UK Rock Climbing Spots | 10 Of The Best
A guide to some of the top climbing spots in Britain
UK climbing spots come in all shapes and sizes, catering to every style of rock climbing from sport and trad climbing to bouldering and deep water soloing. The British Isles are packed with different mountains, cliffs, types of stone and grades of climb to keep you constantly inspired and pushing your climbing limits.
Portland Bill, Dorset – South West England
The limestone cliffs of Portland make an impressive setting for any climbing trip with stunning views out over the English Channel. The white stone is pretty dramatic to look at, and has even been used to build the Cenotaph in London, but more important than the natural beauty is the amazing quantity and variety of rock climbing on offer here.
Portland is home to some of the best sports climbing routes in the UK. With a wide variety of climbing grades and decently bolted routes, this is an accessible and fun place to climb that'll keep you coming back for more. Top spots are Blacknor North on the west coast of the island, which has tonnes of fun flowstone routes and on the east coast the Cuttings has a great beginner's area and loads of challenging routes to progress to.
Portland is also home to plenty of great bouldering problems, many of which can be found in the Cuttings Boulderfield just below the Cuttings themselves. If you like deep water soloing you can get your fix too at the Lighthouse Area on island's southern cliffs which surround Portland's newest lighthouse.
Snowdonia National Park - North Wales
Snowdonia is Wales' first national park and home to the highest peak in the country, Mount Snowdon. With such an impressive centre piece it's no wonder that most of the park is also crammed with more great rock climbing than you could shake a soggy Welshcake at, all set in stunningly preserved Welsh countryside.
The Ogwen Valley is a good place to start your Snowdonian rock climbing adventure. With plenty of good beginner routes, Idwal Slabs and Tryfan are some of the most popular crags in the park. Overlooking Ogwen Lake towards the North of Snowdonia, these two climbing areas are mostly made of the lava rock Rhyolite which has strong, clean features that make for accessible climbing.
When you're ready for a bigger challenge head to Lliwedd crag which is right on Snowdon's Horseshoe Ridge. At 1000ft tall this is the largest cliff in England and Wales but it still has lots of good beginner routes for you to get stuck into. The sheer size of Lliwedd means you'll need to book a decent chunk of time to tackle the climbing here but it'll all be worth it when you get to experience the breathtaking views from Wales' highest mountain.
Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire – North West England
Brimham Rocks look like something from a sci-fi movie. The oddly piled towers of rock seem to be the brainchild of a Hollywood set designer but in fact they're completely natural formations.
At a total height of just 280m above sea level the rock climbing isn't the biggest in the country but it's certainly some of the most interesting, crammed with twisting tunnels, flowing edges and unique arches all shaped by the wind and rain.
The rock here is gritstone which has a rough, grippy texture and can make for quite challenging climbing. Climbs are short and sweet but with more than 900 different roped and bouldering problems packed into just over half a square mile, you'll be spoiled for choice.
Lake District National Park, Cumbria - North West England
Brown Slabs at Shepherd's Crag is a great place to begin your Lake District trip. Located near the southern end of Derwent Water, this 50m crag is easy to get to and features a good range of routes with climbs that will help beginners perfect their technique before moving on to the more intermediate routes stretching out across its solid rhyolite face.
You can also get your first taste of multi pitch climbing at Shepherd's crag by climbing the Chamonix Area. The Little Chamonix route comes highly recommended as a spot to get your multi pitch wings, offering a sense of exposure and a steep finish that'll give you a real sense of achievement.
If you're in the Lakes you also have to visit where it all began, Napes Needle. This iconic lump of rock was first climbed by Walter Parry Haskett Smith in June 1886, in what many consider to be the birth of rock climbing as a sport. Today it's not the most challenging climb around but it does give you the chance to climb a bit of history and makes for some epic looking photos.
When you're ready for a bigger challenge England's highest peak, Scafell Pike, looms large over the Lakes challenging you to complete even one of the hundreds of routes ringing its summit.
Harrison’s Rocks, East Sussex – South East England
Harrison's Rocks is the biggest sandstone crag in the south, making it a mecca for climbers from London and the south of England.
Managed by the British Mountaineering Council, this site is well bolted and has a good range of routes for both beginners and intermediate climbers. Because the stone here is so soft you're only allowed to top rope, no lead or trad climbing, to reduce damage to the rock which is already showing plenty of signs of wear.
The climbs here are between just 15 and 30ft tall but it's a great UK climbing spot for a day trip from London or to grab an afternoon of climbing if you're short on time.
Pembrokeshire - South West Wales
If you like your rock climbing with a touch of drama then Pembrokeshire is the place for you. Lining the edge of this Welsh national park are a series of impressive limestone cliffs which overhang the crashing waters of the St George's channel.
There's nothing quite like dangling off a hand hold with white water smashing into the rocks below, plus it nearly always raises a laugh when your belayer takes a surprise wave to the face!
The Pembrokeshire coastline is covered in exciting climbs and among the most popular is Saddle Head, a narrow ridge that sticks out into the sea near Bosherston, making for some truly epic photography opportunities. This spot can get pretty busy in good weather but there are more low grade climbs available close by at Bosherston Head and Stennis Head Crags. If you don't mind a bit of a drive you can also head north to check out Craig Caerfai near St David's which is a fun sandstone practice area with a good range of beginner and intermediate routes.
Glen Coe, Highlands – Central Scotland
Formed by an ice age glacier, Glen Coe is a mountaineer's paradise, offering challenging climbs in a stunning setting.
Despite easy access via the A82, the u-shaped glen retains a sense of wilderness and isolation. Made of volcanic rhyolite rock Coe's crags have hundreds of different routes, largely focused on intermediate to advanced level climbers.
The triangular point of Buachaille Etive Mor is one of the go to crags in Glen Coe. There's enough mid level climbing on this rockface alone to make a trip worthwhile and there's still plenty more to explore.
The East Face of Aonach Dubh has several accessible routes to get you started and the Stob Coire nan Lochan features routes for nearly all levels of climber. The whole of Glen Coe is popular with winter climbers and, because of its imposing 800m height, the Stob is a big hit with the winter crowd due to its reliable snow cover. In fact, the skiing and snowboarding up here is excellent, if you're into that sort of thing.
Further up the valley you can also reach Bidean nam Bian, possibly the most remote crag in the glen, which is home to the Diamond Buttress and the Church Door Buttress, split by one of the glen's easier winter routes, Central Gully.
None of the winter climbing here is to be taken lightly but if you're properly prepared and climbing with an experienced mountaineer, Glen Coe is one of the most beautiful UK climbing spots to explore in the snow.
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset – South West England
Home to Britain's most famous cheese, Cheddar Gorge is a limestone valley that cuts into the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The gorge features around 350 climbs spread across 27 different crags so you'll be sure of a good variety of rock climbing with some great views too.
Reaching up to 450ft tall most of the climbing in the gorge is trad style where you place your own protection as you go, but there are also sport routes too. Most of the gorge climbing is of an intermediate to advanced level so this is not a place to come for your first time climbing or on your own.
The gorge is subject to certain access restrictions with some routes being closed at certain times of the year because of the increased danger to members of the public using the road which runs through the bottom of the valley.
To protect against this, all climbers must have insurance and carry a guidebook to see which routes are available before climbing. You can get all the details here from the BMC website, which might seem like a bit of an effort but will all be worth it when you're climbing in one of Britain's top natural wonders.
Peak District, Derbyshire – Central England
The Peak District would be right at home playing backdrop to the Lord of the Rings. Split into two halves called Dark Peak and White Peak it's hard not to imagine the forces of good and evil clashing across the valleys and mountains of this awesome UK climbing spot.
Dark Peak is the northern half of the Peaks, the rock here is mostly gritstone while in the southern White Peak you'll get the chance to climb lighter coloured limestone instead.
Gritstone's excellent gripping properties make it really popular with climbers of all levels and both the Stannage Edge and nearby Burbage Crags are cracking places to get stuck into Dark Peaks' many challenges.
Heading south, you move into more demanding territory. Intermediate plus level routes at High Tor and Beeston Tor will get your pulse racing while the caves, towers and blades of rock around Dovedale provide some unique and memorable routes that are popular with both climbers and spectating tourists. If you're planning a trip south make sure you don't miss out on Reynard's Arch with its insane overhang and 6b to 8a climbs!
Cairngorms, Aberdeenshire - North East Scotland
Perched in the north eastern corner of Scotland in the Cairngorm National Park, this mountain range is one of the snowiest in the UK and features five peaks over 1200m including the UK's second highest mountain, the 1309m Ben Macdui.
The Cairgorms and surrounding area are made from a mixture of granite, schist and dalradian rock. While granite can be quite predictable, offering decent cracks and grip, metamorphic rock like schist and dalradian can be slippery so you need to take extra care when tackling Cairngorm climbs.
That being said, those willing to take on the Cairngorms are in for a very special experience. With cliffs ranging up to 300m high, these peaks offer some of the most impressive UK climbing spots like Shelterstone Crag in the northern Cairngorms with its 10 pitch climbs and beautiful views across Loch Avon.
Like Glencoe, the Cairngorms are popular with skiers and snowboarders. With their snow record the Cairngorms are also a must for winter climbers who can enjoy spectacular scenery from the top of Lochnagar and the super challenging routes of Creag an Dubh Loch in the south of the plateau.