The long limestone escarpment of Murroughkilly faces west and runs north/south above the village of Fanore between Black Head lighthouse and the Khyber Pass road. The crag has an atmosphere all of its own, ancient and wild, its only regular visitors being a herd of wild goats. It can be a good alternative when Ailladie is affected by sea-spray, though it takes the full brunt of westerly winds itself. Given that it is an unfrequented mountain cliff care should be taken with the rock, particularly at the tops of routes. Most of the climbs follow corners and cracks and there is still much scope for new routes.
Access - For the left-hand (northern) end of the crag park at the Black Head lighthouse (limited parking) and go straight up the hillside to reach the old ruined fort (Cathair Dhún Irghuis) after about 15 minutes. The crag can be easily seen ahead and to the right at about 450m.
For the southern end park about 1km up the Khyber Pass road just beyond the pass itself. There is a gate on the left. From here cross the stream, passing some sheep pens, and head diagonally leftwards up towards the crag.
Both approaches take about 30 minutes.
The crag is divided into 8 separate areas described from left to right (north to south). The height varies from 10m to 20m.
Walk from the old fort to the junction of the stone walls and continue in the same line to reach the bay with the clean bulging buttress on the right which gives this area its name. The climbs are on the steep clean wall on the left which is cut by vertical cracks and bounded on the left by a short corner. Left of this the escarpment is broken and vegetated.
OCTOBER * HS 4c D. Walsh, P. Redmond, 28/10/84. Climb the corner. Step right and climb the left-hand of two curving flake cracks (crux)
DOOM AND GLOOM E1 5b A. & P. McFarlane, September 1988. The left-hand of the two central cracks on Doon Buttress.
DOONSBURY VD A. & P. McFarlane, September 1988. Takes the corner/crack system 2-3m right of Doom and Gloom.
150m South there is a protrouding buttress with just one route so far...
SCOILT CLEACHTADH S B Watts, N Callendar, August 1998. Climb the crack on the left, the crux is the overhang at the top.
Far North Buttress
This is the cleanest expanse of rock at this end of the crag. The routes are on a small wall bounded on the left by a chimney and on the right by a wide crack and buttress. Descent is by the grass ramp on the left.
THE NUTTER E2 6a T. Taylor, M. Flannery, 1/9/94. The zig-zag crack below the short chimney in the wall at the bottom of the descent ramp.
CORNISH RAIDER S S. Young, D. Walsh, 4/6/85. This is the big chimney at the left of the clean wall. Step onto the wall from the top of the chimney and climb the overhang above (crux).
PEREGRINE FALCOFF * HS D. Walsh, S. Young, 4/6/85. The first V-groove right of the chimney. The crux is a thrutch at 8m.
TRUE WEST ** E2 5b I. Rea, C. Torrans, M. Rea, 29/10/85. Good technical climbing with a bold crux. From the foot of the second groove climb up and right to a thin crack. Gain the capped niche and finish via the short clean corner above.
SQUALL E3 6a T. Taylor (unseconded), 1/9/94. The thin flakey line immediately left of Bronco. Thin strenuous layaways to a wide niche, then finish easily up the wall
BRONCO ** VS 4c L. Higgs, T. Ryan, 7/5/77. There are two corners to the left of the wide crack. Bronco is the leftmost. Delightful climb on sound rock. Crux at 3m.
THE DURANGO KID ** E1 5b C. Torrans, C. Sheridan, 5/10/85. The groove right of Bronco. Excellent climbing, low in the grade, good introduction to the E1s. Start just left of the wide crack. Crux at 2m.
BATMAN LEAVES GOTHAM CITY HVS 5a A. & P. McFarlane, September 1988. Takes the crack and arête immediately left of Maverick.
MAVERICK S L. Higgs (solo) May 1977. Start at the off-width crack and finish up the corner.
MENTAL BLOCK VS 4c G. Moss, D. Collie, 18/6/85. The vertical crack on the front of the buttress. Finish as for Maverick.
AN MHÉAR FHADA * S 3c D. Somers (solo), May 1977. After a steep start a pleasant romp up the ramp on the right-hand side of the buttress. Go up and left at the overhang.
RYAN'S CRACK * VS 4c T. Ryan, May 1977. The cracks in the smooth steep wall.
RYAN'S GROOVE * HVS 5a T. Ryan, May 1977. The crack which widens to a chimney on the right-hand side of the wall.
HOWARD'S ROUTE E1 5c H. Hebblethwaite (solo), 26/10/85. Takes the double thin cracks on the edge of the prow.
RIDDLEY WALKER VS 4c R. Higgins, G. Moss, 18/6/85. Climbs the flared groove on the front of the prow.
COAKLEY'S HAMMER ** VD R. Higgins, L. Blood, 18/6/85. This superb little route takes the right side of the prow on good jugs.
SOFT OPTION * HS 4b D. Walsh, S. Young, 4/6/85. On the shattered wall just right of the prow there is a sentry box. Gain this from the left and finish straight up.
Direct start * HVS 5a C. Torrans (solo), 15/7/85. Climbs the crescent crack to the sentry box.
BURNET ROSE * 4b G. Moss, V. Kelly, 18/8/85. From a triangular recess climb the vertical crack above.
WEST COAST COOLER * HVS 5a V. Kelly, G. Moss, D. Doyle, 17/8/85. Open delicate climbing, low in the grade. Takes the faint crack starting at 3m.
YELLOW SUBMARINE VS 4b L. Blood, T. O Connor, 18/8/85. Climb the groove, crux at 3m.
GRACE O MALLEY ** E1 5b C. Sheridan, J. Flanagan, 15/9/85. Good crack climbing. Follow the curving crack, crux at half height.
GREAT WESTERN ** E1 5c C. Torrans, C. Sheridan, 26/10/85. Terrific climbing with a jug-filled finish around the overhang. Climb the corner, difficult move to reach crack, out left at overhang.
LONE RANGER * HVS 5a T. Ryan, K. Higgs, May 1977. Climb cracks to the overhangs. Escape right.
GOLD FINGER HVS 5a T. Ryan, K. Higgs, May 1977. Follow the crack to the right-hand overhang and escape through a notch, some loose rock.
Thriller HVS 5a Takes the crack line and roof between Goldfinger and Shakey Flakes, a handy kneebar at the roof lets you check what blocks are solid to pull through it on! D.Smyth, J.Colandairaj, P.Connally 17/7/2009
SHAKEY FLAKES VS 4c A. & P. McFarlane, September 1988. Takes the rightmost crack system on the Far North Buttress.
About 50m south of Far North Buttress the main feature is a distinct V-groove on the left-hand side.
A Fossil In My Prime HVS 5A Climbs the rib just left of Lie Detector Dominic Lee.solo July 30th 08.
LIE DETECTOR * VS 4c L. Blood, G. Moss, D. Walsh, 18/6/85. Takes the V-groove. The crux is gaining the groove.
Reef Encounter E4 6B ** Brilliant climbing, tackling the cracked rib just left of Billy Muggins. Dominic Lee. Nathan lee July 30th 08
BILLY MUGGINS ** E3 5c D. O Sullivan, J. Dugdale, 30/5/92. The buttress right of Lie Detector exhibits a striking water worn line. Start 4m right of Lie Detector. Climb easily to a series of vertical flakes/thin crack (wires). From the rightmost flake move up to gain jugs. Climb boldly to a rest and friend placements at the second horizontal break. Finish directly. Brilliant.
JCB D P. Turley (solo), 27/10/85. Start 6m right of the bottomless chimney. Climb the obvious easy-angled corner to a grass ledge. Scramble to the top.
BLUESKIES HVS 5a P. Turley, M. Rea, 29/10/85. Start about 14m right of bottomless chimney in a shallow recess bounded by two cracks. (1) Follow the right crack, crux at 4m. Gain the wider crack, then move up the slabby wall to the left to a grass ledge and belay. (2) Continue up the easy crack in the head wall.
SLOTH D P. Turley (solo) 27/10/85. Climb the easy-angled corner right of the arête. From the grass ledge move left and up.
DELICATESSEN S P. Turley (solo) 29/10/85. Climb over hollow-sounding flakes to reach a corner on the right. Climb this to a grass ledge and finish up the big chimney.
North Central Buttress
An extensive area of good solid rock 50m south of North Buttress.
Central Buttress, Murroughkilly
THE QUIET CLAM ** E5 6A Dominic Lee, Nathan Lee, 9th August 2010. 20m. Steep climbing taking the central line of North Buttress direct via a crack and hanging flakes. Finish up the corner above.
RIFFRAFF * HVS 5a C. Sheridan, C. Torrans, 26/10/85. Takes the left-facing corner starting at 4m above the ground. Interesting climbing with an exposed crux at the overhang.
BLUEBIRD ** HVS 5a K. Higgs, T. Ryan, 7/5/77. Excellent sustained climbing. Start below the crack. Move right and then left to its base. Finish up the crack.
TROUBLE CHILD HVS 5a K. Higgs, T. Ryan, 7/5/77. Right-trending crack, 3m right of Bluebird.
FOSSIL FUEL ** E6 6B Dominic Lee, Nathan Lee, 9th August 2010. 20m. Climbs the incision left of Hard Tack, gaining it directly via flakes and undercuts. Continue up the water-worn groove above the break to join and finish up The Quiet Clam.
HARD TACK * E1 5c C. Torrans, C. Sheridan, 27/10/85. Strange jamming sequence to get into the pod. The route does continue to the top of the crag but it's best to abseil off from the fixed point.
GOOD CRACK * VS 4c C. Torrans, I. Rea, 29/10/85. Nice climbing on firm rock. The crack is not as wide as it looks. Abseil off.
Easily recognised by the small clump of trees and a sheep pen slightly to its right. The biggest of the crags with a fine main wall. The routes are described in relation to a small tree beside the off-width crack of Cromwell.
SLI NA FIRINNE HVS+H220 5a C. Sheridan, C. Torrans, 5/5/96. This route takes the second crack left of the small tree which runs into a small overhang. Climb the crack and pass the overhang on the right to reach a grassy ramp. Continue up the awkward crack above. Treat the rock with care.
PRAMALAMADINGDONG * E2 5c C. Torrans, D. O Connell, September 1991. A good route which takes the crack just to the left of the small tree. Climb up the crack to a break and traverse left past a tree to a ledge. The going gets sweaty on the thin crack which leads to the top. There is a stake up on the right for belaying.
THE NEW HEATHENS * E3 5c C. Torrans, S. McEvoy, September 1991. A bold start leads to a good crack to finish. The route climbs the wall just left of the small tree. Gain the flakes just right of the crack and follow these rightwards to the top of the right-hand crack. Move slightly left to the bottom of another crack and a good thread. Climb the crack above with increasing difficulty. Belay on the stake.
CROMWELL E3 5c C. Torrans, D. O Sullivan, October 1991. Low in the grade and enjoyable, so a good one to push it out (or hold it back). The climb takes the wide left-facing crack which runs from beside the tree up and over the break and bulge to reach a dog-leg crack, all quite sustained. Follow the doggy's crack to the top and tie yourself to the stake.
HINTS AND ALLEGATIONS * E3 6a C. Torrans, D. O Sullivan, 7/9/86. A technical and strenuous route with reasonable protection. The climb follows the light-coloured stain in the middle of Central Buttress. Climb easily over a bulge to a short groove. Up this to a sloping ledge. Move right and gain the top of a flake. The short crack on the left leads to a huge hidden jug and a horizontal break. Continue up the crack above (crux) with difficult finger jamming to a jug on the left. Continue with difficulty to a break and follow the crack to easy ground, exiting right.
HY-BRASIL ** E1 5b C. Sheridan, I. Rea, C. Torrans, 27/10/85. Superb climbing on excellent rock with the crux at the right place at the final overhang. Start at the sloping ledge at the clean wall on the right side of the buttress. The route takes the corner with the small tree stump and the crack above. (Re-cleaned by Ronan Keane, July 2011.)
NEBRASKA ** E2 5c C. Torrans, C. Sheridan, 27/10/85. An excellent pitch, strenuous and technical with good protection. The crux is at the thin crack which goes left and then right near the top. Climb the wide crack which runs up to form the right side of the big flake shared by Hy Brasil. Continue up the crack to the overhang and gain the crack which runs up left. Climb this to the top.
South Central Buttress
An extensive area immediately right of Central Buttress, bounded on the left by the small clump of trees and on the right by the descent ramp.
FREELANCE ** VS 4c G. Smyth, D. McMahon, 6/7/85. The right-hand of two prominent corners. The crux is gaining the bottom of the corner (awkward).
Separated from South Central Buttress by the descent ramp and bounded on the right by an old wall.
DISTRUST THE STARS ** HVS 5a D. Walsh, S. Young, 4/6/85. Excellent climbing on sound rock. High in the grade. Takes the left-facing stacked corners just right of the descent ramp. Exit left around the overhang at the top (crux just below the overhang).
DELIVERANCE * E3 6a D. O Sullivan, C. Torrans, September 1986. Steep interesting climbing up the right wall of Distrust The Stars. Start 5m right of this route at a short leftward trending crack. Follow this to a ledge. Place protection in the crack on the right and then traverse left to a line of flakes. Follow the flakes to a jug and then launch up to gain the horizontal break. Traverse left and finish up the twin cracks. The belay is well back in some clints.
UPLIFT * HS 4a D. McMahon, G. Smyth, 7/7/85. Well protected and steeper than it looks.
RAIN STOPS S 3c M. Keyes, B. Thorn, 3/8/85. A white, north-facing corner.
ABOUT TIME TOO * VS 4c P. Ewen, K. Higgs, June 1977. Take the right-hand of the two pods. Gain the crack and exit left through the wide chimney.
RAIN DANCE VS K. Higgs, P. Ewen, June 1977. Just right of the pod there is a flared groove and crack leading to an overhang. Exit right around the overhang.
WOUNDED KNEE HVS 5a M. Keyes, D. Somers, August 1989. Start at the crackline between Rain Dance and Land Of The Free. Follow the crackline until it peters out at two-thirds height. Climb the wall and slab above and finish up the top corner of Land Of The Free. The hollow flake at 4m adds some interest.
LAND OF THE FREE ** VS 4c D. Walsh, D. McMahon, 6/7/85. The left-hand of the two cracks. Climb this to a slab. Mantelshelf (thread runner) and traverse left and finish up the crack in the corner.
HOME OF THE BRAVE ** HVS 5a D. Walsh, G. Smyth, 7/7/85. Start just left of the north-facing corner up dubious rock for 3m to the base of the magnificent layback crack. Up this for 7m to a slab. Mantelshelf and move right (delicate crux). Finish up the clean corner.
EMIGRANT'S LEGACY S M. Keyes, B. Thorn, 3/8/85. The north-facing corner just right of Home of the Brave. The two routes finish together.
Far South Buttress
Easily identified by a wall running up to its base and a nose at 10m, prominent in profile from either side.
HIGH DUDGEON ** HVS 5A D. Walsh, S. Barrett, C. O Higgins, 14/9/84. A north-facing corner 20m left of the wall. Strenuous and sustained after the ledge at 3m. Well protected.
FRESH FIELDS ** VS 4c D. Walsh, C. Brogan, June 1984. A Y-shaped corner 10m left of the wall. The crux is the leftward traverse at half height to gain the left-hand corner. Trust the small hold just around the corner.
SQUATTING E2 6a D. O Sullivan, J. Dugdale, 30/5/92. Takes the left nose direct. Start 3m left of Tiger's Tail. Hard climbing up the sickle-shaped crack gains the jug at its apex. Climb directly up to the terrace. Move left onto the nose and finish up the left-facing groove.
TIGER'S TAIL ** VS 4c D. Walsh, C. O Higgins, S. Barrett, 14/9/85. The left-hand nose. Start just right of the wall and climb the chimney. Step left and gain the nose by swinging on a jug. Finish unexpectedly up the right-hand crack (strenuous).
TANTRUM ** E4 6b D. O Sullivan, J. Dugdale, 30/5/92. An obvious challenge offering fierce bouldery climbing. Start 2m left of Lion's Mouth. Crank the thin crack, passing a peg runner en route, to a more classic finish up a left-facing corner and continuation crack.
LION'S MOUTH ** HVS 5a D. Walsh, C. O Higgins, S. Barrett, 14/9/85. A photogenic route. The right-hand nose is reached by a strenuous chimney (crux). Climb through a notch in the overhang, up and out onto the nose on the left. Make a dynamic mantelshelf and finish up a rightward crack above
EYE OF THE TIGER ** E1 5b R. Higgins, D. Walsh, 18/6/85. The rightward-trending crack just right of Lion's Mouth. Sustained and well protected. Belay on the grass ramp. Continue easily up the ramp on the left and the corner.
FLAKE RATTLE AND ROAR HS 4a M. Keyes, L. Yallop, B. McNelis, July 1988. This route follows the first series of overlapping flakes on the broken wall on the far right of Far South Buttress. Exit carefully left at the top.
HERE COMES SUMMER VD G. Moss, D. Doyle, 19/8/1985 Start 2m left of the obvious chimney. Climb thin crack to grassy ledge, then the left-hand crack in the wall above, trending left to overhang.
LÁ na SCOLLAIB VD G. Moss, 18/8/1985 Climb the chimney
RAINBOW WARRIOR S D. Doyle, V. Kelly, 18/8/1985 3m right of the chimney. Climb the crack, starting at a leaning block.
LÁ na GAOITHE S V. Kelly, G. Moss 18/8/1985 Start 3m right of Rainbow Warrior, at the foot of a thin crack just right of the south-facing corner. Traverse in left, then climb corner.