous and although the rock is generally excellent, the last meter for so along the top of the crag does require a wee bit of care. 

The grade range of the routes is from Diff to E7, with the vast majority of the routes above E1, so bring strong arms with you. At high tide with a heavy South West sea rolling in, the platforms at the base of the crag can become submerged very quickly.

Muckross Head at Sunset

Download the Muckross Head Climbers guidebook here.

 Sail Rock

Sail Rock is an 80 meter high Quartzite sea cliff which forms the East facing wall of a huge scooped out amphitheatre. There are currently eight recorded rock climbs on the wall from a very amenable "Roaring Forties" at VS 4c to a very hard "Castaway" at E6 6b. All the routes on the wall are excellent and well worth doing but it is the route called "Main Mast" at E2 5b/c which climbs the central fault of the wall which sees the most ascents by far and is regularly called "The best route in Ireland."

Base of Sail Rock


Sail Rock, Rock Climbing

Download the Sail Rock Climbers Guidebook Head.

Malinbeg

 The sea cliffs at Malinbeg have been climbed on since the late 1970’s by both national and international visiting climbers. The sea cliffs along this coastline provide excellent climbing on immaculate quartzite, with easy access and large sea level ledges. Like many of the sea cliffs of the county it sits well within the rainshadow and avoids most of the wet weather as an added bonus the sea breezes mean the chance of the dreaded midgies is very low.
 It is possible to climb here all years round, but prior checking of winds, tides and swell are well advised as during large South West motion the sea can crash green right over the tops of the cliffs especially at the northern end of the venue

Download the Malinbeg Climbers Guide Here

Skelpoonagh Bay

Zawn 1, North Wall


Zawn 4 South Wall

Sitting in the lonely and beautiful Glencolmcille area of South West Donegal, Skelpoonagh Bay provides excellent sea cliff climbing in 5 shelter zawns. The 5 zawns each provide a very different climbing experience from each other, from vertical walls in zawn 1, exposure in zawn 2 and superb slab climbing in zawn 4. Descents are by steep scrambling with very few of the crag bases having tidal issues. This area comprises of a series of zawns situated on the inconspicuous grassy headland between Glencolumbkille village and Glen Head. These zawns offer varied and excellent climbing each with its own character, and the routes tend to have a more serious feel than those at Malin Beg. Abseil stakes are in place where necessary. For the climber not yet moved into the extreme grade, these zawns will provide exciting and adventurous routes with a good selection up to HVS There is a lot of rock here for new routes. There is an independent youth hostel and campsite on the hill above the Folk Village, and a cafe in the village serves great pots of tea and lots of sticky buns during the tourist season.

Download the Skelpoonagh Climbers Guide here

An Port


Donegal Sea Stacks


Glencolmcille Bay

An Port, one of the most remote, beautiful and unspoilt places in Ireland. This lonely rugged coaststretches from Glencolmcille in the south to Maghera in the East of the county. The gentle rolling untamed hillsides of Slievetooey provide the backdrop for this 30 KM stretch of 200m high quartz sea cliffs. This stretch of coast is home to 30 of the most inaccessible and outrageous sea stacks it is possible to imagine. 


At the most remote tip of the Slievetooey peninsula in Ireland’s most remote location, sits the End’s of the Earth crag, a perfect  40m hanging slab of quartz. There are currently 14 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.
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. 


The ridge it's self is approximately 800m long starting at the sea ward tip and travelling landward over the summit and along the ridge to where the headland joins the mainland.


There are over 40 sea stacks dotted along its coastline providing over 70 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.
Many of the stacks have access issues in the form of 200m loose sea cliffs overlooking and guarding access to them, followed by varying length of sea passage across truly atmospheric seas. Prior planning is essential including a forensic study of the previous week’s wind and swell forecasts.
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 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 is a 50m twin summated sea stack which 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 the north west of Scotland.
The Western freeboard of County Donegal is prone to very large seas rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean due to the North Atlantic Drift tide stream. A thorough and comprehensive knowledge of both the sea and rock climbing best practice is essential for a safe ascent and return from these very special locations.

Download the Donegal Sea Stack Guide here

And

Visit the Online Donegal Climbers Guide here

 

Iain Miller is a rock climber living, working and climbing in Donegal. For more information on the rock climbing and hill walking available in Co Donegal visit. http://www.uniqueascent.ie/