A Guide to Outdoor Climbing

If you're new to the sport and want to try out outdoor climbing, one of the best ways to get involved is to find a qualified instructor or join a group of people. Search from hundreds of climbing instructors, courses and experience days and get involved with outdoor climbing.

A Guide to Outdoor Climbing
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If you're new to the sport and want to try out outdoor climbing, one of the best ways to get involved is to find a qualified instructor or join a group of people. Search from hundreds of climbing instructors, courses and experience days and get involved with outdoor climbing.
If you're new to the sport and want to try out outdoor climbing, one of the best ways to get involved is to find a qualified instructor or join a group of people:
Search from hundreds of climbing instructors, courses and experience days and get involved with outdoor climbing.
Climbing instructors are a great way to 'show you the ropes' and teach you how to climb outdoors in a safe manner. Climbing can be such a risky sport if not done correctly, so going with someone with experience really is vital on your first outtings. What's more, they'll show you the best routes that will allow you to ease in or really push your limits. They can help with teaching your quick tricks to get better much more quickly. And they can are very flexible. Either go by yourself for a one-on-one session, or go along with all of your friends and they'll make sure you're all having the best rock climbing experience

Useful resources for climbing outdoors:

Want to learn the climbing basics Get familiar with the equipment, different types of climbing and the background to the sport and you're bound to have a great time while climbing outdoors (you might even teach your instructor something)
Want to go full 180 and search for indoor climbing walls near you Climbing indoors is a great way to pick up the basics, confidence and get some pre-practise in so you can make the most of your outdoor climbing experience

Tips for Climbing Outdoors

1) Climbing outdoors in a location that has more established routes and choices will help you to see the hand and foot holds, making it easier to get started. It can also be a great way to provide lots of variety to suit your ability. We've outlined some great places to get started in your outdoor climbing journey in the UK below, but alternatively your instructor will tell you what they recommend
2) Practise falling a few times and get used to the feeling of the rope capturing you and how to manage the position of your body to stay safe. Start small and build up to a slightly bigger falls.
3) Remember getting down can sometimes be more tricky, if you're bouldering, so practise getting down from your routes at a height that's safe to avoid having to jump all the way from the top of your route. If you're rope climbing, practise 'leaning back' for your partner to belay you down to get used to your equipment
4) Try the same routes a few times in a few different ways to bolster your skills and build confidence. It can often be the case that you get stuck on the same route for a long time. Go back to other routes and practise there more.
5) Check in at the BMC s guidelines for climbing. Respect the rules, the environment and others and you're bound to have a great time.

Where to go for outdoor climbing in the UK?

There are a great number of stunning locations for Outdoor Climbing in UK, so we've outlined our top picks. We've done a round-up of the best outdoor climbing locations in the UK and some specific climbs to check out to get started.

Best Outdoor Climbing 1: Peak District

The Peak District is one of the best places for climbing in UK. Its geographically central position makes it easily accessible from just about everywhere in the country. It's a popular place for hiking, and its spa towns and museums attract over ten million visitors annually. As it covers an area of over five hundred square miles, don't expect to see it all in one day!
The Peak District is one of the UK's premium climbing spots. Its geographically central position makes it easily accessible from just about everywhere in the country. It's a popular place for hiking, and its spa towns and museums attract over ten million visitors annually. As it covers an area of over five hundred square miles, don't expect to see it all in one day!
Climbers are drawn to the Peak District by the erosive result of wind and water on the landscape. Here, the effects of time and the elements have exposed the area's substrate of gritstone and limestone. Steep escarpments have been carved into layer upon layer of perfect hand and footholds. Weather-beaten boulders jut from heather covered moorland presenting the perfect climbing puzzles. The Peak District is a paradise, created by nature, for climbers.

Peak District Climbing Routes

There are well over eight hundred different climbing routes in the Peak District. That means there's a multitude of amazing challenges just waiting to be conquered for every level of climber. Even if you climbed every day for a year, there'd still be more to scale. Once you've completed a few, you'll find yourself compiling a wish list of future Peak District climbs you just have to do in your outdoor climbing adventures.

Top Spots For Bouldering In The Peak District

1.Mother Cap Quarry – On the edge of the Peak District, near to Sheffield, the Mother Cap Quarry has fantastic gritstone crags which are ideal for beginners to hone their skills on.
Closest parking – Surprise View Car Park on the A625. It's around ten minutes walk to Mother Cap Quarry from there.
Location on map: Mother Cap Quarry
2.The Roaches – Part of a gritstone escarpment, this rocky ridge known as The Roaches is near the town of Leek in Staffordshire. There's lots of different graded routes to try out, and if you're looking to take your bouldering skills up a notch, this is the ideal place.
Closest parking – Follow the A53 from Leek through Upper Hulme the take the turn for Roaches Gate. There's a fifty space car park there.
Location on map: The Roaches
3.Cratcliffe -This craggy tor is about a twenty minutes drive from the town of Matlock in Derbyshire. There are enough boulders and routes here to keep any climber occupied for a couple of years.
Closest parking : Parking for Cratcliffe is limited to a small layby on the B5056.
Location on map: Cratcliffe
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Top spots for Trad & Sport climbing in the Peak District

1. Windgather Rocks – The Windgather Rocks have a moderate height of just over four hundred metres. That combined with its crevice-covered, slab face has made it one of the most popular places in the Peak District for novice climbers. It's the best place to polish your skills before taking on more challenging climbs.
2. High Tor – This amazing limestone crag near the town of Matlock Bath, in Derbyshire, is one of the best in the UK. It has over eighty trad climbing routes as well as twenty sport climbing routes. So, even though it is more challenging than some other Peak District climbing spots, there's something there for everyone.
3. Kinder Downfall – The Kinder Downfall is a waterfall which flows over some of the most rugged crags in the Peak District. With eighty trad routes divided over several sections of gritstone rock face, it offers the most picturesque climbing in the Peak District.
Find your next adventure, climbing in the Peak District

Best Outdoor Climbing 2: Lake District

The Lake District, the most scenic area in the county of Cumbria, covers around nine-hundred square miles. It's one of Britain's most famous national parks and receives over sixteen million visitors a year. Nestled among the fells, valleys and woodlands of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are England's biggest lakes. While Lake Windermere and Wast Water are incredibly beautiful, they're not what attracts climbers to the Lake District.
What makes the Lake District so appealing to climbers is the region's unique topography. Blessed with some of the country's craggiest landscapes, the Lake District is one of the best places for climbing in UK. It's also where England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike is located. Irrespective of your preferred type of climbing, the Lake District offers not only some of the best lead and trad climbing routes in the UK, but some fantastic bouldering as well.
The Lake District is a mecca to UK rock climbers. This is where it all started way back in 1886 when Walter Haskett Smith scaled Napes Needle. Even if you're not planning on climbing Napes Needle (it is classed as hard to severe), it's great to see it and pay homage to the pinnacle which originated the sport.
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Top spots for bouldering in the Lake District

1. Badger Rock – Badger Rock is one of the big daddies of bouldering in the Lake District. A huge, single boulder of volcanic origins located on private agricultural land near Kentmere. Badger Rock offers boulderers thirty four different climbing routes of varying degrees of difficulty to pit their wits against.
2. The Bowderstone – The Bowderstone near the village of Grange is the Lake District's most iconic boulder. This precariously tilted, nine metre high lava rock has numerous climbing routes which are graded from V1 to V11.
3. Fairy Steps – The Fairy Steps are two sections of limestone cliffs separated by a set of man-made steps carved into the rock. Located just outside the village of Beetham, the Fairy Steps offer multiple low grade climbs ranging from V0 to V7 in a fairy-tale woodland surrounding.

Top spots for Lead, Trad & Sport climbing in the Lake District

1. Shepherds Crag – Shepherds Crag, a rhyolite escarpment, looms over Derwent Water and the Valley of Borrowdale. The Brown Slab routes on this fifty metre high crag are a popular place for beginners to start their outdoor rock climbing experiences.
2. Dow Crag -The formidable looking Dow Crag is part of the Coniston Fells and overlooks the mountain lake known as Goat's Water. With almost one hundred and fifty different routes, named everything from named Holocaust to Pandora's Box, it offers exciting climbing for intermediate level climbers and above.
3. Scafell Pike – Scafell Pike is a Lake District climbing challenge even for advanced climbers. This is the one to write on your wish list and do when you've practised your techniques and gained some experience.
Closest parking: There's a National Trust pay and display car park at Lakes Head. After that, there's a serious bit of fell walking to do before reaching the crag.
Location on map Scafell Pike
Find your next adventure, climbing in the Lake District

Best Outdoor Climbing 3: Portland

Portland, part of the county of Dorset, is a small island in the English Channel. Attached to the mainland by a sand causeway and no bigger than four miles by two, Portland has a centuries-old fame for the quality of its stone. Portland stone has been quarried and used for everything from reconstructing London after the Great Fire to making headstones for fallen soldiers during both world wars. The island is also popular with visitors for its connections to the D-Day sailings, its hundred-year-old lighthouses and sixteenth-century castle.What basically sets Portland apart for climbers are its limestone escarpments and stunning white cliffs. They're the reason Portland holds first place in the UK rankings for sport and lead climbing. There are some trad climbing routes in Portland but the past few years have seen them deteriorate due to the crumbly nature of the rock faces. Most climbers now avoid trad climbing in this location and prefer to climb at nearby Swanage instead. Climbing in Portland provides epic views over the seas beneath.
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Top spots for Bouldering in Portland, UK

There's a multitude of bouldering venues on the island of Portland where you'll find everything from smooth limestone and flowstone faces to rocks with wave-eroded hand holds on the coastal routes. Portland has some distinct bouldering challenges which are both exciting and testing.
1. Portland Bill – The unusual stack of rocks near the famous Portland Bill lighthouse has some great routes of all levels which can be climbed accompanied by the crash of the waves below.
Nearest parking – The car park for the Portland Bill Lighthouse and Visitor Centre.
Location on map Portland Bill
2. Cheyne Wears – The flowstone face of the Neddyfields Bouldering Wall in the Cheyne Wears area offers boulderers some unique and tough challenges which are practically vertical but still doable by most levels of climber.
Closest parking – The Cheyne Wears car park. The Neddyfields is a five minute walk from there along the coastal path.
Location on Map Cheyne Wears
3. Southwell Landslip – Venture into the unknown and try something new by bouldering the Southwell Landslip. Not as frequented as some of the other bouldering routes on Portland but every bit as good.
Closet parking - The Cheyne Wears car park. Head north out of the car park toward Church Ope Cove and you'll find the Southwell Landslip.
Location on map Southwell Landslip
Find your next adventure, climbing in Portland
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Top spots for Sport & Lead Climbing in Portland

1. The Cuttings -The Cuttings are aptly named as they're the direct result of old quarry work. Various rock faces offer a total of almost five hundred different climbing routes with difficulties ranging from V0 to V12. The pre-prepared routes mean beginners can get straight on with their climbing without having to worry about positioning climbing nuts. It's all there ready and waiting.
Closest parking – Use the Church Ope car park in the village of Easton, it's free. The Cuttings are a ten minute walk from there along a dirt trail which starts by the bridge.
Location on Map The Cuttings
2. Blacknor Beach – Blacknor Beach provides sports climbers and boulderers with some slab-based coastal climbing. There's only around two hundred different routes most of which are graded at a moderate level. The bonus? Fresh sea air and amazing sea scapes whilst you're climbing.
Closest parking: Grangecroft Road car park or as its also known, the Blacknor Cliffs Climbers car park.
Location on map Blacknor Beach
3. Dungecroft Quarry – The Dungecroft Quarry is in the Cheyne Wears region of Portland. The quarry walls, which closely resemble natural cliffs, are fully primed for sport and lead climbing. The gritstone slabs offer over forty routes and great climbing for intermediates.
Closest parking: Use the Cheyne Wears car park then follow the trail from there down into the quarry.
Location on map: Dungecroft Quarry
4. Nicodemus Knob – The Nicodemus Knob is a ten-metre high stone needle and has four sport climbing routes as well as a multitude of trads. The flat-topped pinnacle is a favourite with climbers visiting Portland because each ascent is rewarded with incredible views.
Closest Parking: The Heights Hotel or the observation points car park nearby.
Location on Map: Nicodemus Knob
Find your next adventure, climbing in Portland

Best Outdoor Climbing Location 4: Dartmoor

Dartmoor is three hundred and seventy square miles of boggy moorland in the county of Devon. These picturesque National Park lands are visited by over ten million people every year. The wilderness of Dartmoor has inspired artists and novelists to create unique masterpieces. Hiking, birdwatching and fishing are popular activities and archaeologists are drawn to explore the moors stone circles and diverse medieval remains.
What draws climbers to Dartmoor with magnetic force are the areas impressive granite tors making it one of the best places for outdoor climbing in UK. They provide climbers of all levels with some of the UK's most rugged routes in all aspects of the word.

Best spots for Bouldering in Dartmoor

1. Bovey Valley Woods - Bovey Valley is a magical wonderland for boulderers. Here there are huge granite boulders hiding in shady woodland glades just waiting to be discovered. This really is the place to get back to nature whilst you boulder.
2. Bonehill Rocks – The Bonehill Rocks are outstanding and not just because they're granite tors. They are the prime bouldering spot in Dartmoor. Start on the Baby Slabs which are graded from V0 to V3 then progress through the other one hundred and seventy routes to a mega V12 on The Wave.
3. Down Tor – There's more than one boulder to climb at Down Tor. In fact there's a whole series of boulders which offer boulderers around one hundred and twenty climbs. More than enough to keep any boulderer busy for an entire weekend. Though if you've reached advanced level, these boulders might be a bit on the easy side for you as they're mostly low to middle grade
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Best spots for Trad & Lead climbing in Dartmoor

1. Hounds Tor – Hounds Tor is a configuration of granite tors popular with both trad climbers and boulderers. There's no shortage of route or problem choice on the tor either as there are over one hundred and eighty to pick from. They all live up to their names too, including the ‘Skin Graft’ so be prepared for sore hands.
2. Bench To r – Bench Tor is unbeatable both for its trad climbing routes and its scenic setting. Surrounded by forest, this granite tor rises above the River Dart Valley and offers climbers over twenty intermediate routes to pit their wits against while enjoying the scenery below.
Find your next adventure, climbing in Dartmoor

Best Outdoor Climbing Location 6: Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks are weird and wonderful rock formations near the town of Harrogate in the Yorkshire Dales. The Nidderdale, where the Brimham Rocks are located, is one of Great Britain's areas of outstanding natural beauty or AONB. Winter or summer, it's one of the UK's favourite places for hiking, cycling and taking llama rides. Yes, you read that right, llama rides.
While llama riding may be one of Yorkshire's most popular activity, the four-legged beasts native to South America are not what lures climbers to Nidderdale. What does entice climbers to the region are the unique clusters of sandstone boulders. The Brimham Rocks cover less than a square mile of Nidderdale, but the concentration of erosion-crafted rocks are a bouldering dreamland which nature could have created just with climbers in mind.
Most of the stones have been blessed with names which vary from The Idol, The Dancing Bear to The Gorilla and The Eccles Cake because of their uncanny resemblance to their namesakes. The formation of some, like The Idol, appear to be performing a precarious, and geologically un-natural, balancing act while on the verge of tumbling over. They are though, excuse the pun, as solid as a rock.

Bouldering at Brimham Rocks

No matter where you turn at Brimham Rocks, there'll be a bouldering problem staring you in the face. It really is the place to explore and discover the one which calls to your soul. If the choice is just too bewildering and you can't decide where to start, try checking out the Cleft Buttress. As well as offering fifteen various problems, there's level ground for placing a mat and some great slabs to practice your finger-work on.
Car Park Boulders
You don't even need to walk or carry your mat very far before you find your first problem at Brimham Rocks. Straight out of the car park there's a set of boulders, aptly named the Car Park Boulders. Surrounded by trees, these boulders are a great place to warm up before moving on to the main stuff.

Sport & Trad Climbing at Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks offers trad climbers over one hundred and fifty different routes to pit themselves against. Most of the top climbs are within a five or ten-minute walk from the car park, so there's no worry of expending all your energy before you find them. If you're feeling adventurous, go straight for the big one which is Brimham's highest buttress, Birch Tree Wall. For something not quite so challenging, head for the Cyclops which has several moderate routes in a woodland setting. Castle Rock is graded on a moderate level, but well worth having a crack at for the stunning views of the valley it sits in.
Closest parking : Brimham Rocks car park. It's just a two minute walk from Brimham Rocks.
Location on map Brimham Rocks
Find your next adventure, climbing in Brimham Rocks
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Best Outdoor Climbing Location 6: Harrison’s Rocks climbing

Harrison's Rocks is a group of rocks on the outskirts of the village of Groombridge in East Sussex. The craggy sandstone tor is surrounded by the birch and conifer trees of Birchden Woods. Whilst Harrison's Rocks are the property of the BMC, or the British Mountaineering Council, the woodland around them belongs to the Forestry Commission who kindly allow climbers free access to the site. The hundred acre woods are also popular for year-round forest walks and camping. It's just a short journey from London making it a great place for outdoor climbing.
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Top-Roping at Harrison’s Rocks
Conservation of the rock surface is a major concern at Harrison's Rocks. The sandstone is easily damaged by both climbing equipment and the constant tread of climbers shoes. The soft rock is also susceptible to damage from the friction of moving rope. For those reasons, there are strict rules set in place by the BMC to ensure its preservation. The BMC have installed bolted routes for top-roping, and as there's almost six hundred to have a go at, it hasn't affected the variety of climbs available.
Whether top-roping or bouldering at Harrison's Rocks, the BMC request all climbers to use the correct footwear, shoes with soft soles or proper shoes for climbing, particularly when on the lower graded routes. This helps keep wear and tear on the rock faces to a minimum.

Bouldering at Harrison's Rock

The North Boulder at Harrison's Rocks is a chunky hunk of over twenty bouldering problems on one rock. Independent to Harrison's Rocks, it offers up four different faces you can tackle from every imaginable angle. There's also the Eyelet Wall which has plenty of moderate routes or for something completely different go for The Cave. There are great slabs around the entrance. Whichever you choose, follow the BMC rules, and keeping chalking to a minimum.
Find your next adventure, climbing in Harrison's Rocks

Best Climbing in UK Location 7: Climbing Cheddar Gorge

The Cheddar Gorge is one of UK's most famous natural wonders. This British grand canyon is located in the county of Somerset and receives over half a million visitors annually. The three-mile long, limestone-walled gorge is almost five hundred feet deep, and though it forms a massive scar across the landscape, it's not visible from space. The gorge is home to many rare and endangered species of aves, insects and mammals. The wild sheep and goats which roam the cliff sides give Cheddar Gorge an almost alpine feel.
Sheep, goats & summer route closures!
It's not only the sheep and goats who appreciate the steep walls of the Cheddar Gorge, climbers do too, as they're also one of the UK's top climbing spots. There's every type of climbing on offer on the gorge from single pitch sport, trad of all levels and the odd bit of bouldering. If you're visiting Cheddar Gorge for climbing during the summer months, then check which routes are open as some are seasonal and closed to climbers from July through to September or October.
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Best climbing spots in Cheddar Gorge

Lion Rock is a craggy limestone tor which, when seen from a distance, gives the impression it has the profile of a prone lion. Though face on, it has to be said, it appears more like a wrinkled grandmother who's taking part in a country fayre gurning competition. Physical appearances aside, it is the king of climbs in the Cheddar Gorge.
Lion Rock has plenty of trad routes which are graded as interestingly tricky as are some of the single pitch sport routes. They're pretty steep and in general tough going. If you're up to 5.12 standard, then don’t hold back, give them a go. If not, head up the trail which curves behind Lion Rock. There you'll find the Meds Cave where you can try out a few bouldering problems with names like Diazepam and Sertraline.
Pride Evans Cave is a near vertical cliff close to the village of Cheddar. It has around thirty sport routes pegged out as well as numerous trads. Yes, they're mostly challenging as this cliff is on the steep and rugged side, but well worth attempting when you've got some experience under your belt.
You don't need to go as far as Polynesia to climb Easter Island . If you hear other climbers talking about their Easter Island climbing experiences, it's almost guaranteed they've been climbing in the Cheddar Gorge. Nor will they have taken up surfing if you overhear a conversation about The Wave . If they mention Tsunami , don't panic, you are unlikely to be in any imminent danger. They're all notable climbs on the crags of the Cheddar Gorge.
Closest parking : There are several pay and display car parks in the Cheddar Gorge with the largest being by Gough’s Cave. Parking spaces are often at a premium, so get there early to make sure you get a place.
Location on map: Cheddar Gorge
Find your next Climbing adventure and search through hundreds of UK climbing experiences.
Oscar White

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Oscar White