Glendalough, Ireland

Glendalough, Ireland

I’ve found Ireland, as a destination, doesn’t often flag up on people’s radar. Well, in terms of climbing at least – as the Emereld Isle is often somewhere people think of to go, listen to folk music and drink Guinness – but even that is changing with the rise in the profile of Fairhead. Nevertheless, i’m sure if you spoke to many people, they wouldn’t have thought of it strongly and often wouldn’t know where to head.

To be honest, for me it was merely the proximity that flagged it up as somewhere worth exploring some day and when the Bouldering in Ireland guidebook was released, documenting the entire country in one book, it nudged slightly higher on the list.

For those from the UK mainland, it’s a short hop across the Irish Sea from Holyhead, followed by a drive of less than an hour from the port in Dublin. Once you realise that the nearby Wicklow mountains are a designated national park, the draw grows and grows.

It’s designation as a Park wasn’t actually that long ago, back in 1991 and the area has a rich history both in terms of monasteries and in mining – the latter of which undoubtedly having an effect on the appeal for me and the travelling modern boulderers. The granite was as crucial back then as it is to me now and offers some fantastic blocs of Alpine quality rock to ply our trade upon.

They are even part of the largest mass of granite in northwestern Europe; not the most spectacular of claims but enough for us to know that it is certainly worth a visit!

So what kept me back from making this trip for so long? Purely and simply it is the price of the ferry. I refrain from using the term extortionate as i don’t know how frequented the passenger ferries are but at a guide price of £200 per car, for typical British conditions and weather, heading South is simply a safer bet.

Now that i’ve been, i’d say it’s certainly worth a punt. The adage that it “always” rains in Ireland is as true as it is for North Wales. Yes, i have no doubt it’s often wet but you get sunny spells, you get nice weather and it’s not enough to stop a prospective trip. Get enough people on board and suddenly, it’s a very attractive option for any UK climber.

The Areas

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Andy's Arete in #glendalough is one of the best climbs I've tried anywhere, not to mention in #Wicklow. It is immense, and a testament to the #quality of #irishbouldering. It is not 6c. The problems with grading here were huge in all of the climbs I came across and it was something I have gone into depth about (slightly more than I intended) in my latest blog post, link in bio. It shouldn't matter but sadly it does, it puts people off and makes a mockery of the system. And considering how amazing the rock and the #climbing are, it is nothing short of a travesty that needs to be addressed if they ever want to attract people to this wonderful country. #Ireland #wicklowbouldering #glendaloughbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing-pictures-of-instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #meclimbing

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On this page, i’m talking exclusively about Glendalough; a collection of boulders at the head of a valley of the same name. There is certainly enough here for it to warrant it’s own page and it is oft touted as the best bouldering in Ireland. I certainly can see why!

As such, talking extensively about different crags is much the same as pages on Magic Wood or similar. I’ve broken it down into similar areas as in the guidebook.

  • The Ruins. The first really prominent area you’ll get to with some real classics to get you started. It’s quite easy to get sidetracked here and not actually make it any further! Especially when you’re playing on Original Route 5, The Plum 6a+  or one of the other excellent easier lines. For those climbing harder, this is a great warm-up spot

  • Big Jim/Big Jane. What a pair of boulders! Big Jim gives some great easier problems – Smear Test 5+ and Rising Traverse 5+ are both superb – while Big Jane holds the quality harder problems. Andy’s Arete 6c/ sds 7a+ is one of the best arete lines i’ve done anywhere (although the stand should be 7a in my opinion) and Rhythm and Stealth 7a, Leftism 7c and The Groove 6c / sds 7c will keep the best climbers occupied for hours, despite the poor landings.

  • The Path. Trackside bouldering galore here, as the path was obviously laid to weave it’s way through the rocky terrain. Greg’s Problem 6a+ is a fun little problem with a squirmy exit, while Mark’s Problem 7a+ gives it a harder start. Some are hard to read so check out some beta before you go. I didn’t make it any futher up but the number of people i heard talking about 2.4 Pascals 6c / sds 7b mean that it is almost certainly worth checking out.

Local Amenities

I’m always a fan of staying on an established campsite, even before i had a small baby in tow. It’s just a bit more convenient and we based ourselves in the nearby village of Roundwood.

Don’t expect much in the area though: the Irish just simply don’t seem to do the whole tourist thing that well. I found a very rural community, basing most of their economy on trade from decades gone by and not really exploiting the travelling throngs that much.

The basics and essentials are there as they would be in almost any reasonably sized village but if you’re the type for browsing the local shops, you’ve not got much to go at.

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Now we're back, I get to regale the story of our trip to #Ireland to anyone who'll stand still long enough to listen! Here I am, #hangingout while trying Mark's Problem 7a+ which didn't go. Once back and ticking stuff on my @27cragsofficial logbook, I found out it's actually called Greg's Problem Traverse at 6b+. Always nice to tick something you didn't realise was even there! In #climbing terms, our time in #glendalough didn't quite meet my hopes but what a place! And the #bouldering certainly warrants a return! Thanks @emks93 for the photo and the support during the trip #irishbouldering #irelandbouldering #wicklow #wicklowbouldering #glendaloughbouldering #sandbag #rockclimbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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The village of Glendalough is a bit of an exception, having a shop selling trinkets and the like, as well as two market style places near the old monastery site.

There are a few more places on the Western side of the mountains and a reasonable amount of local attractions. Do your research before you go though: despite a walk around the Vartry Reservoir, we missed the spectacular-looking “Glory Hole Spillway”. There seems to be more info online than appears when you’re there.

  • Food. For your groceries, the nearest place to Glendalough by a hefty distance is the Centra in Roundwood. Thankfully it is very well stocked and you’ll pick up plenty of food there to keep you sustained. There are also a stack of take-aways in the village too, for those days you really can’t be bothered to cook.
  • Climbing Shops. Apparently there is an outdoor shop in Bray (we tried in vain on a Sunday) and another in Blessington (that we weren’t aware of) but other than that, even finding gas can be a chore. These sorts of shop don’t seem to exist much and even when they do – such as Base Camp in Dublin – they really don’t have much. As such, i would suggest taking anything you need with you.
  • Accommodation – Campsites. As mentioned, we stayed in the campsite in Roundwood and it was excellent. Granted, the price was a little high and the 1euro shower only lasted for five minutes but you do get quite a bit for your money there, Jim is super friendly and helpful and sometimes has gas and the TV room would be invaluable if the weather did turn on you.
  • Cafes and Bars. Again, there aren’t really that many cafes in the area; something that irked me as i’m quite partial to a tea and a cake. Bars are aplenty though so take your pick.
  • Guidebooks. The guide for the area is Bouldering in Ireland by David Flanagan. It covers Glendalough extensively and is due for it’s third edition early 2018 i believe. is actually pretty good for the area.
  • Other Handy Places. The hardware store in Roundwood has an inordinate amount of bits and pieces and there are a handful of other places that may or may not be open.

Relevant blog posts: here (if you’re that psyched or bored)

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