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Climbing in the UK: The Definitive Guide

Rock climbing or bouldering is a great outdoor sport to enjoy by yourself or with friends. Whether you are a beginner or have lots of experience, there are a number of great places in England to go rope climbing or bouldering with challenging routes and stunning countryside views. To ensure you are well prepared and stay safe, there are a few things you should bear in mind for your climb:

  • Check the weather and prepare for changes
  • Take the correct equipment eg. ropes, rack, stakes, bouldering pads etc
  • Don’t climb anything out of your range or which you don’t have the right equipment
  • Research routes prior to your trip to ensure you are fully equipped
  • Take lots of refreshments

Our guide gives a good overview of climbs in each region of the UK, but to ensure you are fully prepared, we advise that you research your chosen destination before your trip. To give you some ideas for your next climb, we have selected a range of great climbing locations throughout the UK:

  • Outdoor Rock Climbing in South East England
  • Outdoor Rock Climbing in North West England
  • Outdoor Rock Climbing in East of England
  • Outdoor Rock Climbing in the Midlands
  • Outdoor Rock Climbing in South West England
  • Outdoor Rock Climbing in North East England

Discover some of the best places to go climbing in England and start planning ahead for your next trip.

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Places to go climbing in South East England

  • Where: Harrison's Rocks, Birchden Wood, East Sussex
  • Rock Type: Sandstone (soft)
  • Climbs: 588

For climbing and bouldering, head to Harrison’s Rocks in Birchden Wood. Leading is not allowed, most climbs are top-roped and there are climbs for all abilities. Enjoy the beautiful outdoor setting and if you are a beginner, try an outdoor climbing course with Extreme Ventures Outdoor Climbing.

  • Where: Stone Farm Rocks, East Grinstead, West Sussex
  • Rock Type: Sandstone
  • Climbs: 200

Stone Farm Rocks are ideal for low to mid- grade climbs at 6 to 8 metres high, so is a great place for beginners. There are some places for top-rope climbing and others which can only be soloed. If you are planning to boulder, make sure you take a crash mat. Don't forget to enjoy the beautiful views overlooking the Weir Wood Reservoir.

  • Where: White Cliffs of Dover, North Downs, Dover
  • Rock Type: Chalk
  • Climbs: 53

Take on the exhilarating challenge of climbing the White Cliffs of Dover. Not for the faint-hearted, climbing the steep cliffs is similar to ice and glacier climbing so requires axes and crampons. Some routes are restricted due to wildlife or change with rock fall, and you must consider both the tide and contact the coastguard before and after climbing.

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Places to go climbing in North West England

  • Where: Hodge Close Quarry, Coniston, Lake District
  • Rock Type: Slate
  • Climbs: 95

Hodge Close Quarry, north of Coniston, is ideal for experienced climbers with the correct equipment. There are a series of challenging climbs and the area is also popular with abseilers and divers. The sun comes around later in the afternoon, making this a popular spot for evening climbs.

  • Where: Thorn Crag, Forest of Bowland, Lancashire
  • Rock Type: Gritstone
  • Climbs: 139

At Thorn Crag, there are four main sections at different tiers consisting of shorter climbs and large buttresses. You can do some bouldering to warm up on your way to the bigger climbs. Varying from beginner to experienced climbs, Thorn Crag can be gritty after winter but is an ideal area for different abilities.

  • Where: Frodsham Crag, Frodsham, Cheshire
  • Rock Type: Sandstone (hard)
  • Climbs: 129

Frodsham Crag is a small, hidden climbing spot on the north side of Woodhouse hill. This popular bouldering spot has a number of small boulders up to 6 metres high. It is a great climbing location in the both summer and winter seasons, staying light in the evenings during the summer and full of lush green trees during the winter.

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Places to go climbing in North East England

  • Where: Highcliff Nab, Guisborough, North York Moors
  • Rock Type: Sandstone (hard)
  • Climbs: 92

Enjoy the classics or take on some severe climbs at Highcliff Nab. The area, overlooking Guisborough, is great on a summers day and is popular with walkers, locals and climbers. Ideal for bouldering, top roping and skilful climbing, you will need to bring your own gear to take on some of the more technical and bold climbs at Highcliff Nab.

  • Where: Bowden Doors, Belford, Northumberland
  • Rock Type: Sandstone
  • Climbs: 292

Bowden Doors is easily accessible and is ideal for climbing and bouldering. With climbs ranging from 7-15 metres high, you will need to bring your gear, but there are a range of routes to suit different abilities. The wall is rarely wet and is quick to dry so is suitable all year round and has a stunning overhang in the shape of a breaking wave.

  • Where: Slipstones, Ripon, North Yorkshire
  • Rock Type: Gritstone
  • Climbs: 273

The valley of Colsterdale is close to the brewery town of Marsham and is a great bouldering venue. Away from the crowds of the Peak District, this great bouldering venue is suitable for climbing all year round. Some climbs reach 8-9 meters high so be sure to take crash pads with you.

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Places to go climbing in the Midlands

  • Where: Stanage Edge, Peak District, Sheffield
  • Rock Type: Gritstone
  • Climbs: 2097

With the longest gritstone crag in the UK, this is Britain’s most popular climbing location. With high-quality rocks and great routes, Stanage Edge is great for rope climbing and bouldering all year round. The wall is 20 metres high and over a mile long and can accommodate all climbing styles but you will need a standard rack of gear and bouldering pads.

  • Where: Cademan Woods and Broadhill, Loughborough, Leicestershire
  • Rock Type: Granite
  • Climbs: 142

Although it can be easy to get lost in the woods, Cademan Woods and Broadhill is a great bouldering location north of Whitwick. Some boulders may be difficult to find and you will be lucky to stumble on the same boulders twice, but there are lots of easy boulders to try and some harder problems to tackle.

  • Where: Pleasley Vale, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
  • Rock Type: Limestone
  • Climbs: 168

Shaded in the summer but warmer in the winter, Pleasley Vale is sheltered by trees so is an ideal climbing location. There are lots of opportunities for bouldering and rope climbing with good quality rocks and a range of climbs. The unpolished rock provides good friction and stability for your climbs and is a great training venue.

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Places to go climbing in South West England

  • Where: The Dewerstone, Dartmoor, Devon
  • Rock Type: Granite
  • Climbs: 149

Dewerstone Wood is a magical woodland area belonging to the National Trust, with routes that are climbable all year round. Set above the babbling River Plym, this is a great long-weekend venue with low to mid-range climbs, from multi-pitch classics to single pitch micro-routes. The area can be busy though so get there early to avoid activity groups.

  • Where: Cheesewring Quarry, Liskeard, North Cornwall
  • Rock Type: Granite
  • Climbs: 160

Cheesewring Quarry offers a number of routes, suitable for all grades. Although it can be slippery when wet and there are some seasonal restrictions, the wall reaches 30 metres high, peering over the edge of the quarry. There has been some recent rebolting on the walls and there are a number of intermediate holds but it is not an ideal location for large groups.

  • Where: Cheddar Gorge, Mendip Hills, Somerset
  • Rock Type: Limestone
  • Climbs: 382

Cheddar Gorge is a sight to behold and offers the tallest inland limestone crop in the UK. Climbing is possible all year round at this busy tourist attraction but there are seasonal restrictions throughout the year and the south side is only open during the winter. Tackle steep traditional or sport climbs for a range of grades and enjoy the sunshine until the mid-afternoon.

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Places to go climbing in the North of England

  • Where: Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire
  • Rock Type: Limestone
  • Climbs: 320

Famous for modern sports climbs, Malham Cove offers some of the most challenging climbs in the world. Known as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Yorkshire’s limestone crags, there are plenty of climbing opportunities for beginners and experienced climbers all year round. There are some seasonal restrictions and you will need your own gear to tackle the 60-metre wall, but the views from the top of the cove are well worth the climb.

  • Where: Windmoor End, Brough, North Pennines
  • Rock Type: Limestone
  • Climbs: 210

The quarried limestone crag at Windmoor End is exposed to the elements but dries quickly. It is suitable for climbing all year round with good routes for most grades but most routes require some technical wall climbing. Bring your own ropes, rack and stake or crash mats for bouldering, although the turf does offer a soft landing. Shut the gates behind you, take care not to damage the walls and enjoy stunning views of Eden Valley.

  • Where: Crag Lough, Hexham, Kielder Forest Park
  • Rock Type: Dolerite
  • Climbs: 104

Just North of Hadrian’s Wall and close to a number of Roman forts and villages, Crag Lough is a great area for all abilities. There are lots of great lower grade routes which are perfect for beginners when it is not cold or wet which stretch up to 20 metres high. The venue has sun from lunchtime onwards which is perfect for summer evening climbs and is close to Peel Crag with more great routes.

Whether you are just starting to climb or you have years of experience, trying new locations can bring new challenges and new victories. No matter where you choose to climb or what route you take, be prepared, stay safe and most of all, have fun!