Whether you’re a passionate rock climber seeking a new challenge this summer, or a bouldering beginner looking to put their skills to the test in a fun, new environment - don’t miss these top outdoor bouldering locations. Your chance to escape the hot, overcrowded indoor wall this season and make the most of the warmer months and lighter nights…
There’s something special about a day spent climbing in the great outdoors. The fresh air, the challenge carved out by natural elements, the adventure getting there! It’s one of our favoruite ways to explore outside and requires relatively little to give it a go. For those new to the world of outdoor climbing, we reccomend investing in a couple of crash matts for safe landing, as well as investing in the right kit to keep you comfortable at the crag (see our range of specialist climbing kit and equipment to get you started).
Eager to give it a go, but not sure where to go? We asked our team of expert climbers to share their favourite spots around the UK. From Dorset, all the way to the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands - each promises an incredible day out in the UK.
A Northern Soul - Hepburn, Northumberland | Best for: Hidden delights in a woodland setting | Level: intermediate | Recommended by Franco Cookson
This highball boulder problem is without doubt one of the finest pieces of sandstone in the country and inhabits the magical woodlands of north Northumberland. Hepburn is one of the jewels in the crown of Northumberland bouldering, located a few miles south east of Wooler. Best visited in the spring time, this blunt arete starts with some rather troublesome padding moves, before a contorted hand sequence negotiating the upper flake, and then a final rounded 'elephant's backside' finish.
As such, Northern Soul perfectly represents three distinct styles of climbing in just a few metres of bouldering perfection. The difficult start may intimidate some - as will the fairly lofty top out! Be sure to bring along the Northumberland Mountaineering Club bouldering guide, a few friends, your crash pads... and don't forget to leave no trace.
Cromlech Boulders - Llanberis Pass, North Wales | Best for: Mountain Views & crimpy problems | Level: All | Recommended by Emily Law
Llanberis Pass is scattered with huge boulders which have rolled off the mountains above. These boulders all sit very close to the roadside and can be spotted easily as you travel up the Pass. Whether by foot, bike, bus, or car there are many ways of reaching this brilliant area. The North Wales Bouldering Guide (Volume 1: Mountain Crags) has all the latest information for approach details, parking, and boulder problems. The climbing is varied across the many blocs. I love the variety of steep overhangs, roof cracks, and vertical crimpy problems all within 5 mins walking distance.
This variety means it’s a location with boulders accessible to everyone. The grades range from f4 to f8B, however most problems sit in the f6/7 range. The rock is pocketed and crimpy creating lots of interesting features and moves. I love heading here for an evening of milage on grades in the 6s, its easy to try so many problems with them all located in such close proximity. It’s also quick drying, making it perfect for those mixed days of weather.
Sunbather’s Slab - Portland, Dorset | Best for: Sea views & sunsets | Level: All | Recommended by Grace Shepherd
Portland was the first place I had ever climbed outside. The mass of individual boulders are found just below the cuttings cliffs, where you can access them via two different paths. The Dorset bouldering guide has all the boulders and the approach details which is easy enough to follow. The boulders could be described as a little esoteric, especially within the sport climbing Mecca that is Portland, but there are so many, with such a variety of styles and grades. What makes it for me is the stunning outlook. Situated on the Jurassic Coast the views and the sunsets are breathtaking and if the weather is really warm and sunny, just a few minutes walk from the lighthouse at Portland Bill is some super fun dws(deep water soloing) if that's your thing too!
My favourite boulder is called the Sunbathers Slab. It’s where I did my first 7A 'Lost Decade' and I’m currently working on the 7A+ extension 'Years Around The Sun', and also have my eyes on a new 7B line that has recently been put up. It has really good climbs ranging from 6’s to 8A, has a spectacular view over the sea, stays cool in the sun and relatively dry if there is light rain as it’s a big overhang. It also seems to be the only place in the boulderfield you can get mobile phone signal, so a good meeting place for friends!
Newstones/ Baldstones - Peak District | Best for: Early season fun | Level: Beginner/ Intermediate | Recommended by: Jesse Dufton
Yes, I know this is kind of cheating as technically they're two separate places, but they might as well be one. It is unusual for a grit crag in that it faces East. This is great when you need to hide from the prevailing SW wind, especially on cold but sunny days early in the season, you can climb in the shelter and sun and avoid freezing to death while you get re-acquainted with the rock after the wetness of winter.
This is a great spot for a range of levels with nice and easy access…i'm sure the views are lovely too. It's covered in the Rockfax guides Peak Bouldering and Western Grit (and in plenty of other places too I'm sure). While I primarily think of the bouldering here there's also some trad routes, including the infamous Ray's Roof. Beware of this man eater and if you do battle have the first aid clingfilm ready!
Razorback - Reiff , Scotland | Best for: Spectacular mountain scenery and fresh sea air | Level: Intermediate | Recommended by Franco Cookson
The coastline of Reiff is like so much of the Scottish coast - both distinctly magnificent and effortlessly beautiful. The climbing is good, but what really makes a journey to this part of the world worthwhile is the place itself. On a clear summer's day, huge swathes of the highlands and islands are visible to the east and south. In the morning, distant squarks of seabirds punctuate the air and on an evening, explosive, almost violent, sunsets radiate across the sky in gigantic waves of colour.
Of course getting there from much of the UK is quite an undertaking, involving many hours of driving, even once the great glen is reached. But when the weather is good, you won't be disappointed. This line is one of several fearsome features on the sea cliffs and is best attempted with a gentle breeze from the east, whipping away any greasy conditions. It is well worth packing a couple of good bouldering mats too, as the landing is a very hard tidal shelf. The Northern Highlands North guidebook by thr Scottish Mountaineering Club will provide lots of useful extra info, alongside many other brilliant climbs in thea area.
Clogwyn y Tarw (The Gribin Facet) - Ogwen Valley, North Wales | Best for: Stunning mountain bouldering in an accessible location | Grades: All | Recommended by Ben Roberts
Clogwyn y Tarw is most famous for its bold traditional routes, but it’s also host to an incredible circuit of infrequently visited boulder problems. Perched above Llyn Idwal, with stunning views down the Ogwen Valley all the way to the sea, you’ll experience mountain bouldering at it’s best. Despite having a ‘mountain feel’, the crag is easily accessible via the Llyn Idwal path starting at Ogwen Cottage. The new North Wales Bouldering: Volume 1 - Mountain Crags has all the specific approach info and topos for the boulders. The range of grades, starting at f3+ and finishing at f7C+ makes it a perfect destination for groups of varying abilities, people looking for circuits, or those looking to try something hard.
On my recent day there, I climbed three boulders in particular that I cannot recommend enough. Red Sky Wall f6C is a crimpy, just off vertical wall climb, that is just high enough to make it feel exciting. Make sure you have lots of pads and good spotter! The second is Psychobilly f6C, a powerful and overhung boulder that rewards good footwork. The final boulder is the crags most famous, The Punk, an uber classic board style climb. Steep, crimpy and sharp is how I would describe this boulder, so if that sounds appealing to you, like it does me, get on it, it’s incredible!