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Displaying items by tag: Donegal

16th October 2015

The Sea Stacks of Donegal

The county of Donegal at the North West tip of Ireland boasts two major Irish mountain ranges, over thousand kilometres of coastline, one hundred sea stacks and many diverse climbing locations writes Ian Miller. Donegal currently plays host to many lifetimes worth of world class rock climbing in some of the most beautiful and unspoilt Locations in Ireland. The scope for further exploration and the opportunity to discover unclimbed rock is almost unlimited, as there is an unexplored adventure waiting through every mountain pass and around every remote headland. There is a wealth different types of climbing venues found throughout Donegal from easy accessible road side venues though to huge mountain cliffs found high in the remote Donegal mountains.
What the coast line of Donegal provides for an adventurous rock climber is more rock climbing venues, routes and unclimbed rock than the rest of Ireland combined. The wealth and diversity of the climbing available along this coast line is almost unlimited from the mud stone roof at Muckross in the south of the county to the Granite slabs at Malin head, (Irelands most northerly point) in the North of the county. County Donegal boasts Irelands longest rock climb, the 750 meter long Sturrall Ridge, Irelands highest sea stack, the 150m Tormore Island and Irelands highest mountain crag in the Poison Glen. There are currently over 2800 recorded rock climbs on over 150 cliff faces scattered throughout the county. 
Where the rock climbing on Donegal’s coast line truly excels itself is in its sea stacks. There are a shade under 100 sea stacks with currently just over 150 recorded routes to their summits. The sea stacks are found along the coast of Donegal’s mainland and its western islands sit in some of the most remote, isolated and hostile coastal locations in Ireland. What these sea stacks provide is a large collection of the most adventurous, remote and atmospheric rock climbs in Ireland. 
Sea stack climbing involves accessing huge towers of rock that stick out of the sea, it is this access that makes these locations so special. A day out on a sea stack will typically require a 250 meter descent to sea level to access an isolated storm beach, where it is highly unlikely anyone has ever stood before. This is followed by an UBER committing sea passage along the bases of currently unclimbed 250 meter high sea cliffs in a totally committed and potentially unescapable locations, this will allow you to gain the bases of the sea stacks. The commitment required and the sense of primal fear that accompanies these marine journeys has to experienced to be understood.
. As always, tad of logistics and planning is the key to success and of course the adoption of perhaps less orthodox climbing equipment such as 600m of 6mm polypro, a lightweight Lidl Dingy, a single lightweight paddle, divers booties, a 20ft Cordette, a pair of Speedo’s, heavy duty dry bags, 20m of 12mm polyprop, an alpine hammer, a snow bar, a selection of pegs, a chest harness/inverted Gri-Gri combo and a big Grin! We then climb these towers of rock to arrive on pristine pinpoint summits far from anywhere in the real world. Standing on a pinpoint summit over 100m above the ocean, 500m from the nearest point of land and 20KM from the nearest main road can easily be described as a truly spiritual experience.

Donegal Sea Stacks

Since 2007 I have been exploring the sea stacks of County Donegal, and have currently climbed over 60 previously unclimbed sea stacks along the coast of the county and recorded over 150 new routes on Donegal's Sea Stacks. During these adventures we have seen and experienced firsthand the true beauty of these little known places in coastal Ireland.
donegal sea stacks map

The main residence of the sea stacks is the Slievetooey coastline in the South West of the county, access to this coastline is by a narrow winding 20 km B road which takes you to the An Port road end.


An Staca sea stack

An Port is quite simply the most beautiful location in Ireland a trip to this road end is an outstanding journey in its own right, but it’s what lives either side of this road end that makes it a mind blowing location.
donegal sea stacksTo the south of An Port lives a chain four sea stacks each with an increase in commitment and concern to reach their bases as they span further and further away from the remote storm beach launch pad facing Berg Stack. (link 4) To the South of these stacks the skyline is dominated by the Sturrall Headland, which provides an 750 meter rock climb which requires a 300 meter sea passage to reach its most sea ward tip. The rock climbing grade of this headland is given the little used XS grade as it means there is much more than rock climbing skills required for a safe ascent. Approx a third of the way up the ridge there is a 50 meter long section of climbing that will live forever in your memory! 

An Port South

Travelling North from An Port the sea cliffs and sea stacks just get bigger and bigger. After about a 600 meter cliff top walk you will be overlooking the 90 meter high Toralaydan island. (Link 6) Living on its south and North sides are a further very difficult to access sea stacks. At the sea ward tip of its south side lives the Baltic Tower a route up its sea ward face provides a very scary climb called Icon, and at a very amenable climbing grade it provides a climb on immaculate rock in a terrifying nautical location.
donegal sea stacks 3
A further 500m to the North of Toralaydan Island lives An Bhuideal (The Bottle, as its north summit looks like a milk bottle when seen from the sea) an immaculate and iconic twin headed stack. There are currently three routes to its twin summits and all three are world class adventurous rock climbs. The super skinny North tower of this stack provides an unforgettable experience of three pitch climbing to its tiny and extremely exposed summit. The abseil descent from this micro summit involves a wee bit of prayer as the summit abseil anchors are a cairn of rocks and the landward face overhang alarmingly in its upper half. It is a very scary place to be! ☺
donegal sea stacks 4

donegal sea stacks 5 
Travelling a further kilometre North along the coast from An Bhuideal takes you to a stunning cliff top viewpoint over looking Tormore Island, Irelands highest sea stack. Living in the shadow of Tormore Island is the 100 meter high Cnoc na Mara, it is difficult not to get emotional when talking about the mighty Cnoc na Mara.

Cnoc na mara Solo

Cnoc na Mara

When I first saw this 100m sea stack from the overlooking cliff tops it was the inspiration to climb every unclimbed sea stack in Donegal. It is safe to say this stack represents all that is great about adventure climbing. It's impressive soaring 150 meter 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 20 meter abseil to a storm beach at the entrance to Shambhala. 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 the beach. Gaining the beach alone is an adventurous undertaking in its own right and is an excellent taster off what is to come. From the beach you paddle out for about 120 meter to the reach the base of the stack. The Landward arête of the stack is climbed in four pitches each pitch being much more atmospheric than the previous. The fourth pitch being the money shot as it is a 58 meter ridge traverse with 100 meters 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 in the real world.

Paddle around Tormore Island

Tormore Island is a gigantic leviathan, a sentinel of the deep standing guard at the nautical gates of the Slievetooey coastline. At 150 meters above sea level at its highest point above the ocean it is Ireland's highest sea stack. This huge square topped sea stack can be seen for many kilometres along the coast either side of it. It can even be clearly seen from the Dungloe/Kincaslough road some 40 Kilometres to the north. Access is a very involved and emotional affair and entails gaining the storm beach as for Cnoc na Mara, Lurking Fear and Tormore Island. From here it is a 500 meter long sea passage around the headland to the north of the storm beach and a further 250 meter paddle through the outstanding channel separating Tormore Island and Cobblers Tower on the Donegal mainland. At the northern end of the land ward face of Tormore Island there is a huge non tidal ledge just above the high water mark.
In 2008 a team of four climbers travelled by 250 horse power RiB and landed on the land ward face of the stack. Two members of the party had made several previous attempts to land on and climb the stack in the past. We were aware of the story of the man who was buried here. During our climb of the stack we searched any possible place where someone could be buried and found no possible burial site or any trace of the passage of people on the stack prior to our ascent. We found no evidence or trace of previous visitors on the summit. To get off the summit back to sea level we made four 50 meter abseils leaving behind two 240 cm slings and 5 pitons as abseil anchors.
We climbed the very obvious land ward arete at the northern end of the land ward face of the sea stack, This huge feature can be easily seen from any position along the coast overlooking the stack. The route we took to the summit was climbed in 5 long pitches following the easiest climbing we could find up this huge feature.

donegal sea stacks 6
To the North of the Tormore Island view point, the coastline falls away into Glenlough bay, a truly spectacular bay containing a further 4 sea stacks and Irelands largest raised shingle storm beach. On a day of huge north west sea motion the roar of a billions of tonnes of shingle being moved up and down the beach by the incoming seas can be deafening even from the cliff tops 200 meters above the beach.
To the north of Glenlough bay the land swings 90 degrees to face north and for a distance of 7 kilometres the sea cliffs increase to 300 meters high. At the base of these monster sea cliffs are a further four extremely inaccessible sea stacks, the 60 meters high Unforgiven Stack, the 50 meter high Pyramid Stack, the 80 meter high Satan and the 90 meter high Gull Island. Of these sea stacks Satan is the daddy, This sea stack is one of the most fearsome and dangerous stacks in Ireland. It sits off the north west face of the mighty Gull Island and presents considerable logistical and nautical access problems requiring a tad of nautical planning prior to attempting an ascent. 

 

The most remote place in Ireland?

Access is by walking 4KM over the Slievetooey summit from the south and descending it's northern slopes to an outstanding location on the clifftops over looking Gull Island. Descend the very steep grass to the boulder beach joining Gull Island to the mainland. There is an abseil stake in place (2009) to safeguard the initial part of the descent. Once on the boulder beach paddle 500 or so meters west along the base of Gull Island to the entrance of a surreal gothic channel separating Satan and Gull Island. This channel is outrageous and leads you to the only landing place on the stack. Land on the stack at the convergance of the channels in the centre of this gothic labyrinth.
The stack was climbed in three pitches up it's south face culminating in a superb final pitch up a steep groove and rocky ridge traverse onto the majestic and super scary summit. The stack is so named as, if you make a mess of it the beast will take your soul. 

 

Solo First Ascent

 

The Icon

 

Owey Island

 

Centre Stack

For more information click here to down load Iain Millers' free guidebook 

Published in Coastal Notes
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#MarineWildlife - Whale Watch West Cork have shared this incredible video of one of a humpback whale breaching off Baltimore this week.

The whale is one of three of the ocean giants seen feeding off Baltimore and nearby islands in recent days, and caught in some stunning shots by photographer Simon Duggan, among others.

 



Meanwhile, some no less impressive sights have been seen of Donegal, new video shows basking sharks - the second biggest fish in the sea - breaching off Malin Head.

 

Bren Whelan of Wild Atlantic Way Climbing told Independent Travel that it's been an "outstanding week" for marine wildlife watching on the North Coast, saying he himself had witnessed "over 300" basking shark breaches.

Basking sharks have been seen in big numbers the area all month long, with 15 spotted during the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Whale Watch Ireland 2015 event on the afternoon of 23 August alone.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Surfing - A new surfing exchange programme for young people is promoting cultural relations between the UK and Ireland.

As the Cornish Guardian reports, up to 15 local teenagers will be selected to take part in the Wave Project exchange with Co Donegal, which has the aim of boosting confidence and reducing anxiety through surfing.

The first exchange takes place over next month's half-term holidays in the UK, when 13 Irish youth will stay in Newquay.

They will return the favour next spring over the Easter break when the Cornish teens will stay at a purpose-built facility on the Donegal coast.

The Cornish Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Surfing

#Fishing - Donegal fishermen are counting their lucky stars after a near-miss with a submarine last week.

As TheJournal.ie reports, Seán Ó Briain says his crab boat came within just 200 metres of the sub, which appeared with little warning about 22km northwest of Tory Island last Thursday (3 September).

While the "general rule", according to Ó Briain, is to give right of way to fishing vessels such as his when setting or pulling pots, in this case "we needed to slow down to let the submarine pass".

Ó Briain added that daylight added to their luck both this time and in a similar incident this time last year, as they were able to take evasive action.

The story will bring to mind an Ardglass skipper's complaint that his prawn trawler was dragged backwards by a submarine in the Irish Sea this past April – an incident finally confirmed by the Royal Navy on Monday (7 September).

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Britain's Ministry of Defence admitted to the incident, which caused an estimated £10,000 worth of damage to Paul Murphy's boa and fishing gear, after "new information" came to light. More on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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#MarineWildlife - Locals near Magheraroarty Beach in Co Donegal were left with a smelly situation last week after the remains of a whale buried on the strand were washed back onto the surface in a matter of days.

According to The Irish Times, the sperm whale carcass was first found beached on Friday 19 June and buried under the sand where it was found by Donegal County Council over that weekend.

However, on Monday 22 June the cetacean carcass reappeared after it was washed back out from its burial place with the tide.

And in its more advanced decomposing state, the noxious odour was beginning to cause a stink among regular beach users and locals alike. The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Overboard - Breaking News reports that a man has died after falling overboard from a fishing vessel off Donegal this afternoon (Tuesday 16 June).

The deceased had been working on a lobster boat with a colleague off Horn Head when the incident occurred.

First on scene in the search and rescue operation was the Mulroy unit of the Irish Coast Guard, who recovered him from the water

He was then transferred to the Rescue 118 helicopter for airlift to Letterkenny General but was pronounced dead after arrival.

Published in News Update
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#Fishing - The Irish Times reports that a post-mortem will be conducted on the remains of a Spanish fisherman found off the Donegal coast early yesterday (Monday 1 June).

According to The Nationalist, the man was believed to have gone overboard from the Spanish fishing trawler on which he was working on Sunday night.

The body of the 56-year-old was recovered from Killybegs Harbour around lunchtime yesterday after a widespread search by local lifeboats and coastguard, and removed to Letterkenny General Hospital.

Published in Fishing
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#RNLI - Arranmore RNLI saved two fishermen on Wednesday afternoon (8 April) after their 10m boat capsized off the Donegal coast.

A member of the public who was watching the fishing vessel from the shoreline raised the alarm at 2.50pm after he saw the boat capsize two miles south of Arranmore.

Arranmore RNLI’s boarding boat, which was already at sea with coxswain Anton Kavanagh and mechanic Philip McCauley on board, made its way to the scene.

Weather conditions at the time were described as blowing a gentle Force 2 to 3 wind but there was a heavy ground swell of three to four metres.

During their short passage, the volunteer lifeboat crew spotted and followed a track of fuel, and once on scene observed the wreckage of the stricken vessel. They then observed the two fishermen in the water approximately 300 yards from where the boat had capsized.

Both men were very cold when they were pulled from the sea and brought onboard Arranmore RNLI’s boat.

They were brought to Aphort Harbour, where they were made comfortable before being airlifted by the Irish Coast Guard’s Rescue 118 helicopter from Sligo and transferred to Letterkenny General Hospital.



Speaking following the callout, Anton Kavanagh said: "Both men are very lucky to be alive today and full credit must go to the member of the public who saw the boat capsize and raised the alarm, because the fishermen were not due back to shore for a couple of hours.

"We were delighted to be able to help and are glad that both men are safe and well."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Diving - The loss of a late diver's 'black box' means we will never know exactly what happened in the drowning incident off Donegal in July last year, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, hospital chaplain Rev Stewart Jones (56) died after getting into difficulty while diving off St John's Point near Killybegs.

At the inquest into his death at Sligo Court House on Monday 2 March, coroner Eamon MacGowan recorded a verdict of accidental death by drowning.

In a statement read to the court, Rev Jones' diving partner Aaron Buick explained how they had waited out poor conditions before setting out on their dive, but within 15 minutes - having dived to 23 metres - the reverend signalled to return to the surface.

Buick described the "sickening" wave action on the water as he assisted Rev Jones with his back-up air cylinder, and noted his distress when they reached the surface shortly after.

"I had to stop every 15 to 20 seconds as he was spitting out his regulator and swallowing water as the waves broke over us," his statement read.

Diving expert Rory Golden, who was called as an expert witness, said Rev Jones' dive equipment was found to be in good working order, but his dive computer – which records information such as available oxygen and air pressure – was never recovered.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in Diving

#Seafood - Donegal's oyster industry has been hit by an import ban in Hong Kong over an outbreak of food poisoning.

According to The Irish Times, food safety investigators in the Chinese territory were notified by Irish authorities two weeks ago that the presence of norovirus was confirmed at a raw oyster processing plant in the north-eastern county that services the crucial Asian market.

Hong Kong subsequently banned the import of raw oysters from Donegal "for the sake of prudence". More HERE.

Published in Fishing
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Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

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