Navigating on a family adventure
Simon McGrath, the author of Camping with Kids, explains why navigation can be a fun and informative part of any family adventure.
Climbing enthusiasts and GetOutside Champions, TwoTravlrs, bring us 5 of the their favourite indoor and outdoor climbing locations across the country.
Andy and I (Gee) just love climbing.
We are UK ambassadors for the well-known climbing charity Climbers Against Cancer (CAC), we have climbed in over 14 different countries in the past two years alone. We have competed on occasion, and a lot of our geographical knowledge on the UK is based around which climbing walls and crags are in the local areas.
Anyone who has tried climbing or knows a climber, knows how easy it can be to catch the bug and want to take it to the next level! However, obviously, the ‘best’ climbing is subjective - climbing styles and abilities vary from person to person.
But for those searching for some recommendations of places to check out, here are a few (in no particular order) of our favourites from the areas we have travelled over the years.
Now, we know this is cheating a little bit, but we can’t recommend Wales enough for it’s incredible climbing across several different disciplines and nearly all types of rock.
Multi-pitch climbs in Snowdonia such as those on Tryfan are such joys to climb. The glorious slate close to Llanberis, and the boulders around the pass. Epic trad climbs at Gogarth and of course down south in Pembroke, along with some absolute gems of all kinds in the Gower as well.
Wales has a magic about it that we haven’t quite managed to find anywhere else, and the Welsh people are some of the loveliest you’ll ever meet!
St Bees is a bit of a gem of a find, even if you’re not looking to climb. The walk-in can be a bit of an adventure in its own right, with the bouldering nestled in a sun-trap next to the sea, underneath the 100m+ cliffs of St Bees Head and the watchful eye of an old lighthouse, a couple of seals, and in the distance, the Isle of Man.
The climbing here is sandstone bouldering mainly, with some sport routes that can be a bit seepy and restricted due to the nesting birds at certain times of the year, but definitely has something to suit every style, and is beautiful to look at. Though to be fair, the same can be said about the whole of the Lake District. Instagram coming at ya.
Whilst being a bit of a trek to get to for most Brits, Torridon in the north-west highlands has a brilliant number of sandstone boulders. In an area of outstanding natural beauty on the coast, it’s also not too difficult to find some stunning trad climbs and if the conditions are right, even some winter climbs.
Be careful with a couple of the grades around here though - since not so many people visit the area, climbs can seem harder or even easier than the guide book grading might suggest!
Stanage is known as the queen of grit. Up to 20 metres high in places but over a mile long, Stanage provides over 2000 routes, meaning there really is something for everybody.
Close to Sheffield and the pretty town of Stanage, the location is perfect as well for easy access, and the edge and old millstones which scatter the area give for a family friendly visit - whether or not everyone is up for a climb!
Being grit though, watch out for greasy rock in the summer. The best climbs are often to be had with the cooler temperatures here.
Swanage is a popular spot for climbers in the south. It offers a variety of disciplines (sport in nearby Portland, trad and deep-water soloing) across a variety of crags, in a rather beautiful area. What’s not to love?!
Apart from some of the routes which require some tricky abseil access, and that climbing here kind of demands good weather, the proximity to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove can still make any trip worth it.
Indoors (for those rainy days, or in preparation for heading outside!)
The Boardroom is one of our favourite places to climb indoors for one very simple reason. They have a simulated 8m high Psicobloc, which turns out to be the only one in Europe, and one of only a handful in the entire world.
They also have a bunch of other good bouldering, some classy route sections, a neat little training room including a lattice board and a slackline, and they serve delicious food as well, such as home-made pizzas. The prices are reasonable too!
Awesome Walls is a chain (these days it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid chains!), with climbing centres based in Sheffield, Stockport, Stoke, and Liverpool.
They are known for their big walls and long routes (Sheffield has a 23m competition wall, overhanging by 12m), and from our experience always contain nice training areas (the one in Sheffield is a spacious platform from which to view the big wall, and has a few slacklines set up as well for some cross training on balance and those leg muscles!).
Awesome Walls often holds lead competitions, but we have also seen Speed Climbing being practised there, and the bouldering isn’t too bad either! They also do a pretty nifty loyalty card, and membership is valid across all of their different sites.
Ice Factor brings something altogether different to this party.
Not only does it consistently rank in the best climbing centres in the world, and not only are its walls some of the highest in the U.K., but as the name suggests, it happens to hold the biggest indoor ice climbing wall in the world. Despite being a bit out in the sticks for the majority of us, the trek is definitely worth it for some quality time on the ice whilst not leaving the U.K!
With over 450 roped and lead routes from 8m to 13m in height, and an extensive range of bouldering surfaces, the Castle really is an all-rounder.
Located in the capital and with tonnes of courses and events always on the go, seems like a bit of a no-brainer not to head to one of the most well-established centres in the country!
With climbing becoming an ever-popular sport with both young and old alike, it doesn’t really matter where you go (and climbing walls are popping up all over the place, so it’s quite possible that there is at least one wall which is fairly close to where you live already!).
What does matter, is that you’re putting yourself out there and getting your climb on. Climbing has consistently been reported to be a total body workout (you only have to try it once to see what we mean!) - that’s every single muscle group, including your mind.
It’s a flexible sport in that there is something for everyone, social or not, hard or easy, long or short, roped or not, and is an easy go-to activity, year-round.
Do a quick search on Google for the websites of the walls near you, or check here.
As ever, when climbing (outside in particular), we recommend that you take a guidebook or someone who is very familiar with the area and the routes such as a local guide or instructor, and of course, make sure that you are competent and safe in the routes that you are attempting. This includes having the correct gear as well as the correct skills for the job.
For those who are just starting out or not so confident with their climbing, there are plenty of courses run by the BMC, local climbing walls, and outdoor centres such as Plas y Brenin in Wales and Glenmore Lodge in Scotland, which will get you well on your way to climbing confidently both outside and inside.
If you’re looking for inspiration for other outdoor crags, you can find a directory of places to climb here.