Glasgow Climbing Centre coach Ali Lee shares his 5 favourite crags in Scotland's central belt.
If you think Scotland's cities don't hold much in the way of nearby 'trad' climbing material, you'd be wrong. Here's a list of my five favourite crags, chosen for their uniqueness and easy access from our biggest cities. Not too sure where to start? Read my previous blog on bouldering to get a taste for rock... And then hit up the crags below!
This small crag may not have many routes but it sure makes up for that by giving some good quality climbing! If you’re looking to get out of Edinburgh on a sunny evening this is the perfect spot; not too far away, easy to access, and being sport it’s quite easy and hassle free. This crag is ideal if – like me when I first visited – you are looking to tick off your first 7a. There are multiple to choose from and they all climb lovely.
The downside of this small outcrop is that it’s largely man-made: it was first a quarry, then holds were chipped on the blank rock and bolts placed so it could be climbed. If you can get your head around the ethics, I’d definitely recommend a visit.
How to get there: Taking the train leads to a rather long half-hour walk. Drive and you’ll be within 5 minutes of the crag.
Like North Berwick Law, this is another great crag if you’re looking to get out for a quick climb on a sunny evening. Positioned just outside Glasgow, this offers the 6c/7a climber a good amount of routes. Short and powerful, they may not be the greatest adventure climbing but they’ll sure test your bouldering power on a rope. When you first arrive, it does take time to figure out the routes: it looks like someone has taken a box of bolts, thrown them at the wall and made routes where they fell! As long as you don’t mind a few link-ups and slightly contrived routes, this can be a great evening out especially if you’re looking for your first (or more) 7a.
How to get there: Sadly there’s no easy way here – Dunglas is best reached by car, followed by a 15 minute walk.
Positioned just south of Glasgow, Loudoun Hill is more of a day trip. It’s a trad crag, so can be a bit more time consuming. This hill is perfect if you’re looking at getting your ‘trad head’ more secure, as you can attempt well protected, fairly hard crack climbing or try the gearless ‘Edge’ to really test yourself. For the more seasoned climber, this is an excellent crag for getting your mind back in the trad game at the start of the season.
How to get there: The only way to this crag is by car. Just south of Glasgow, it takes under an hour plus a 10 minute walk in.
Auchinstarry is the perfect beginner’s crag with climbs ranging from difficult up to the extremes… with plenty in between! If you’re new to climbing outdoors and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is a good place to start – it’s where I learnt how to place gear! Route-wise, I’d recommend working your way up the easier climbs before trying out ‘Promontory Direct’, an amazing HVS with unbelievable protection. The only downside to Auchinstarry is that the easier climbs can be run out with limited gear. This is countered, however, by the burger van situated in the car park which is a winner for ‘carb loading’!
How to get there: Take the Edinburgh-Glasgow train line and get off at Croy, then walk 15 minutes to the base of the crag. Drive there and the crag is so close to the parking area that you could belay some routes out of your car.
This final crag is definitely worth a visit! Old towers from a former railway bridge have been left standing and were subsequently bolted. This makes for interesting climbing on small pockets, and even a bit of crack technique where the motor has gone away between the blocks. With grades in the 6a – 6c range, this is a great crag if you want to try something new, yet still fairly easy.
The routes can be a bit same-same, but there is some great exposure and they’re very easy to access. Beware, strong climbers: the ability to do a one-armer isn’t going to help you here! A cunning mind and good route reading are essential if you wish to onsight.
How to get there: Taking the train to Blantyre leaves you with a 20 minute walk to the towers. Alternatively, if you drive you can reach the edge of the woods. Personally, I like cycling from Glasgow city centre. The route takes about an hour and follows the River Clyde.