Sunday, February 19, 2012

Top 10 bouldering areas in Ireland

Was asked to do a list of the top 10 bouldering areas for an article in the Sunday Times. Not as easy as it might sound. So just going to think aloud.

If it's judged solely on number of problems (in the guide) then this is the list.
  1. Glendo (155)
  2. Glenmacnass (73)
  3. Doolin (67)
  4. Portrane (66)
  5. Fairhead (60)
  6. Gap of Dunloe (56)
  7. Glendasan (52)
  8. Slieve Binnian (47)
  9. Mall Hill (48)
  10. Windy Gap (40)
There are a few problems with this list. Firstly bigger isn't always better. Secondly some of the areas above are a bit of an acquired taste (Windy Gap, Portrane for starters). If you assume that the purpose to the list is to help people decide where to go for a bouldering trip in Ireland then the above list isn't that useful as there are other worthwhile clusters of smaller bouldering areas that could be considered as one area, for example the coastal granite around Carrickfinn or if you took the Gap and Black Valley as one area it would move up the list. So here is a list of what I would consider the best destinations for a day or two bouldering in Ireland.

  1. Wicklow
  2. Gap of Dunloe and Black Valley
  3. Doolin and Inishmore
  4. Fairhead
  5. Mournes
  6. North West Donegal
  7. Inishowen, Donegal
  8. Aughris Head
  9. Fermanagh Grit
  10. Portrane and Ayton's Cave
The order is highly debatable. The first entry is miles ahead of the rest and the last is dubious but I couldn't think of anywhere else. Taking Wicklow as one big grouping doesn't really work though.

Combining the two lists makes a bit more sense. If one accepts that Glendo is number on no matter how you look at it and that the order of the rest is so subjective to be not worth worrying about then the list might look something like this.
  1. Glendo
  2. Glenmacnass 
  3. Fairhead
  4. Doolin
  5. Gap of Dunloe and Black Valley
  6. Glendasan
  7. Slieve Binnian 
  8. Aughris Head
  9. Mall Hill
  10. Portrane
There aren't any major areas left out bar Windy Gap but I think it's a special case as the rock is so sharp. This wouldn't be my personal list though. Fairhead is better suited for wads, they may well rate it number 2 , and I'm not a big fan of Doolin but a lot of others seem to like it.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions or alternate lists post a comment.


  1. I'd agree with almost all of the last list except for Glendasan. Theres a few good problems alright, but its by no means a "destination". I'd add in Polldoo Glen even though there aren't that many problems. In terms of situation and quality its top class. And Donegal should be represented.
    Or maybe Larry the Goats? Again top quality climbing and a cool situation. Just my 2c.

  2. That sandstone in fermanagh was lovely climbing and some great differant problems.
    is it best rock/quality of problems or atmousphere,aspect? id prefer the worm whole/electric mountain to portrane as a best of the above.

    1. Paul. When I say Glendasan I mean the mining village, the boulders north of the road, Camaderry, Turlough Hill, Electric Mountain, Glanekeera and Annalecka. So there is quite a bit there.

      Polldoo is certainly quality but there isn't much. Larry the Goats is a great spot but is it top 10 better than Lough Dan, Derryrush, Cooleys? Not sure.

      Tim. You mean Grit? Yes its very nice but each area is small and not that close together, it would be a stetch to group them as an area I would of said.

      I don't know what the criteria. Anything really.

  3. A top ten is a lot of places and when portrane starts getting on to a list you know you're into filler material. It might be a moot point but a top five would be a lot more interesting and the venues on the list would have to justify their place a lot more.

  4. Went with this in the end.

    1. Glendalough, Wicklow
    2. Glenmacnass, Wicklow
    3. Fairhead, Antrim
    4. Doolin, Clare
    5. Gap of Dunloe, Kerry
    6. Slieve Binnian, Down
    7. Aughris Head, Sligo
    7. Poll Doo, Donegal
    8. Glendasan, Wicklow
    9. Carrickfinn, Donegal
    10. Brimstones/Cuilcagh/Thur Mountain, Leitrim/Fermanagh

  5. I'm bouldering indoor for half a year now (germany) and going on a roadtrip to irland during this may for one week. is there any place you can recommend for a beginner as I am?! thanks for any posts!

  6. Hi Nahlah.
    The first thing to do is to buy the bouldering guide. It has good information about area's suitable for beginners. Of the list above the following have plenty of easier problems and good landings.

    1. Glendalough, Wicklow
    4. Doolin, Clare
    5. Gap of Dunloe, Kerry
    6. Slieve Binnian, Down
    7. Aughris Head, Sligo
    8. Glendasan, Wicklow
    9. Carrickfinn, Donegal