Fair Head is often described as the best rock climbing area in Ireland and with good reason. Standing at nearly 100m tall this dolerite crag stretches for over 5km, and hosts over 400 routes, many of them classics. Situated on the north coast of Ireland this crag has a more mountainous feel about it rather than a sea cliff. The gigantic organ pipes of dolerite sweep around in a long arc providing both single pitch and multi-pitch routes up to 90m long. Below the crag is an extensive boulder field with around 500 boulder problems.
The rock at Fair Head is steep and the best routes start from the VS/HVS grade range, with many of the routes in the E grades. It’s a place of big walls, columns, cracks and corners that are well protected, indeed the phrase “protection on demand” sums up Fair Head climbing. There are also harder routes (high E grades) on blank walls between the cracks where the protection is not as plentiful.
Whilst the centre of the crag is nearly 100m high at either end the crag is considerably shorter providing single pitch routes – though these can still be 40m long. The Prow area is a good introduction to the climbing at Fair Head with a good range of routes from VS to E3. These single pitch routes generally follow cracks, corners and grooves, and have a delightful westerly aspect and an easy walk in to the base of the crag.
However it is the Rathlin Wall area that makes Fair Head infamous. Located in the centre of the crag, it boasts 30 routes with 3 stars. These 90m multi-pitch routes are not for the faint hearted with many of them at E4 and above. An exception to this are 3 classics E2 lines that climb the well-protected corner cracks.
What Gear is required? Twin 60m ropes plus a double set of cams and wires is essential for the routes that follow cracks and corners. Remember these routes absolutely swallow gear. For the harder routes at E4 and above these are less well protected and additional gear such as skyhooks, RPs and micro-cams would be advised. A static 100m abseil rope is useful to avoid walking along the base of the crag that can be slow and dangerous.
What guidebooks are available for Fair Head? The comprehensive guidebook is simply called “Fair Head Rock Climbing Guidebook”, and contains over 400 routes. The Fairhead Bouldering guidebook covers more than 450 problems across a wide range of grades.
Alternatively the “Rock Climbing in Ireland Guidebook” covers the very best routes at Fair Head. The “Bouldering in Ireland Guidebook” covers the best bouldering at Fair Head. Buy these climbing guidebooks from our shop.
Fair Head is included in the multi-pitch rock climbing in Europe guidebook. Though this book doesn’t include any routes it describes the climbing at Fair Head in great detail, along with many great photographs. Further information is then given about practical information about how to get there, where to stay, when to go, rock quality and routes, and the type of gear required for climbing at Fair Head. Buy this multi-pitch rock climbing in Europe guidebook from our shop.Where to stay and eat? It is possible to camp in the farmer’s field (for a small amount) next to the main carpark. Nearby Ballycastle has many accommodation options plus numerous pubs.
The Fair Head Rock Climbing Guidebook is the comprehensive guidebook for Fair Head detailing over 400 routes.
The Fairhead Bouldering guidebook covers over 450 problems across a wide range of grades.