Gola Trip

Gola is a small island just off the coast of Donegal, or at least that’s how the mainlanders would have you believe it!  Perhaps when it comes to Northern Ireland the issue of calling Britain “The Mainland” is controversial, but on Gola there are no such grey areas.  So let me begin again.

Ireland is a small island just off the coast of Gola.  Gola is an independent republic, with “The Mainland” referring to Ireland, with its own government and population.  The workings of this government are known only to “The Goose”, who as a result of “The short war” with Ireland in 1241, legally owns the island and holds the divine right to rule it.

Gola is contained within a microclimate, meaning the weather is often better than on The Mainland.  However this microclimate is only stable at the start of June/the week after all exams have ended at QUB (miraculous luck, isn’t it?), which is when we go there.  It is also trapped inside a time sink.  The physics get a bit complicated, but basically the trip lasts for a week (at least we experience a week), but to The Mainland only a day or so passes.

Now, Gola is home to some of the most stunning sea-cliff climbing in Ireland, and that’s saying something when you consider how the sea runs the whole way around Ireland.  There are routes for all abilities, from short and comforting, to tall and awe-inspiring.  Though if trad climbing is not your thing, there has been a recent discovery of a little explored group of boulder problems on the north of the island (but nothing famously hard or established).  Even if all you seek is solace after brutal summer exams, the island fully caters to your needs.  While a small island, on all sides there are beautiful views of the ocean and Donegal, perfect for relaxing walks.  And fear not the ridicule of the club, this trip is NOT ONLY FOR CLIMBERS.  It is a well engrained tradition that copious amounts of drink and food are partaken of, and it is fully acceptable to spend some time just sleeping in a tent and reading books. 

Gola is wonderful, but this beauty does not come without a cost.  It is greatly averse to being settled on by humans.  This is seen in two ways, the first if mental.  Many a climber has been tempted by a few extra days early to lengthen the trip.  Do not underestimate the drain on the moral that life on the island exerts, but for the intrepid rewards are great.  The second is a lack of facilities.  That’s right kids; we camp (yes in real tents!) a mile from the only fresh water tap, bring all our own food with us, there are no trees for shade (the more Irish-skinned should bring much sun-cream), and there is no toilet.  Now do not be deterred, there is a place called “Shit Creak” where one finds one’s own special spot, and most elegantly “releases offerings” in to the ocean and surf to be washed away by the tide (but seriously, IT ISN’T AS BAD AS IT SOUNDS).

All in all, everything you need to know will be summarised soon, but for everything you WANT to know (even if you don’t know it yet) can be summed up in this well-known Traditional Irish song, written by the modern poets, The Rubberbandits.

Now this song is ‘as gaeilge’, meaning it’s in Irish, so I will helpfully translate for you.



[Drones, meant to imitate the sounds of the waves and the winds of the island]


The climbing can’t be beaten

Neither can the craic

The rock’s as sharp as razors

But pink like Amethysts


But don’t let this dissuade you

It isn’t all that bad

When you here on Gola island

All your wounds are healed




I wanna climb your sea cliffs


Jimmy’s master of the ferry

And he’s only fourty-two

But he looks as old as time

And teeth, he’s only few


For when you need to have a sh*t

There’s only one place to go

Hang your arse over the sea

And hold on for dear life


Cause there’s many things to do

Like walking by the sea

Or Bouldering on tiny rocks

And trad climbing with glee




I wanna climb your sea cliffs


There’s just so much to do here

And so much more to see

Sunset through the giant’s arch

Or the grace of Easter Wall


Well of all the Irish climbing

You keep a piece o’me heart

There’s nowhere else just quite the same

I think I’ll spend the week


Fond memories of Gola

I keep them near and true

And for the glory of the goose

Bourbons we offer you




I wanna stay forever


-Conor Cadden


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