Gleann Cholm Cille is a remarkable locale
with plenty of ways to spend your time. We have gathered
together some information for you and hope you enjoy
your time in Glen.
Enjoy the following link to a short film of climbing on the sea cliff at the
back of Beefan Farm, Glencolmcille. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJpZuVXmAzo.
The man climbing is local
man James King. (Courtesy of Iain Miller)
Rockclimbing in Glencolmcille
by Iain Miller
Glencolmcille 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 30KM stretch of Atlantic freeboard starting at
Malinbeg in the south and following this dramatic coastline past 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
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 every day of their visit
is a very real proposition.
North End of Malinbeg
The Main Walls of 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
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
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
Donegal sea Stacks
An Port, one of the most remote, beautiful and unspoilt places in Ireland.
This lonely rugged coast stretches 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 itself 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
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
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
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