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Getting your climbing and nature fix, while the doors to climbing walls are still closed

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

I’m Emma Carroll, one of the Edinburgh volunteers for Urban Uprising. I wanted to be a volunteer after my involvement with Y-Dance (free weekly street dance lessons) at a young age having a beneficial impact on my wellbeing and to share my love of climbing.

By this point of lockdown, if you are mainly an indoor climber like me, you are probably itching to get back into the climbing wall, be able to see our friends and try some new routes. Climbing as with any exercise is really beneficial to de-stress and have fun. However, it seems as if we will be waiting a while until the doors to climbing walls open again.

BUT we need to remember that there is so much nature right on our doorsteps and that a lot of outdoor fun can still be had during this difficult time. I wanted to highlight some of the opportunities to access nature and climb without travelling far from home. As I live in Edinburgh, this blog post focuses on this area, but there are many other activities close to your home too, have a look on Walk Highlands or UK Climbing for suggestions on where to explore next.



Blackford Hill

Now, this spot may not be the most glamorous, but it is the easiest climbing spot to reach in the city without transport and still contains a lot of beauty within the nature reserve.

This crag is an old quarry with a handful of routes ranging from D to HVS, there are bolts at the top of the climbs allowing for easy anchor points too. At Blackford Hill there is also bouldering at Agassiz Rock, which is a good option for people without the knowledge of trad or setting up a top rope. Aside from climbing, Blackford Hill is a very beautiful natural area to explore with multiple walks around the area, along with a great view of the city which is perfect for a picnic.

With this site being so close to the city, I have been able to often climb at this site and even lead one of my first routes here.

Aberdour - Hawcraig

This is a very pretty climbing spot that offers a climbing and beach day only 30 minutes from Edinburgh on the Fife coast. The crag has a car park and is also reachable by public transport. There is a large number of routes available for all abilities at this spot ranging from D to E2. Some of the routes also have multiple stars such as Pain Pillar. There are some good anchor points at the top of the routes too. This crag is probably my favourite in the local area, partly for climbing but also for the amazing view of Edinburgh on a clear day.

You need to be aware that this crag is tidal, so it is best to check the tide times before committing to a full day here. I have often been caught off guard with the tides here due to poor planning which resulted in having to abseil to the start of each climb, so it is definitely worth checking before committing for the day. There are also seabirds that nest on some of the routes, so be aware of nests from March through to May so that you aren’t surprised by any angry birds midway on a route (it is also a criminal offence to disturb nesting birds).

Hawscraig crag, Scotland
Bottom of the Hawscraig crag (Emma Carroll, 2019)

Limekilns - Charlestown

While I myself have not yet climbed here, I’ve heard from a lot of my friends in the climbing community that it is a really great place to climb. There are many highly-rated routes here, which cater to the more experienced climber with the majority of routes being E1-7.

Rosyth - Rosyth Quarry

This spot is good for a large range of climbs all within a small space which is easy to reach from the city. For someone who isn’t amazing at trad, this site has many easier routes which makes me like this crag although it is not the prettiest. The large volume of graffiti that covers the crag, makes it easy to find the routes and there some anchors at the top of the routes too. This site is perfect for a sunny afternoon when you want to climb but not exhaust yourself.

Haddington - Traprain Law

This site can be found around half an hour from Edinburgh and is a great crag for beginner climbing. I think that the routes are very interesting at this spot with different hidden challenges. There are many routes at this crag with a range of abilities. The rock also dries quickly after rain and has some good anchor points with an easy descent. Depending on the wind direction, the crag can be quite sheltered too.

Traprain Law, Scotland
View from the top of the Traprain Law (Emma Carroll, 2019)


7 Hills of Edinburgh

Living in Edinburgh, a city formed with a volcanic and glaciated past, there are many hills dotted around the city (7 in fact). Each of these hills is nice for a short walk and provide some great views of the city. There is also the option to run/walk up all of these hills in a day, for the more adventurous bunch.

Arthurs Seat towers over Edinburgh at 251m, allowing for a short steep workout to get to the top. The small hill can also be exposed to very brutal weather conditions, making it feel at times like you could be in the Scottish mountains.

There is also a site for bouldering at Salisbury Crags which neighbours Arthurs Seat too (although access to the quarry is currently banned, please check UKC for access updates). Aside from walking up Arthurs Seat, Holywood Park is a very nice place to be with multiple walks around the area too.

Corstorphine Hill has been my personal favourite hill over lockdown, the view of the city from here is amazing! After never walking up this hill before, I wandered over after work one evening and was surprised to see Edinburgh from a new perspective.

Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh
View from the top of Corstorphine Hill (Source Emma Carroll, 2020)

Pentland Hills - Midlothian

For being so close to the city, you would be surprised by how pretty these hills can be. Just a short drive/bus ride from Edinburgh, these hills can be found with plenty of walks to choose from. The hills start at Hillend area which can even be reached by public transport or there is free parking available.

There are a variety of walks here to choose from, which make you feel in the midst of the countryside, rather than a 15-minute drive out of the city.

My personal favourite walk in this region is to go up Scald Law hill from Flotterstone. This walk offers a longer day out and is very pretty too.

Scald Law hill, Pentlands
Photo during the Scald Law hill walk last summer (Emma Carroll, 2019)

It is important to note that no matter where you are in nature, that you bear in mind the countryside code and remember to respect your surrounding environment. For example, leave nature as you find it and if you spot some litter put it in your bag to dispose of at the next bin.

So whether you are interested in trad, bouldering or hillwalking, you don’t need to look too far from the city of Edinburgh to find it and hopefully, the climbing walls will open soon once it is safe to do so.

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