Trip to Ireland, easy trad climbing & sport climbing/bouldering

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 Hr_Arth 21 Feb 2024

Hello everyone,

My girlfriend & I are planning a trip to Northern Ireland in May, for 15 ish days and we would like to do and see many things :

- Trad climbing (easy and not so scary, to have fun in the mountains / nice and remote places), up to 5b/c (french grades, as I'm not really privy to the UK grades).

- Hiking / Mountaineering / Scrambling (up to D/D+, french alpine grades). Shall we take our ice climbing equipment to be in the mountain in May?

- If possible a little bit of sport climbing and bouldering, from 5c to 7c.

- Visiting some beautiful castles and nice cities/villages as well.

So we saw that Fair head was the place to go, and we saw videos of people climbing in Donegal and it looked otherwordly. So we planned to stay in those areas for 15 days in May. Do you think it fits our goals?

How are the accomodations here? We are used to outdoor camping and harsh conditions in the mountains, but for holidays, it could be nice to have a comfy bed once every 3/4 days. 

We were planning to rent a car for the whole trip. How are the accesses to the crags? Do we need a 4x4 vehicle?

 Lankyman 21 Feb 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

You'll probably not need your ice gear in Donegal. In May.

 kp1 21 Feb 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

May is a great time to visit, it’s usually when we get our best weather and the midges aren’t out and about. 
Fairhead is incredible and there are no shortage of 3 star routes in the 5b/5c range. A 100m ab rope makes life easier but is not essential. 

You won’t need a 4x4 for crag access in Donegal.  Loads of crags in stunning locations with some fantastic routes and generally they’re very quiet. Varied rock types and styles of climbing. You have Gola, Owey, Cruit in the west. Muckross, Malinbeg and Sail Rock in the south and Belshade in the centre. 
There’s a little sport climbing at Garron Point in Antrim and also a few routes at Portsalon in Donegal ( I think they start around 7c here).  
There are plenty hills to wander around in Donegal as well. 

OP Hr_Arth 21 Feb 2024

Thank you very much Lankyman and kp1 for your responses.

When you said that a 100m ab rope makes life easier, are you talking about a 100m one or 2 of 50m ? Should be the same in practice but I always wonder when I see this.

The crags you described looked incredible, thank you for the recommendations. I'm so eager to come visit this beautiful country!

For the base camp, what are you suggesting? Is it easier to find a place to stay somewhere in the middle, in bigger cities, for instance Londonderry, and take the car to go from one place to another every morning or every other day, or can we easily find places near Fair Head / Donegal?

Thank you once again !

 Lankyman 21 Feb 2024
In reply to kp1:

> May is a great time to visit, it’s usually when we get our best weather and the midges aren’t out and about. 

My one trip climbing in Donegal was during a week in May. Everything was fine on the coastal crags. On the day we headed up to Lough Belshade it was a still, damp morning and the midges were out in force! To the OP: it may be worthwhile investing in a couple of midge nets just in case? They're only small but midges can make life hard. Last year, in Argyll just across the sea in Scotland, (similar climate to Donegal) the midges were out in mid-May and I went home.

 kp1 21 Feb 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

I wouldn’t recommend basing yourself in Derry as you’d end up with a lot of driving everyday. 
Definitely Ballycastle for Fairhead. You can camp at Sean’s field ( just a field with a tap and portaloo) or rent his bunkhouse. Ballycastle itself is a pleasant town with loads of accommodation options. 
You can literally camp at crags like Muckross and Cruit. Donegal town would be a reasonable base for the crags in south Donegal and Belshade if you want a bit of life in the evenings. Plenty other options too like Killybegs or Glencolumcille. 
If you’re not camping at the crags, Dungloe and Annagry would be good enough places to stay for the western crags. There are no shortage of places to stay in Donegal. 

 kp1 21 Feb 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

Sorry, just realised you meant French 5b/c. There are loads of great routes at that grade in Donegal but you’ll get more out of Fairhead at French 6a/b. You’ll generally be climbing cracks and it’s gear on demand so it’s not scary or dangerous. 
  For some of the bigger routes away from the descent gullies at Fairhead it is convenient to ab (usually about 90m). For the grades you’re looking for, you’ll have plenty to climb around the descent gullies and the prow (40m ab). 

 W Poots 08 Mar 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

Hi there, Donegal in May is a great idea. Fair head is amazing of course but for me, Donegal has everything. 

I climb a lot in Donegal so if you want, get in touch and I can maybe help you with direct advice or maybe we can meet up and we can all climb together. 


 paulguy 09 Mar 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

The Colmcillers always have their climbfest on the first bank holiday in may - would be well worth going to if you're about then.

 HikeandClimb 09 Mar 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

Hi Mate..recommendations.

Fairhead -

Inis Mor -

Glendalough -

No need for a 4x4 vehicle.

Lots of accommodation choice at all venues, including camping.

Strictly no wild camping on Inis Mor as this will jeopardise access. 

Nice bouldering in Doolin  (beside ferry to Inis Mor) and in Fairhead/Glendalough - but Fairhead requires lots of mats!!

Gola Island is cool in Donegal but only go if the weather is good. 


 seankenny 09 Mar 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

Fairhead has amazing climbing, the closest thing in the U.K. to American style crack climbing. It’s definitely worth taking a double set of cams and plenty of wires as the pitches are often quite long and sustained. You don’t need a 100m ab rope for a short visit as there’s enough to do on the easy to access areas, but you still need a spare rope for abseiling in. We went in June and it was still cold, take plenty of spare clothes, eg leave a duvet jacket near where you’ll top out so you are comfortable belaying. Staying in Ballycastle is fine. 

 fuiseog 09 Mar 2024
In reply to Hr_Arth:

You may find the following free website helpful for all Irish mountain information, both north and south.  I think you will need to register to enter discussions or post queries.

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