The Wye Valley offers all styles of climbing across a wide range of grades (except the very highest) and is generally on limestone rock. Bouldering is found at Huntsham (conglomerate rock) though some of it is highball.
Symonds Yat, Shorn Cliff and Wyndcliff offer mainly single-pitch traditional routes on unquarried rock. Those at Symonds Yat tend to be shorter and steeper, whilst at Shorn Cliff and Wynd Cliff the routes are longer, with many slabby routes. Wintour’s Leap has everything from multi-pitch traditional routes across all grades including some sport routes (higher end grades). All the traditional routes are covered in the Symonds Yat rock climbing guidebook and the Lower Wye Valley rock climbing guidebook.
The Wye Valley has seen an explosion of new sport routes in recent years with over 400 routes up to F8a, and over half of them are graded F6b and lower. Wyndcliff and Woodcroft Quarries provide shorter and lower-grade sport routes in the sun. Ban-Y-gor has been developed into the Wye’s best sport climbing crag, with a wide range of grades. For the adventurous seeking esoteric sport climbing then Black Cliff and Tintern Quarries will be ideal. All of the sport routes in these venues are described in the Wye Valley sport climbing guidebook.
The cliffs in the Wye Valley are well sheltered to the west and north by the Welsh mountains and the high ground of the Forest of Dean. This means the weather can often be unexpectedly good even in the winter.
Avon Gorge is situated on the edge of Bristol and is genuinely one of the few city crags in the world. The climbing here is steep multi-pitch routes with the emphasis on adventurous and demanding climbing in terms of route finding and placing protection. This venue is very popular due to its good year round climate and excellent roadside access. The definitive guidebook is called the Avon Gorge rock climbing guidebook.
Cheddar Gorge is Britain’s largest gorge that provides 100m high limestone cliffs and is also a Special Area for Conservation. This along with the high number of tourists who visit the gorge means that access is restricted and/or banned during certain parts of the year. For the long multi-pitch traditional routes this is generally restricted to the winter, though recently a number of sport routes have been opened up that are accessible for most of the year. However despite the restrictions the climbing in this gorge represents some of the best in the south west of England. South West Climbs Volume 1 guidebook covers the best of the traditional and sport climbing to be found at Cheddar.
Scattered around Bristol, within the Mendip Hills, are a number of natural combes and steep quarried faces. These provide a range of alternative limestone crags, both traditional and sport, away from the crowds as detailed below:
Smaller crags in the Bristol and Somerset area
|Crag||Aspect and style of climbing||Guidebook Required|
|Blaise Castle Gorge||Situated in a public park on the outskirts of Bristol with a cafe. This beautiful wooded limestone gorge offers mostly trad routes, but also has a smattering of hard sport routes and easy bouldering||North Somerset Outcrops Vol 1|
|Frome Valley||Esoteric traditional climbing and bouldering on sandstone rock, close to the centre of Bristol.||Frome Valley Sandstone|
|Portishead Quarry||This nature reserve offers an assortment of lovely slabby trad routes, and some slightly steeper sport routes. All the routes are very sheltered, sunny and quick drying.||North Somerset Outcrops Vol 1 or South West Climbs Volume 1|
|Goblin Combe||Located in a small and wonderfully atmospheric wooded valley. It gives a great range of trad routes, and gets all the sun going.||North Somerset Outcrops Vol 1 or South West Climbs Volume 1|
|Bourton Combe||This tiny crag in the woods offering sport, trad and bouldering in a peacful location.||North Somerset Outcrops Vol 1|
|Sand Point||Sea cliff climbing with a selection of short trad routes in a beautiful and wild setting.||North Somerset Outcrops Vol 1|
|Brean Down||South-facing limestone sea cliff, with a range of mainly harder trad and sport routes. Excellent winter venue on good quality rock.||South West Climbs Volume 1|
|Uphill Quarry||Steep and difficult face-climbs on limestone rock, mainly trad routes with some harder sport routes. It is fast-drying, and a good winter venue.||South West Climbs Volume 1|
|Split Rock Quarry||Good concentration of excellent routes on limestone rock, with both trad and generally hard sport routes||South West Climbs Volume 1|
|Fairy Cave Quarry||A large limestone quarry featuring some very good quality slab routes up to 40m in height. The main areas mostly face north, though they get some sun from May to August and are quick to dry.||Fairy Cave Quarry Rock or South West Climbs Volume 1|
This area of England around Bristol is also an excellent place to go hill walking and hiking. For instance the Cotswold Way National Trail finishes at Bath, whilst the Offa’s Dyke National Trail starts at Chepstow, and then follows the English/Welsh border heading north.
Find out more information about walking in England.
The South West Climbs Volume 1 guidebook is a selective guidebook covering the Wye Valley plus the Avon and Cheddar Gorges.
There are a large number of different guidebooks that cover the rock climbing to be found in the Wye and Avon regions of England. These guidebooks can be bought from our shop.
Read an article by Tom Newberry describing the best sport climbing areas in the south west of England. Cheddar Gorge and Bream Down are included in this article.