Get face to face with The Wall of Horrors and really flex your climbing muscles

November is a bit of a winding down month for climbing in England, but once Christmas is out of the way, it won’t be long until the rocks get busy again as spring starts to roll around. 

If you’re thinking of getting into climbing or you’re already a convert, Yorkshire is a brilliant place to be. In fact, there are so many great spots that it’s impossible to list them all in this article - so here are just a few climbing and bouldering “unmissables” for everyone to enjoy. 

Read on for a list of the best outdoor climbing spots near Leeds.

Almscliff Crag A Great Spot For Rock Climbing In Yorkshire
Almscliff Crag - a little rock of horrors Image: Creative Commons

Almscliff Crag

Without doubt the finest viewpoint in Lower Wharfedale, Almscliff Crag is a veritable paradise for aspiring human Spidermen and women, with over 500 different climbing and bouldering routes. I’m a collector of good names, so The Wall of Horrors (E3 6a) gets my mention here, but there is something for absolutely everyone at Almscliff – including a hell of a sunset. Plus points for humming the theme tune to Emmerdale as you go.

Amscliff Crag, Crag Ln, LS17 0ER – parking available bang next to the crag

Caley Crags Near Otley
Don't forget your quickdraws at High Noon Image: Creative Commons

Caley Crags

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Caley Crags is bang next to the busy A660 just outside Otley. While the crags are best known for bouldering, there are plenty of excellent easier climbs (Pedestal Wall – S 4a) as well as a few proper thrills for the more experienced (High Noon – E4 6a). Finish off with a stroll around Chevin Forest and a trip to North Bar Social for a pint.

Caley Crags, Pool in Wharfedale, Otley LS21 1EE – park at one of the car parks for Chevin Forest

Cow And Calf Climbing Destination In Yorkshire
The jewel in Ilkley's climbing crown - Cow and Calf Rocks Image: Creative Commons

Cow and Calf Rocks

One of Yorkshire’s most iconic viewpoints for walkers also happens to be a great spot for climbing and bouldering. You’ll find plenty of easier stuff here (Doris’s route S 3c, Left of Dredd S 4a – both on Doris Buttress), but if you pop up on a good day, you might catch a glimpse of a few more seasoned climbers enjoying the New Statesman on The Cow (E8 7a). Most definitely the jewel in Ilkley’s climbing crown.

Ilkley Moor Cow and Calf Rocks, Hangingstone Rd, Ilkley LS29 8RW– park on Hangingstone Road

Crookrise Rock Climbing In Yorkshire
The view at Crookrise is worth the climb Image: Creative Commons


Equidistant between Skipton and Hetton, Crookrise Wood rises to the crag top trig point at 415m, overlooking Embsay Moor and Barden Moor with views for miles. But the gritstone crags around the summit are home to a good 400 different routes, the majority of which are 4s and 5s, Craven Crack and Octopus Direct (both HVS 4c) being among the most popular. 

Crookrise Crag, BD23 6QT for Embsay Reservoir – park here and walk up via the permissive footpath

Malham Cove Rock Climbing In Yorkshire
Can you handle the 9b at Malham Cove? Image: Creative Commons

Malham Cove 

There are few more magical places in the country, never mind Yorkshire, than Malham Cove. But as well as being a stunning walk, one of the country’s hotspots for peregrine falcons and a filming location for Harry Potter, it is also the site of Britain’s first 9b sport climb – first ascended by Steve McClure in 2017. Not a human lizard? That’s ok – give Clubfoot (VS 4c) or Junkyard Angel (HVS 5b) a go instead. It’s a magnificent day out whatever you do, to be honest.

Postcode: BD23 4DG for the main car park in Malham – it’s a 20-minute walk to the cove from there

The Bottom Half Of Gordale Scar Climbing In Yorkshire
Plenty for beginners through to experts at Gordale Scar Image: Creative Commons

Gordale Scar

It’s a bit unfair on the rest of the country, having Gordale Scar so close to Malham, to be honest. The ravine and its two waterfalls are both striking and imposing, the shape of the entrance acting as a funnel for the wind, which can become very strong and noisy on the wrong (or right?) day. But despite appearances, and the numerous exceptional sport and harder trad climbs (Supercool is a sport stunner – 8a+), anyone can find fun at Gordale Scar with 60+ routes from HVS down.

Postcode: BD23 4DL – but use the main car park in Malham as above

Brimham Cove Climbing N Yorkshire
Problem solving at Brimham Rocks Image: Creative Commons

Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks is a vast National Trust-managed expanse of sandstone rocks that have eroded into spectacular shapes. Open to all for climbing and particularly popular with less experienced climbers, this is one of the most popular spots for trad and bouldering in the country, with over 1000 variations and some brilliant problems. Birch Tree Wall (VS 4c) and Heather Wall (S 4a) are very busy routes late spring.

Postcode: HG3 4DW – National Trust parking

Outdoor climbing grades: a breakdown

If you are like the sub-editor of this article and are wondering what on earth the letters and numbers in brackets throughout this article mean, you have come to the right feature box.

We have used what is known as the BMC traditional grading system to rate the difficulty of each climb listed. This is a combination of adjectival and technical grades.

Adjectival grades

This is the first part of the grading system and it runs from Easy (hardly climbing at all) to E11 (barely ever been climbed).

M Moderate

D Difficult

HD Hard Difficult

VD Very Difficult

HVD Hard Very Difficult

S Severe

HS Hard Severe

VS Very Severe

HVS Hard Very Severe

Extremely Severe, the last category is split into E1, E2, E3 etc.

Technical grades

The technical part of the grade generally refers to the hardest move that can be found on the climb. This tends to start at 4a:

4a, 4b, 4c, 5a, 5b, 5c, 6a, 6b, 6c, 7a, 7b and is open-ended. However, the difficulty of the route will start to be reflected in the E-scale above, rather than the technical grade going higher than 7. (Are you confused yet? Because this sub-editor certainly is.)

The combined grade

This should now give you an overall idea of how difficult a climb is by combining the adjectival and technical grades together.

eg. HVS 5b would indicate a hard very severe climb with average technical difficulty.

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