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Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

Bouldering in the UK | 5 of the Best Outdoor Spots in Britain

A guide to some of the best places to go bouldering in the UK

Outdoor bouldering spots are the natural progression from all that time spent at your local bouldering wall. The creature comforts of soft crash mats and a fresh brew will always be tempting, but as your bouldering skills develop you’ll find yourself itching for a bigger challenge.

Almscliff, Yorkshire – Photo: flickr.com – Peter Wilkinson

Outdoor bouldering is one of the easiest forms of climbing you can get into. All you need is a crash mat and some shoes, no climbing ropes, no protection, pretty much just you and the rock. Bouldering outdoors teaches you to really read the rock, there are no artificial holds here, no brightly coloured lumps of polyurethane to guide you to the top. This is as real as it gets and you’ve got to make every little bit of grip and edge you can find work for you.

So if you’re ready to take your climbing outside here are some of the top outdoor bouldering spots in the UK.

Portland, Dorset

Pulpit Rock – Photo: wikimedia.org

If you do like to be beside the seaside then Portland is the spot for your next outdoor bouldering trip. Found on the South coast, 8km below Weymouth, Portland is a limestone island that also has some great sport and deep water solo climbing available. Although limestone can often get quite smooth the sea has textured up a lot of the rock here and there are some really fun features along the coast.

There are outdoor bouldering spots all around the island but probably the biggest is The Cuttings, located on the eastern side. There are more than 500 problems here, some of which are pretty demanding but with this much variety you’re bound to find an outdoor bouldering problem you’re comfortable with. Other spots to check out include the dramatic looking Portland Bill coastline, particularly the Light House Area’s Pulpit Rock at the southern tip of the island and West Weares, off the road to your right as you drive onto Portland. West Weares is easy to access, has around 100 outdoor bouldering problems and to cap it off you’re only a short hike from 4 local pubs.

St Bees Head, Cumbria

St Bees Head, Cumbria – Photo wikimedia.org

St Bees is another coastal outdoor bouldering treat, albeit a much smaller venue than Portland. With just over 70 problems, what St Bees lacks in size it makes up for in charm. This red sandstone spot is softer on the hands then many types of rock and it catches the sun late into the afternoon thanks to its western facing.

The outdoor bouldering here is a combination of short sandstone cliff problems and small to mid sized boulders. The thing to watch out for here is the tide which can cut you off in the northern areas of the site so make sure you have a tide table with you. This is a cracking little spot which doesn’t get as packed as many of the larger outdoor bouldering areas, letting you enjoy some chilled climbing in a beautiful setting.

Almscliff, Yorkshire

Almscliff Crag, Yorkshire – Photo: geograph.org .uk

This is outdoor bouldering at it’s best, great views, challenging routes and grippy rock that can be climbed pretty much all year round.

Almscliff is a gritstone crag sat on top of the hills between Leeds and Harrogate, with views over the rolling green Yorkshire landscape. The crag’s exposed position means that you’ll often be climbing in wind but that lack of shelter also makes Almscliff quick drying too, so the odd spot of rain shouldn’t stop you climbing.

The main crag at Almscliff is popular with trad climbers and has some higher routes that can be tackled with just bouldering mats, but the bulk of the outdoor bouldering is found among the rocks that surround the crag itself. There are more than 80 outdoor bouldering problems here with a big emphasis on upper body strength which has led to the crag’s nickname, Armscliff. There are climbs for most levels available but its a great spot particularly for improvers looking to develop their outdoor bouldering and take on some new challenges as the gritstone gives plenty of traction and some interesting features for those tougher outdoor bouldering moves.

Bonehill Rocks, Devon

Bonehill Rocks, Dartmoor – Photo Geograph.org.uk

Bonehill’s granite playground is probably the biggest and most popular outdoor bouldering location in the whole of Dartmoor National Park.

There are tonnes of high quality outdoor bouldering problems here with more than 100 routes ranging from light scrambles all the way up to tough V12 challenges. The rock here is rough and will take a toll on your skin so be prepared for some pretty tired and battered hands at the end of the day.

Apart from the wealth of great problems, one of the main reasons that Bonehill is such a popular outdoor bouldering spot is that it is super accessible. With a car park less than 30 seconds from all that lovely granite, this is one of the easiest outdoor bouldering spots to just turn up and get your climb on. Just don’t be surprised if that also means you get to boulder in front of a small audience of tourists too.

Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia

Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia – geograph.org.uk

The Llanberis Pass passes through Snowdonia National Park, skirting around the Snowdon Massif, home to Wales highest peak, Mount Snowdon.

Running through the bottom of the pass, the A4086 gives easy access to tonnes of outdoor bouldering right on the road side, all you have to do is keep a look out for parked cars and chalk marks on the nearby rocks.

The rock here is rhyolite, a rare type of rapidly cooled volcanic rock which can range from glassy through to fine grained in texture, creating a different challenge to every climb. Top spots include the popular Cromlech Boulders in the heart of the pass, with almost 200 outdoor bouldering problems to suit all abilities from tiny kids’ sized rocks to 8b beasts. If you’re looking for some more chilled outdoor bouldering then check out the RAC Boulders. With around 80 routes this is often quieter than Cromlech and while it still has a couple of tougher routes there are plenty of beginner friendly problems, making it a great spot for some relaxed outdoor bouldering.

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