The cliffs of Ailladie (Burren, Co. Clare) are situated on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare near the tourist hot spot of the Cliffs of Moher. With dozens of well-protected,quality lines, a quick drying aspect and easy access –it’s no wonder the Burren has the reputation of being one of the best cliffs in Ireland.
I first heard about the climbing here from the Irish climbing film Underdeveloped back in 2008. It showed an amazing line of cliffs dropping into the North Atlantic. I was inspired.
What’s the climbing like?
The limestone cliffs of the Burren are pretty much dead vertical and up to 40m in height. Long, single pitches are the name of the game with many routes following obvious crack lines where gear is plentiful. Good crack climbing skills are needed and plenty of stamina to hang around and place gear! The rock quality is as good as limestone trad climbing gets and similar to the south Pembrokeshire coastline. The Burren has the added bonus of fewer climbers. I was there for two weeks in August and saw less than 10 other climbers - so you won’t be queuing for routes here!
Some sections of the cliffs are tidal, so checking the tide times is necessary to access certain routes, whereas other sections are above the high tide mark and can be accessed at any time. As with all sea cliffs, pervasive sea mists can affect the crags, but due to the western aspect, they dry quickly.
Recommended cliffs and routes
The first section of the Burren is shorter and non-tidal – so you don’t need to abseil. There’s a decent spread of grades too. It makes a perfect introduction.
The stand out cliff at the Burren is Mirror Wall with grades ranging from E2 – E7 on bullet hard limestone split by lightning bolt-shaped cracks. Most of the routes here are tidal - so time your visit well.
There are a number of different sections further along the cliffs with quality lines that require a simple abseil approach.
DWS in Ireland? Leave your wires behind in the car and try your hands at DWS above very deep water! Be sure to plan your escape though with a pre-placed fixed rope as there is no easy exit.
Classic Trad Climbs
Pis Fliuch HVS 5a A fantastic corner climb
Gallows Pole E2 5c - the classic E2 of the Burren cliffs
Siren E3 5c- a very photogenic line and the tourists will love you
Kleptomaniac E3 6a - not a give-away for the grade!
Wall of Fossils E4 6a - beautiful crack line with a tough finish
The Cutter E4 6a - the definitive line up Mirror Wall
Refraction E5 6a - another Mirror wall smasher
Ice Queen E5 6a- bold wall climb away from the cracks
Damn the Torpedoes E6 6b - stunning crack line that doesn’t let up
Very Big Springs E6 6b - a masterpiece up an orangey wall with a couple of pegs
Deep Water Solos
The Crosley Show 7b - classy traverse line
King Grozzle 7b+- as good a 7b+ as anywhere
The CrozzleMonster 7c+- technical wall with some thin moves
The Power of the Hobo 7b+/E7-one of the best lines at the Burren, but check the tide carefully and have a spotter just in case. Feels more like a solo than a DWS! Beware!
When to Visit?
Spring through till the end of summer is probably the best time to visit, but the west coast of Ireland is open to the Atlantic – so you can expect a few wild and windy days. But don’t let wet cliffs dampen your spirits - they dry incredibly fast with an onshore breeze.
How to get there?
For shorter trips of a week or less, I would get a cheap flight (Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Air Lingus) to one of the main airports - Dublin or Shannon and then hire a car from there. It’s a straight forward drive from Dublin (3/4hrs) or Shannon (1hr) to the Burren.
For a longer trip the ferry is worth considering, but this can be expensive so fill your vehicle with climbing mates to lessen the cost! Ferries run from Holyhead and Liverpool to Dublin. Make sure you choose a passenger ferry – the goods ferries are cheaper but take ages!
Where to stay?
There are campsites, hostels and B&Bs in Doolin and other nearby towns which are a short drive from the Burren. Also, there is a basic caravan park in Fanore 10 mins drive away where they do allow a few tents.
Where to buy Gear and Food?
Dublin’s the place to head to if you forgot some gear. There are also several indoor climbing walls.
The supermarket in Fanore- just before the Burren - has most basic foods, but for a bigger shop head to Kinvara. Pubs serving decent food and even better draught Guinness are plentiful. Also, try the Cafe in Fanore for great cakes, coffee and wifi!
Which guide book?
Climbs in the Burren and Arran Isles - 2008 or the selective guide Rock Climbing in Ireland– 2014.
What else is there to do apart from climbing?
There are plenty of touristy things to do in Doolin, Kinvara and Lisdoonsvarna. Listen to live music at O’Donoghue’s Pubin Fanore or the buskers in Galway. There’s great fishing off the ledges at the Burren. Go at high tide when the fish swim passed in large shoals and you won’t go home empty handed. You might even be lucky to see some dolphins! Check out the impressive Cliffs of Moher down the coast or bring a surf board and hit the big waves.