Those rocks there, yeah, those ones sticking out of Donegal’s Coast, bit to the left, no…just over the..yes. Those. You can climb them. With a little help…
Meet help. Meet mountaineer Iain Millar, the man on the rocks, the man behind Unique Ascent and the man who we’re about to interview to wean ourselves onto the idea that clambering up a rock face is a good idea.
We’ve only written the words ‘rock climbing’ and our knees are clattering under the desk. To calm us down answer us this: why Donegal?
When I moved to Donegal from the Orkney Islands in 2005 I never imagined just how rich and expansive the choice of rock climbing was going to be. Donegal currently plays host to a lifetimes worth of world class rock climbing in some of the most beautiful, remote and unspoilt places in Ireland.
Remote, rugged, ravishingly handsome…sorry, got carried away. Second question: Are the rock faces busy? Are we going to be weaving in and out of climbers all day like some packed ski slope?
Climbing is in its infancy in Co. Donegal, so you’re unlikely to meet anyone else on any of the crags you chose to explore. Pretty stark contrast with crags and sea cliffs across the UK, US and Europe where it’s commonplace to sight queues of climbers patiently waiting their turn to climb popular routes.
Quiet, then. We like that. But what else is on offer. What are we going to see in Donegal that we won’t see elsewhere?
In Donegal you’re likely to have your silence and company interrupted by deer, seals, dolphins, basking sharks, eagles and many, many sea birds including Arctic Skuas, Razorbills, Fulmars and Cormorants.
Sounds like you may have made up some of those names but it sounds rather wonderful. Any way of getting closer to the water-based critters?
Well, you could consider combining your rock climbing trip with some sea kayaking so that you can really take in the sculpted beauty of the entire area. Pack your sea kayak with enough climbing equipment and overnight provisions so you could spend days in blissful harmony climbing and paddling on and off the coastal islands off West Donegal.
Lovely. But we’ve ignored the actual climbing for long enough now. Fill us in on what to expect…
First off: scope and diversity. The rock climbing locations in Donegal provide excellent climbing for all standards of rock climber from the absolute beginner to the experts and high end adventurers. Some climbing locations, such as the numerous sea cliffs on the Island of Cruit provides over 300 rock climbs on immaculate sea washed granite less than 5 minutes walk from the car.
And for the pros, any location suggestions?
Has to be the monster sea stacks found along the Slievetooey coastline from An Port to Ardara provide some of the most remote, adventurous and atmospheric rock climbing in Ireland. Imagine descending a 250 metre sea cliff to arrive at an outstandingly beautiful storm beach. Amazing.
Right. We’re sold. Just need to make a concerted effort to NEVER ever watch Cliffhanger again. Ever.
To meet Iain himself and put your life in his hands, go to Unique Ascent website.