So if we want to help save the planet we're not meant to fly, and we're not meant to drive... but we still want to go climbing abroad, so what do we do? I recently went on a weekend trip to Dalkey quarry in Dublin, and even though the aim wasn't to be environmentally sound, we used public transport (aside from driving to Holyhead port), which provides one solution to the question. So this article serves two purposes – to outline the logistics behind a climbing trip to Dalkey Quarry using public transport, and to inspire readers to branch out a little further afield to somewhere you might not otherwise have thought of visiting (okay, so it's not as abroad as Indian Creek, but it's not the Peak District).
The word 'quarry' can often turn some people off (hope you got this far!), me included, but Dalkey is much more appealing than most. It's very green at the base, in fact it's like a maze of narrow paths, and some points taking you through head-high gorse. The rock type is granite, so makes a change from the quarries in this country, which in my experience are predominantly limestone, grit or slate. It's pretty large being split into three areas (West Valley, East Valley and Upper Tier) and also has a huge variety of routes – slabs, cracks, chimneys, steep blocky overhangs, you name it. It certainly seems to have a large draw, because as we wondered around, we bumped into as many European foreigners (French, Germans etc) as we did Irishmen. You get a nice view too, over Dalkey town, and across the bay to Dublin.
Dalkey town itself is also quite appealing, with a small number of things to keep you amused, including a castle and plenty of eateries.
Transport and timings
We travelled through North Wales in the early hours, and parked our car in the long stay at Holyhead, it's £5 per night but if you're arriving in the morning and leaving just after midnight the next night, it's still only £5 (it's per complete night, not per day).
A short minibus trip later saw us dreary eyed onboard the Stena line ferry Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire departing at 08:55 and arriving at 10:34 (1hr 39m duration) and costing £44 for two. I don't know how much environmentally friendly (or not) ferries are, but I'm sure it must be better than flying.
For accommodation there's plenty of choice in B&B's, plus one in Dalkey, but you'll need to book in advance to ensure you get in. We'd booked into Connaught House B&B, which is a five minute walk from ferry port / train station / buses. I would recommend it for the relaxed, friendly and helpful owner and the very comfy bed. An en suite double room cost us 70€.
After checking into the B&B, we jumped on a train (the Dart) to Dalkey at 11:15, which took about ten minutes. It's 5€ return for two people, and the last train back is about 23:30. Trains are fairly regular (it's a bit like our tube, i.e. stopping at all stations, but doesn't travel underground), a timetable can be obtained from the station (or from the B&B).
It's then a ten minute walk from the train station to the quarry. Go over the bridge, follow a wiggle in the road left then right, then follow it round to the right. Note - Cunningham Drive is *not* a cut through as shown on google maps, but turn left onto Dalkey Avenue then there's a paved alleyway (Ardbrugh Close) that goes practically straight to the quarry.
We were on first route by midday, starting off in the West Valley. There are numerous slabs in the lower parts of the quarry with routes spanning a large grade range, then these are interspersed with blocky routes offering interesting moves. To add to that there's a wide variety of cracks - cracks up slabs or cracks up blocks, corner cracks, there's even steep cracks too.
We climbed 'til the sun set, had dinner in Dalkey, then got the train back to the B&B. I forget the time of the last train back, it's within an hour of 11pm just can't remember which side of it!
Sunday saw us a fraction more awake than the previous day, consuming breakfast at the B&B at 7:45am then packed up all our stuff and headed back to the quarry for day two. There wasn't a train until 10am, so we took the 9am bus which got us to the top of Dalkey Avenue about ten minutes later (everything takes ten minutes) and cost 2.40€ for two singles.
The climbing day started a little earlier this time, with us geared up and ready by 10am, after a run round the quarry to warm up (well, a walk, hindered by the gorse and brambles). We warmed up in the East Valley, then moved onto the Upper Tier, where we yet found more good quality rock – longer routes here, and tending towards the steeper side with higher grades to match.
7pm came round too soon, so our day's climbing culminated in a speedy run down the final descent route and a swift retreat to the station where we got the 7:11 train to Connolly station in Dublin (the 7:22 would probably still be okay), arrived at 7:50 (including the lengthy walk out of the station!), costing 4€ for 2 singles. It's worth looking out the window on the way, there's some impressive buildings including a converted gas tower.
A shuttle bus will take you to the ferry port. Turn left out of the station, and the bus station is obvious, 200yds along on the right. The shuttle bus is 53B and costs 5€ for two people. It left at 8pm and arrived at the port at about 8:20. That will give you plenty of time to check onto the Irish ferries ferry from Dublin Port 20:55 – Holyhead 00:11. This leg costs £42 for two people. Dublin port is further from Dalkey than Dun Laoghaire, and it might seem strange that we chose our trips out and back with different ferry companies from different ports, but Irish ferries had a ferry departing at a more convenient time (the Stena line one from Dun Laoghaire leaves at 6pm). The trip back was a slower ferry, but stunningly huge, and has a cinema showing two current films. The food is nothing to write home about though. Note - Irish ferries currently (Sept 07) do a deal on a 24 hour return, £38 for two people.
Costs (two people)
Total transport cost: £86 + 16.40€ = 137€ (£98)
Total accommodation cost: 80€ (£57)
So £78 each not including food.
On the subject of food - there are plenty of restaurants in Dalkey, but they get busy so it's a good idea to book a table.
The all important information, routes. There's a dozen upon dozens of routes in the quarry, not short on stars, offering a wide range of climbing experiences. Here's a graded list of just a few to whet your appetite.
- A Route D (East Valley) - two easy sections separated by a ledge
- Paradise Lost VD (East Valley) *** - harder than it looks
- Damocles S 4a - possible to ab from a borehole thread before topping out
- Delectissima S 4a * (East Valley) - three gorse bush belay, has a tricky move
- Ivy Chimney S 4c/5a (West Valley) - boulder problem start, easy bridging above
- Yorkshire Pudding HS 4b ** (West Valley) - overgraded, nice line and nice, steady, fun climbing
- Dipthong S 4a * (West Valley) - undergraded, especially the bottom which involves yarding onto the ledge away from gear, top part is thoughtful and enjoyable
- Levitation HS 4b * (East Valley) - a slabby crack, next to the scary (IMO) Mahjongg (VS 4c)
- Binglestein VS 4b * (East Valley) - easy to miss this one hidden behind a tree, staighforward to start with a couple of worthwhile moves near the top
- Jameson 10 VS 4b *** (East Valley) - good climbing up an appealing line, with some bold-ish moves to get onto the upper wall
- Charleston direct VS 4c ** - has some interesting bridging on the direct finish
- Street Fighter VS 4c ** (West Valley) - another good line, has a couple of tricky moves especially at the top
- Pilaster VS 4c ** (East Valley) - unprotected, fun steep reaches on jugs
- Scavenger/Exertion HVS 5a ** (East Valley) - makes a good combination, each section is quite sustained (albeit short) but you get a big rest between them
- Crash Landing E1 5b ** (East Valley) - unprotected, easy for the grade, nice climbing
- Gargoyle Groove (variation) E1 5b *** (East Valley) - tough 5c+ stopper move on the bottom section, fun committing finish
- Erewhon E2 5b ** (West Valley) - bold but nice wall crimping
- The Ghost E2 5b *** (West Valley) - excellent very slabby route, protected where it matters
- Tower Ridge Direct E2 5c ** (Upper Tier) - short but safe and fun
- The Shield E2 5c *** (West Valley) - hard hand jamming crux but good gear and has a rest below it
- Hari Kari Groove E3 5c ** (Upper Tier) - fairly epic route, committing moves particularly in the middle although fairly safe
Thanks to Fiend & Daniel Money for their input on routes.
Over to you
I hope there's been something in here to inspire you to make the trip, whether it was the photos (unfortunately a bit limited, as I was too busy climbing to take many snaps), the routes, the romantic appeal of a weekend just outside Dublin or the idea of a trip that's a little kinder to the environment. In terms of kit, just take what you would for a normal weekend away (i.e. a standard rack), but don't forget your passport and euros :)
For more information visit: www.climbing.ie
Guidebook: Dalkey Quarry by Ronan Browner/Howard Hebblethwaite, MCI, 2005