You’ve practiced and trained and now you’re ready to enter into the world of outdoor rock climbing. You’ve got the gear, the skills and the time, so the only thing left to find is a suitable place to put your newly acquired climbing techniques to the test – but where do you start?
Luckily for us British climbers, the UK is full of naturally climbable peaks, crags and coastal cliffs, so you’ll never be short of places to practice. In today’s article, we’ve explored some of the best beginner hotspots across the width and breadth of Britain – so whether you’re looking for unique things to do in and around Newcastle or want to explore the Cornish seaside from new heights, you can find the perfect place to get out there and learn the ropes for real.
Visit Cornwall and you’ll find a coastline adorned with beautiful cliff faces and spectacular views of the English Channel, so it’s no surprise both new and experienced climbers flock here in their droves. While the sheer slopes of Land’s End are likely out of reach for climbers without extensive experience, travel along to the beginner crags of Port Gaverne or the gorgeous granite cliffs at Sennen and you’ll find the same famous coastline but an entirely easier climbing prospect. A perfect introduction to seaside climbing, Sennen offers a clear-cut climbing route with an abundance of local guides and groups to join for support – and with the chance to grab one of the region’s famous pasties after your introduction to the area, there’s really no nicer place to practice your climbing skills.
Wales is known as a hotspot for climbers at all levels, and it’s easy to see why. With the sprawling peaks of Snowdonia National Park offering a challenge to even the hardiest of European climbers – and the quarries and dips winding their way through the Welsh Valleys proving ideal climbing locations for beginners – Wales offers a rock-climbing experience for everyone. The Glyderau Mountains in Snowdonia, are a truly breath-taking and testing way to experience rock climbing. As a beginner, we’d recommend tackling the easier sections of the Idwal Slabs or heading to the Slate Quarries lying just above Llanberis. This offers a unique way to learn in a less daunting environment – before moving on to more challenging climbs like Mur Y Meirwon (aptly named Wall of the Dead) and the limestone face of Castle Inn Quarry in North Wales.
Venture north to the rural retreat of Northumberland and you’ll find a climber’s paradise – with miles of undisturbed wilderness providing stunning vistas. The Alnwick Moors are a favourite for local climbers, offering an endless view west towards the Cheviot Hills and are accessible from nearby Alnwick. A hotspot in the area is the Hunterheugh Crag. A bouldering favourite among locals, this crag is formed from hard, clean sandstone and shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge for climbers.
Another local favourite is Jack Rock, found at the southern riverbank of the River Coquet – a short distance downstream of Morwick Mill. A weathered sandstone crag, Jack Rock offers a challenge with its vertical nature and part overhang over the river below. A treasure for local climbing groups since it was discovered in 1959, this is a truly unique gem in the UK – providing an exciting atmosphere and a memorable way to kick start your climbing career.
Travel across the northern border and you’ll find yourself in Scotland, home to the Scottish Highlands. This vast environment is covered in a colourful variety of slopes and munros, ideal for beginner, intermediate and expert climbers alike. You’ll find several decently bolted and easily accessible routes at Glen Nevis across the Polldubh Crags, offering sheltered, clean paths for beginners to practice their skills. We’d recommend visiting this region in early spring or autumn to avoid the Highland midge which can be found here in abundance from May to September – and pack your waterproof trousers to ensure you’re prepared for the elements!
For Scottish coastal climbing, head east towards the Aberdeenshire Coast and you’ll discover an array of cliffs of all difficulties. For a tempting challenge for beginners, we’d start off at Deceptive Wall. Facing straight out to sea above a tidal platform, there are a number of easier routes here, with a steeper descent at the northern end of the crag for those who can handle it. Climbers looking for more of a challenge could head towards the Harbour Walls, which is one of the few places along the stretch of coastline to catch the evening sun.
Whether you’re exploring the coastal crags of picturesque Cornwall or you’re heading north to the explore the natural beauty of Northumberland, the UK is brimming with stunning destinations to put the skills you’ve been practicing to the test. Though we’ve only covered a small selection of the incredible climbing areas available to us across Britain, head to any of the crags we’ve recommended and you’ll certainly find a challenge suitable for those looking to start out in rock climbing.