The County of Donegal in North West Ireland contains more climbable rock than the rest of Ireland combined boasting two major Irish mountain ranges, over a thousand kilometers of coastline, one hundred sea stacks and as many diverse climbing mediums and locations as you will find in the rest of the country. County Donegal currently plays host to several lifetimes worth of world class rock climbing in some of the most beautiful, remote and unspoilt locations in Ireland.
Check out Unique Ascent for a wealth of information on your options.
There are currently a shade under 3,000 rock climbs recorded throughout the length and breadth of County Donegal. These climbs include Ireland’s longest rock climb, Ireland’s largest mountain crag, Ireland’s longest ice climb and Ireland’s highest sea stack as well as many more standard single and multi-pitch venues above the sea, by the road, on the islands and in the mountains.
Being based in Portsalon you are ideally located for a huge selection of outstanding rock climbing on a diverse selection of climbing mediums. Cnoc-an-Affrain Rock Climbing Guidebook (PDF). Cnoc an Affrain is known as being Donegal’s only road-side mountain crag with an easy approach from the East by a road built to access the hilltop wind farm. It is known locally as Kerrykeel (Carrowkeel)
From Carrowkeel village take the road for Rathmullen east, After 700 meters there is a Y junction, take the right fork for Oughterlin and stay on this road for 3.5km to a rough road on the right going up up hill to the windfarm. Take this road to the highest windmill and plenty of parking at GR C242 298. There are gates approx a third of the way up the windfarm road but they are never locked just remember to close after use. From the highest wind turbine it is a 10 minute walk west to the crag at GR C239 298.
Cnoc an Affrain crag has an outstanding hilltop view overlooking the Fanad, Ros Guill and Inishowen peninsulas and is well worth a visit on a summers evening.
Muckish Rock Climbing Guidebook (PDF)
The huge flat topped mountain of Muckish dominates the landscape in the north West of Donegal. It is it’s north face that holds most interest for rock climbers as the north face of this mountain is simply one huge steep sided corrie. The corrie offers both summer and winter climbing with almost all of Donegal’s hard winter routes living high on the walls of this north face.
The corrie holds the old glass sand mine workings and affords easy drivable access to the very base of the mountain. Access up to the three crags is by the old miners path and provides quick access to these high north facing crags. Being north facing this venue requires a day or two of dry weather as the entire corrie is prone to seepage which off course, makes for a superb winter venue but tends to limit days available for summer rock climbing.
Approx. 2km out of Creeslough, on the Dunfanaghy Rd, turn left opposite graveyard and follow this road, which becomes unmetalled, as far as you can. McSwyne’s Buttress is high up on Muckish, to the left of the prominent stone chute. Access is by a faint zig-zag track to the left of the chute. Due to its location, this crag should only be climbed after a period of reasonably dry weather, and is best in the evening.
Both the main buttresses, McSwynes and Balors lie directly behind the old quarry working up high and left as you stand at the road end. The third crag is up high and right and is located in the steep broken ground cantered around a monster of a cave.
Tory Island Guidebook
There are very few places in Ireland that can come close to comparing to Tory Island. Tory (Oileán Thoraí or Toraigh) lives 14 kilometers from the north west coast of mainland Donegal and is Irelands most remote inhabited island. The island is relatively small at approximately 5 km long and 1 km wide. The population of approx 100 people live in two tiny villages at each end of the island, An Baile Thoir (East Town) and An Baile Thiar (West Town).
The entire island is wedge shaped with the north face of the island almost one continual unclimbed granite sea cliff and the south face at sea level. The potential for exploration, unclimbed rock and bagging new routes is huge with the main climbing development to date being on the sea stacks and the outrageous Tor Mor ridge at the far eastern end of the island.
Getting to Tory is by daily passenger-only ferry service from Magheroarty on mainland Donegal to West Town on Tory. A day trip to the island can be a very rushed affair and a much longer stay is by far the best way to experience the island. There is a full range of accommodation from hotel, hostel and camping. It is possible to camp pretty much anywhere on the island. There is also a small shop in West Town but it is best to bring all the provisions you will need.
Unique Ascent provide a rock climbing and hill walking guiding service in County Donegal
Your guide, Bren Whelan, is a Mountain Instructors Certificate (MIC) & International Mountain Leader (IML) award holder, who has over twenty five years of experience guiding walking, mountaineering & rock climbing in Ireland and across the World.