Leo Houlding's Top UK Climbing Spots

Leo Houlding picks his favourite places to climb here in Britain..

Borrowdale Valley – Lakes

Another venue that was easy to reach by bus and a short hitch-hike as a youth. The deservedly popular Shepherd’s crag has something for everyone and we all love the brilliant cafe in the cow byre at the bottom. Reecastle has a high concentration of quality, hard climbing and it was here where I first started reaching into the big numbers. Dozens of other quality, easy access crags make for the best climbing area in the Lakes.

Little Chamonix, Shepherds Crag – Borrowdale. 1991. Photo – Phil Rigby.

Lulworth Cove – Dorset

As a Northerner I’ve spent more time abroad than down South but this peachy deep water soloing venue is up there with the best of the Mediterranean on a warm summers day. Bring lots of chalk bags and a towel.

Stanage – Derbyshire

The hallowed gritstone really is a joy to climb on. An autumn evenings soloing on the edge can be a magical experience. It used to be my local and I do miss it.

Satin, 57a – Stanage. Photo – Adam Long.

Gogarth – Angelsey

The legendary sea cliffs can be an acquired taste but treating the friable rock gently and carrying a big rack rewards those with the thirst an excellent outing. Many of the climbs require rappelling in to start adding a level of commitment. The closest you can get to a big wall experience on cliff 100m tall.

Old Man of Hoy – Orkney Isles

Britain’s finest adventure climb. The full package, just getting to the start of the route is an adventure and it’s not over at the top, you’ve still got to get back down. A much easier climb than it appears though packs a punch through the 5m crux. My first big adventure climb, aged 11 and a deeply formative experience.

Old Man of Hoy. Left to right – Ken Tilford, Leo and his Dad Mark. 1991. Photo – Guy Lee.

Armathwaite – Cumbria

A wee gem of a crag on the shore of the river Eden downstream from where I grew up. Accessible by train it was one of the first places I used to go on unaccompanied overnight adventures with school friends. Aged 13 sleeping on the beach, cooking on a fire, climbing the classic test pieces and jumping off the top into the river was the ultimate adventure. These days I have to go much further to find that same feeling.

The Exorcist, E4 5c – Armathwaite. 1994. Photo – Phil Rigby.

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