THE BEST UK LOCATIONS TO UP YOUR SPORT CLIMBING GAME
If you’ve recently got into climbing, particularly sport climbing, and have been waiting for an opportunity to get out and there and test your new skills, look no further. There are few who know more about climbing than the BMC, especially in the UK, so check out their top 10 best UK sport climbing destinations and start planning a summer on the wall.
The tranquil Wye Valley is well worth a visit – there are all styles of climbing across a wide range of grades, generally on limestone.
Wyndcliffe is a disused roadside limestone quarry, which offers slabby climbing in a sheltered woodland. Of the nearly 60 recorded routes, it’s roughly half and half trad versus sport climbing. Around a dozen sport routes are grade 4-6a. Be aware that some descents may require abseiling from cliff top trees.
• Where: The tranquil Wye Valley
• Park: 200m up the road in a Forestry Commission car park
• Best for: Slabby, roadside climbs
• When to go: Cold, dry days
Gower: Southgate Area
A complex area of stunning sea cliffs, caves and sheltered bays on the south Gower coast. Southgate is made up of several separate climbing crags a few minutes’ walk from the National Trust car park in the tiny village of Southgate. The setting is further enhanced by superb beaches and a really good cafe and cake shop near the cliff top.
Some of the best easier grade routes are on Watch House slab, which is non-tidal and dries quickly after rain. But some of the crags here are affected by the tides, so study the tide tables to avoid getting wet feet.
• Where: The stunning Gower coast
• Park: Southgate National Trust car park
• Best for: A variety of climbing styles in an exquisite setting near the sea
• When to go: Very sheltered and pleasant even on cold winter days
This large, disused limestone quarry near Stoney Middleton in Derbyshire is the centre of lower to mid-grade sport climbing in the Peak District. Sheltered and quick drying, it’s superb for cold days and summer evenings.
The best climbing lies on the Main Face ,but a wealth of easier and introductory routes can also be found on the Upper Tier. As with many old quarries, there is still quite a lot of loose rock, so wearing a helmet is advised. Access is easy - a well-surfaced path leads to the climbing areas in minutes.
• Where: In the heart of the Peak District
• Park: Small car park just off the A623
• Best for: It’s the centre of lower to mid-grade sport climbing in the Peak
• When to go: Colder days and summer evenings
A stunning setting overlooking the Upper Dee valley above Llangollen in North East Wales. Again, it’s an old limestone quarry. Over 150 climbing routes line an embankment with tremendous views over the remains of Dinas Bran castle, a medieval Welsh fort.
With over ten separate climbing walls on a south-facing escarpment there’s something for every aspiring sport climber here. The left side of the cliff sometimes has nesting falcons and may be subject to access restrictions during spring and early summer.
• Where: A stunning setting overlooking a picturesque Welsh valley
• Park: Parking area on a hairpin bend on the Panorama Drive above Llangollen
• Best for: Amazing views and easy-angled climbs
• When to go: Sunny days – very exposed so don’t go on cold, windy days
Castle Inn Quarry
No crags are more roadside than this one! Near Colwyn Bay, close to the A55 North Wales expressway, limestone walls rise directly above a car park. Not only is this venue incredibly accessible, it’s often bathed in sunshine when the nearby mountains of Snowdonia are cloud-covered. It can be cold on windy days but dries very quickly after rain.
A number of really useful climbing routes for novice leaders can be found on the right wing of the main crag, including over a dozen that are less than grade 5. If you get bored of climbing, the top of the crag is part of the Mynydd Marian Nature Reserve. It’s a refuge for rare butterﬂies and nationally-scarce heathland ﬂowers.
• Where: A nature reserve in Snowdonia
• Park: Directly below the crag
• Best for: Slabby and off-vertical easy climbs
• When to go: Sunny days – take a picnic
An excellent, popular inland crag, looking out across Weymouth Bay. An old railway cutting has left several rock walls rising directly from a ﬂat clear base. Although mainly quarried, the climbs are highly varied on good clean vertical rock. Routes can require lots of ﬁnger strength and technique.
In summer, the Cuttings can be hot, but makes a superb morning or evening venue. There are routes to suit all grades of climber, including a beginners’ sector.
• Where: The sport climbing Mecca of Portland, Dorset
• Park: Church Ope car park near the Mermaid Inn in Easton
• Best for: Vertical climbing and a range of grades
• When to go: Looking for morning sunshine or evening shade
Dinorwig slate quarries: Australia Area
Slate is a very unusual rock to climb on, requiring precise footwork, good balance and strong ﬁngers. The vast abandoned slate quarries of Llanberis in Snowdonia provide a surreal and dramatic backdrop to some very good sport climbs. Over 50 bolted climbing routes can be found on the slabby, terraced levels of the Australia sector at Dinorwig.
Access is gained by following a public footpath from the parking area. Bear in mind that technically the routes are on private land and that the landowner (a power generation company) does not ofﬁcially allow access away from the marked footpaths.
• Where: Abandoned slate quarry in Llanberis
• Park: Near the bus turnaround in Dinorwig village
• Best for: Slabby rock, precise footwork and amazing post-industrial scenery
• When to go: Not in winter, when it’s very cold. Dries quickly though
There was no recorded climbing on this crag before 2009. Most local climbers apparently thought climbing wouldn’t be permitted here as it’s so close to the town centre of Settle in Yorkshire. Early in 2009, a rock-fall brought attention to the crag, and conversations led to an intense crag clean-up and transformation into a superb, south-facing climbing area. It was a unique collaboration: the local council funded the development, and local shops bought route names.
Castlebergh offers a number of climbing routes from 4+ to 6a+ and a couple of harder routes for those wanting to push themselves a bit more. Some loose rock remains here, so wear a helmet.
• Where: A short walk from Settle town centre in Yorkshire
• Park: Public car parks in Settle
• Best for: Steeper routes and easy access from a town centre
• When to go: Sheltered venue when it’s windy
A limestone quarry on the border between England and Wales, near Oswestry, Shropshire. Offers dramatic, quite adventurous sport climbing - probably not suitable for novices on their ﬁrst outdoor ventures.
For those with a little more experience under their belts there are over 100, long sports routes here on several different faces. This quarry is a nature reserve managed by Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Be aware that due to rare nesting birds, parts of the cliffs are under restricted access from 1 March to 30 June.
• Where: On the border between England and Wales
• Parking: At the Shropshire Wildlife Trust Car park in the village of Llanymynech
• Best for: Long, adventurous, vertical and steeper routes
Dancing Ledge offers easy access from a free car park close to the village of Langton Matravers and non-tidal climbing by the sea. As a result, it’s probably the most popular cliff at Swanage. However, there’s plenty to go around: roughly 100 climbs, mostly sport, ranging from very hard routes to easier beginner climbs.
Be aware that some of the 5s and 6s have become polished due to the passage of many rock shoes and are consequently hard for their grade. Also worth noting: a small tidal pool was blasted into the rock overlooking the sea for local schools to use about 100 years ago. It’s not big enough to swim in, but a great place to cool down on a hot day.
• Where: By the sea in beautiful Dorset
• Park: Map ref SY 998767
• Best for: Easily accessible, non-tidal climbing by the sea
• When to go: Out of peak season, when it’s quieter
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