Howth Head

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Various northside climbers have hoped to find a rival to the southside venues but with limited success until the development of the Deer Park Crag in 2015.

Prior to that, climbers found various entertaining bits and pieces which nobody recorded until Jim Cooper explored the Head comprehensively in 2001 and 2002 and wrote down what he found. There are some worthwhile longer routes and many others which fall on the borderline of bouldering.

The rock is mainly a quartzite and mudstone mix.

In 2014/2015 a group of IMC climbers started developing the Muck Rock area above the Deer Park. Previously described on these pages as

"Looks impressive from a distance but is invisible from its foot because of the rhododendron forest.
(“Bluebell Gully of moderate difficulty and little interest, T Calvert, W R Perrott”, see Bill Perrott)."

The coastal area is described starting from the start of the Sutton end of the Cliff Walk and following the coast to Balscadden Road at Howth Village. Cars can be parked at the junction of Strand Road and Shielmartin Road or on Shielmartin Road itself. The Cliff Walk can also be accessed from Ceannchor Road and The Summit.

The section with possible climbing is about one and two thirds kilometres long on either side of Drumleck Point, east of the Martello Tower at Sutton House and west of Doldrum Bay. It is closer to O’Connell Street than Dalkey Quarry!

While many of the sections worth exploring are affected by high tide and only about 7 metres high, there are significant parts 12 to 15 metres high some of which are accessible above high tide.

Some sections of the rock have shaley dykes and inclusions but there is plenty of good rock. There is some excellent pink quartzite at the west (Sutton) end. Most of the crags face south west receiving the best of the afternoon sun or are in sheltered coves.

<display_map zoom="14"> 53.36833, -6.092385~Warning Sign Slab (approx) 53.367716, -6.090068~Red Rock 53.366423, -6.088802~Check out the wall here 53.36253, -6.082214~Sheep's Hole 53.361019, -6.078888~Rusty Wall 53.361531, -6.080691~Mussel Cove 53.362044, -6.074404~Sandy Cove (Approx) 53.362313, -6.071571~Candlesticks 53.364669, -6.053289~Web's Castle Rock 53.385752, -6.047668~Puck's Rocks 53.378665, -6.08127~Muck Rock 53.375621, -6.078438~Lowest outcrop </display_map>


Deer Park Crag

Deer-Park-Aerial.jpg

Access Closest access is from Deer Park hotel and golf course car park (5 mins) – crag is clearly visible from the car park. This is a public golf course and is on the Howth tourist trail, containing the Howth Transport Museum, Howth Castle and the much visited rhododendron forest and Muck Rock crag up behind the hotel on the right side.

Approach From the car park walk around the right side of the hotel and follow the track leading to the rhododendron forest. Just past the sign “Flowers must not be picked” turn right and take the small narrow left hand track at the small boulder. After approx 30m take fainter left hand track heading upwards. Walk up this for approx 200m (2 mins), ignoring overgrown leftside scrambles, and take further left hand track heading up the steps. 30m along this is up through a rhododendron ‘tunnel’ on the left (the 2nd tunnel, not the 1st) is ‘De Northside’ face. For ‘De Southside’ overhanging face just continue along the track for 20m to the next path junction. ‘De Alcove’ is the elevated grassy area between the two.

Aspect The crag faces NW so gets sun from mid-afternoon till sunset. De Southside face has a more westerly orientation and gets the sun first. Because of its aspect it may take while to properly dry out early in the season.

Protection Ratings (PR): VG, G, M (Moderate), P (Poor)

HowthCastle.jpg
The view from the crag

Climbs listed left to right.

Deer-Park-Topo-Leftv6.jpg

Deer Park Topo (Left) - De Northside [click to enlarge]

Fire Certificate (S 4a) 18m Fight your way up through the jungle from the lower path junction (arrow on tree), or abseil in from Pine Tree Ledge, this climb is approx 40m to the left of De Northside face. Start at a V groove in the rock and bridge up for 4m without protection on good holds. Clamber up the groove or the arête to top out on pine tree ledge, belay from the tree with backup.
Kevin Coakley, Colm Peppard – 2015

Three Piece Sweet (S 4a) 30m, 2 pitches PR: M
Go to the left of De Northside face past “Sharran’s Craic” for 15m till you come to an 8m high detached pinnacle which has a pointed 1m high rock coming out from the ground at the base of it.
1. (4a) At the left end of the pinnacle is a cave and a tree beside it. Climb up onto the arête and continue to top of pinnacle. Step left onto a ramp which trends up leftwards until you come to a point where you can step up right to climb straight up on the slab to an angled grassy area (thread belay). 2. (3c) Move right to cross underneath the roof above and then climb up the crack on the right of it to the top.
Ian Christie, Colm Peppard – 29 June 2015
Variation The Sofa Start (HS 4b) PR: P
Start at the right side of the base of the pinnacle and step onto the detached rock. From here step onto the pinnacle and up delicately trending left to the left arête and to the top of the pinnacle.
PR: P No protection for this section hence HS 4b rating.
Ian Christie, Colm Peppard – 29 June 2015

Sharran’s Craic (VS 4c)* 24m
Walk 4m to the left of The Snapper and you will see a vertical crack in the face, this is the start of the climb. The bouldery start is the crux of the climb and you must move up on small flakes and edges above the protection to reach easier holds. Climb the crack above until it finishes and then move left 2 meters into a V shaped short gully and climb this. From the top of the gully trend right over easier ledges following the cleaned rock to a crack, climb the crack and follow the obvious route to the easy finish.
Kevin Coakley, Colm Peppard - 2015

Nicky Place (Diff)
6m to the left of the snapper you come to an alcove, climb this on the left side then right at 6m up the crack to the right of “Sharran’s Craic”. Finish as for “Sharran’s Craic”.
Ian Christie – June 2015

Sail of the Sentry (VS 4b)** 16m
Access the start by scrambling up the first 3m of The Snapper and moving a few metres left, along the grassy ledge, to the shallow ‘sentry box’ in the corner. The climb starts here.
Move to the top of the sentry box, reach out and climb right and up onto a narrow ledge. Using the groove on the left, move up easily on good holds to the larger ledge above. Move over right to just left of a diagonal crack (possible long runner) and climb boldly leftwards & up with a delicate move (crux) to finish (escape possible to the left before tackling the crux).
Gary Smith, Colm Peppard – 2 July 2015

The Snapper (VS 4c)*** 25m
Immediately in front of the entrance tunnel to De Northside face you will see a large (3m high) triangular block detached from the face, this is the start of the climb.
Climb up the block on easy holds and stand on the top, place protection in the flake above and step up, follow the flake left until it peters out. Clamber on to the top (crux) of the flake (subtle move) and reach into the scoop for an excellent hand hold, place protection on your left and move up the slab on crimps and small pockets trending rightwards. Aim for vertical righthand crack above and move up this to finish up over blocky slab to belay point.
Kevin Coakley, Colm Peppard, Ian Christie – 2014

Me Tarzan, You Insane! (S 4a) 20m PR: M/G
A couple of metres to the right of De Northside face entrance is a distinct protruding block just above head height. Climb over this on good holds to a small alcove above (protection placements), step out right and make a delicate push up to gain easier ground. Climb obvious crack in the short face on your left (great view over the top), scramble across easy ground to the face on the left side and climb diagonal crack with a delicate move to finish (crux).
PR: M/G – Protection is good but for delicate step up near the start of the climb gear is over 1m away tucked in an alcove on the left.
Colm Peppard, Kevin Coakley – 15 Sept 2014

The Budgie Has Landed (S 4a) 22m PR: G
Start 5m to the right of MTYI (as for The Commitment) and just to the right of a narrow vegetated area. Climb goes up left side of the obvious slab, then briefly across vegetated gully and up the obvious alcove on the left at the top. Climb up triangular block (no gear but straightforward) and initially move up right (for a cam placement if you don’t want a long ‘run in’). Strike leftward to follow clear thin diagonal crack running up the left side. Follow this as far as protection/bravery takes you and then cross grassy gully to alcove on the left with a protruding block overhead. Climb up alcove on the right to finish. (Challenge is to stay on the rock and off the grassy gully on your left).
Colm Peppard, Kevin Coakley – 8 June 2015

The Commitment (VS 4b)** 22m
Start on the 2m high boulder in front of the slab approx 5m to the right of Me Tarzan, you will see a vegetated gully to the left and a vertical slab and then a V shaped rock gully (sometimes called a Diedre). Climb directly to this avoiding the vegetation and loose rock by staying to the left on clean rock. Place protection and bridge up the gully exiting on the right. Move carefully rightward over loose rock and place a good cam in the horizontal crack at ankle level and climb the arête confidently with small holds to the top.
Kevin Coakley, Colm Peppard – 2015

Damn You Newton (VS 4c)* 23m PR: G
Start is 3m to the right of TBHL and 2m back from the right hand edge of De Northside face. The climb goes up an obvious large leg jamb sized crack which requires a big hex/cam. Climb this with strong moves to gain a foothold to push up to the top of the crack (crux).Trend right past the overhang and move into De Alcove area. Cross this and head for the middle of the slab straight ahead (a little down from the rhododendron stumps). Make a delicate step up right at the obvious lower point. Move up briefly straight (protection placements) and then trend right for the small block on the skyline on your right and finish left around this.
Colm Peppard, Ian Christie – 8 June 2015

Deer-Park-Topo-Rightv7.jpg

Deer Park Topo (right) - De Southside [click to enlarge]

Indian Summer (S 4a)** 24m PR: G
At the right hand end of De Northside face immediately past Damn You Newton there is a wide crack on the right side of the slab leading to a small ledge at 2m. Surmount this and move up a crack above to an angled grassy bank at 6m to enter De Alcove. Move straight across De Alcove and straight up to the right of the rhododendron stumps following the obvious crack on up to the top.
Ian Christie, Colm Peppard – 27 Sept 14

Eva Lution (HS 4a)** 29mPR: M
Just before the track junction going up to De Southside face there is a prominent outcrop of rock about 3m high. Climb this (bouldering start) and continue up over boulders to a right trending crack. Up this to a prominent nose (~10m). Go right of this then immediately back left and up a left trending ramp then straight up to the top.
Ian Christie, Colm Peppard, Kevin Coakley – 25 Sept 14

Ali Baba (MS 4a)*** 29m PR: G
Climb “Eva Lution” but at the top of the right trending crack stay right onto the arête and then keep right on the arête until you can step out on to the main face. Continue up this to the top.
Ian Christie, Kevin Coakley – May 15

We Do This For Fun? (HVS 5a)*** 17m PR: G (cams required)
Climb goes through the clear gap on the left side of the large blocky overhang. Start is 4m up from the path junction on the left through the 2nd narrow opening where there is a clear rock ramp. Follow the obvious crack moving diagonally right to gain the shelf below the gap in the overhang. Climb straight up just left of the gap to under the overhang (and get a cam in!). Make a brave pull up to seek out a good hold over the top for the fully committed swing across right to gain a foothold to surmount the overhang (crux). There are great holds for this but they have to be found. Above the overhang you have a choice. 1) Step up left and climb the short angled face on your right with the large crack (the original lead). 2) Move up right and climb straight up the slight overhang on the main face using the first crack on the right for a nice vertical finish.
Colm Peppard – 4 June 2015

Lay Back & Think Of Ireland’s Eye (VS 4b)** 17m PR: G
In the middle of De Southside face is a large blocky overhang. This climb takes the obvious line up the right hand side of this. Start is 6m up from the path junction on the left through the largest (3rd) opening. Climb blocky slab on the right side trending rightwards.Move over to your right to climb around and up the right side of the overhang at the large crack (medium cam). Make a committed move to surmount the slight overhang(crux).Follow the crack leftwards to the small alcove above where you have a choice. 1) Make a delicate swing out right onto the faceand climb straight up to the top (the original lead). 2) Climb straight up the alcove for a satisfying direct finish.
Colm Peppard, Ian Christie – 27 Sept 2014

Dempsey’s Rocky Road (VS 4b) 24m
On De Southside face start on a diagonal crack to the left of the obvious promontory (“the pulpit”) . Climb the crack rightwards and clamber on to the top of the pulpit, continue to the right and surmount the vertical crack and bulge (crux) with a good placement below the crux move (as per LB&ToIE). When you make easier ground traverse out to the right and finish up the Arete.
Kevin Coakley, Ian Christie – 2015

Two Bagger Arête (HS 4a) 12m PR: M/G
The climb follows a direct line from bottom to top going up just left of the 2nd arête in from the right hand edge of De Southside face. Start is through the next opening up from LB&ToIE (4th opening) Move up around right until the 2nd arête is directly above you with a distinct ‘nose’ jutting out as an overhang. At ground level climb the smooth face immediately below the arête with the thin crack (crux) to gain a mini pinnacle just right of the arête. Step across left to gain the arête and proceed up delicate moves directly to the top (ignoring the tempting gully to the left). PR: M/G – Protection is good but there is a short run out at the top (hence HS 4a rating). The top has good hand and footholds and can be bailed either left or right if desired so PR M/G.
Colm Peppard, Kevin Coakley – 15 June 2015

Three Bagger Arête (VS 4c)* 12m PR: G
As for Two Bagger Arête but instead move left around the underside of the nose (protection placement) and make a committed pull up and step right to surmount the nose. PR: G – On the basis that once you’ve hauled yourself over the nose the short run out at the top won’t bother you!
Colm Peppard, Gary Smith – 27 June 2015

Did Anyone See My Golf Ball? (S4a) 13m PR: G
The climb follows a direct line from bottom to top going up just left of the 1st arête in from the right hand edge of De Southside face. Start is just right of Two Bagger Arete. Climb up the small alcove and move slightly right to follow a direct line up the left side of the arête ignoring the tempting gully to the left.
Colm Peppard, Kevin Coakley – 9 June 2015

Fire Alarm (VD 3a) 12m
At the extreme right of De Southside face this climb goes up to the right of the arête where a block seems to stand by itself. Clamber up onto a good ledge and climb the groove without dislodging the large loose boulder. At the top climb the cracks to the left to top out easily.
Kevin Coakley, Colm Peppard – 2015

Sutton to Baily

From the metal gate at the Sutton start of the Cliff Walk (Strand Rd//Shielmartin Rd), follow the footpath past the Martello Tower. A short distance further on is a yellow warning sign and 50m further on it is possible to descend to the sea and move back under the sign to the base of fine looking slab at least 18m high at its left side. The base of the slab is affected by high tide. This is

Warning Sign Slab

1. Lucky for Some (V Diff 18m)
With a difficult start, climb the left side of the slab using the corner. Good climbing.
Jim Cooper, January 2002

2. Lucky Strike (HS 17m)
Start at the right edge of the slab. Step up and left and climb the easiest way up the slab more or less directly. Apart from one move half way up this is easier than it looks. An excellent climb.
Jim Cooper, February 2002

Red Rock

Immediately above where the Cliff Walk has steps cut into the rock is an easy angled slab of compact rock.

3. Steps Slab (V Diff 10m)
From the steps, the slab is climbed on either the right or, better, the left. Worthwhile. It can also be tackled from 2m left up a short wall at a surprisingly easy standard.
Jim Cooper, December 2001

6-8m left is a short steep red wall which is an obvious (unclimbed?) challenge.

4. Bucket and Slab (Severe 10m)
From below the steep red wall climb the slab to below the recess on the left of the red wall. Climb steeply into the recess (with gorse bush). Exit left.
Jim Cooper, December 2001

The next 15m left is an area rock with ill-defined features but with a gully/corner at the left end. The next climbs find ways up this area.

5. Grilled (Severe 10m)
About 4-5m left of the previous route, climb awkward left trending grooves which are steeper than they appear.
Jim Cooper, January 2002

6. Roasted (VDiff 12m)
2m right of the left facing corner, follow discontinuous ramps up left. Then finish straight up.
Jim Cooper, December 2001

7. Toasted (Severe 10m)
Climb easy angled rock and vegetation to the base of the corner. Start up the corner then step left onto the wall. Either continue left to the edge or, better harder and steeper, climb the wall directly. Poor first half, good second half.
Jim Cooper, January 2002

Immediately left is a short steep (unclimbed?) yellow wall. 25m left is a, not quite vertical, wall.

8. Punt (V Diff 12m)
At the right hand end, climb from the lowest point to the top. A pleasant climb.
Jim Cooper, December 2001

9. Penny (Hard Severe 4a/b 8m)
4-5 metres left of the previous climb, follow the groove into a recess. Climb steeply left and to the top
via diagonal cracks. A good climb.

10. Euro (Severe 4a 8m)
1m left of the previous climb, follow the obvious left trending finger crack to the top. Another good climb.
Jim Cooper, January 2002

11. Cent (MVS 4b 6m)
3m left climb steeply to finish next to the previous climb. Short but worthwhile.

RTENOTITLE===Martello Wall===

100+m further on, before the Walk descends to the shore,on the left is an area of steep but broken rocks, about 7-8m high, above the path. The central feature is a wall – a difficult looking problem.A route goes up the right hand side of this wall.

1.Corner Boy. ( VS 4A 15m)

Climb the obvious crack on right side of the crag, good protection allows bridging to overhang, from small ledge climb through gap to large ledge, easy finish up slab on left to nut belays.

Kevin Coakley Ian Christi

Sheep Hole Cliffs

Sheep Hole is below the Cliff Walk at the east end of this length, 5-600 m beyond the previous cliff. I cannot be sure to what feature the name, Sheep Hole, applies. There are a number of holes underneath the cliff at this point. All this length is tide affected.

The first cliff is a small promontory with a steep looking wall on its west side. The left edge of this wall consists of an overhanging prow 8+ metres high which would provide a very hard climb. The main feature of this wall is a right to left diagonal ramp up the full height.

12. Rampant (Diff. 12m)
Easily climb the right to left diagonal ramp. A little gem.
Jim Cooper, February 2002

13. Man on the Rampage (Sev. 12m)
Starting at the same place as Rampant, climb straight up to achieve a ledge by steep rock. The continuation up is loose so carefully follow a foot ramp to the left to top out at a corner. If the doubtfull rock is removed this might become a very worthwhile climb.
Jim Cooper, February 2002

14. Ramp Up (V Diff. 12 m)
Climb up the front of this promontory.
Jim Cooper, February 2002

30 to 50 metres right is another promontory of similar height. The seaward front of the promontory has a wide crack on the left and a corner on the right. The corner is:

15 Bay Watch (V Diff. 11m)
Climb the corner to a ledge on the right edge. The last 2 to 3 metres to the top is unsound.
Jim Cooper, February 2002

Mussel Cove (with Block)

After Sheep Hole the Cliff Walk by-passes a headland (not Drumleck Point). The east {further)side of the headland forms a shingle cove that contains a large rectangular block 7-8m high.

The two shore-facing sides of the Block may provide high standard sport barely affected by the tide and with good landings. This has been climbed but not recorded.

The east facing side of the cove has a large cliff 12+m high. The better looking rock to the left is tide affected. I am told Mick Kellett and friends have made 4-5 climbs on this section.

There is an obvious central corner dividing the good from not so good rock (climbed by Des Doyle, no details).

16. (V Diff 12+m) Starting from the base of this corner (but not the corner) is a vague rightwards trending rake that is climbed on, sometimes, dubious rock.
Jim Cooper, Autumn 2001

Rusty Wall

Less than 100m beyond Mussel Cove, hidden below the Cliff Walk, is a steep rust coloured wall. When in sight of the wooden pole with “Telegraph Cable” marker, follow a vague path from the Cliff Walk down towards a small group of boulders which look precariously poised on a small headland. Descend to the boulders, follow left around the corner to a slight embayment with a small pinnacle at its mouth. At the back of the bay is a wall approximately 12-15m high which overhangs 2-3m. The foot of the wall is undercut and forms a small cave. There are challenging opportunities up the full height of the wall.

3-400m further on past Drumleck Point is:

Sandy Cove (with Triffid Slab and Red Dyke Wall)

This Cove is reached by some steps which tunnel through the vegetation.

On the south west facing side of the cove is Triffid Slab that may be up to 15m high. There is a rotten chimney in the middle. If belays can be established at the top (which looks problematic without fixed gear), 4 or 5 climbs should prove worthwhile.

17. Triffid Climb (Sev/VDiff 12+m)
The right hand edge/rib of the slab is a good climb at a modest standard but without any apparent protection. To get off this route required a frightening battle with the Triffids (escaped South African Fig Plant?).
Jim Cooper, Autumn 2001

To the right of the Triffid Slab is a Red Dyke Wall. Though this wall reaches from the cliff base, up the slope, to the top, nowhere does it appear to exceed a vertical height of about 6-7m. If the rock is any good there must be possibilities here.

The Needles (aka The Candlesticks)

From Sandy Cove a shore level traverse brings you opposite the two stacks called the Candlesticks. Both are fully exposed at low tide.

Joss Lynam and Bill Perrott climbed them in 1949. The bigger one (“quite difficult”, 8-10m) is an obvious challenge.

Immediately east of the Candlesticks is Hippy Hole. This is an east facing cliff of some apparent size and forbidding looks. Access looks as though it may be via a traverse from the Candlesticks at a suitable state of the tide.

Half way between the Candlesticks and the Great Baily is Lion’s Head dividing Doldrum Bay from Glenaveena. There may be a cliff on the west side but I have no idea about access.

On the South West facing side of the Great Baily promontory are two or three sections of cliff that may be worth exploring. Apart from sea level traverses, access may be difficult (abseils down steep grass?).

Baily to Howth Village

Gerry Moss with Liam Convery refer to some climbs that I understand to have been done on Webb’s Castle Rock, the pyramidal buttress accessible from above, on the south side of Whitewater Brook Bay (north side of the Great Baily). Poor rock is reported!.

5. There are three kilometres of extensive and intimidating sea cliffs on the east of Howth Head between the Nose of Howth at the north end and the Great Baily at the south end. Bill Perrott records “About 20 routes, of varying degree of interest and standard, have been made around here by the Old IMC. These usually take the form of cracks or chimneys; there are also one or two traverses. The usual length of the more vertical climbs does not exceed 60 feet. It is suggested that a continuous traverse from the Nose of Howth to the Baily would be the best expedition!!” It would be interesting if descriptions of any of these routes exist.

Puck's Rocks

From the parking place at the end of Balscadden Road follow the Cliff Walk for a few metres and then take a slight track down to the sea at Puck's Rock. There is a square-cut zawn here where Des Doyle and friends have climbed interesting routes of about 15 to 20m up the back wall of the zawn and across the same wall and up the oposite face and corner.

Kilrock Quarry

Kilrock Quarry above the car park at the Howth village (Balscadden Rd) end of the Cliff Walk is not very exciting.

Con Cormican climbed some routes nearby in Balscadden Bay but where or what is unknown.

Inland

Ben Howth Outcrops

In addition to the Deer Park Crag mentioned above, there are 4 or 5 small outcrops on the south west and north west side of Ben Howth below a subsidiary summit about 700m north west of the main summit with the mast. The rock is mostly excellent and the views are especially fine. Access is through the quarry on Windgates Road.

Lowest Outcrop (5-8m high) facing west with a pillar on the left forming a cave.

· The pillar is Hard Severe,
· The crack out of the cave looks about 5a/b,
· The right side of the cave is V Diff to Severe,
· The steep rib to the right formed by rock resembling red concrete is Severe,
· The wall right of the rib (of more red concrete) is Severe. Beware of the loose final hold if you finish direct!
All Jim Cooper, Autumn 2001

Just above is a north west facing outcrop.

Further up near the hill top is another north west facing outcrop.

About 50-100m south east of the above is another south west facing outcrop.

To the north and facing north is at least one more outcrop which from a distance looks less attractive.