Scottish Rock and Ice Climbing

[Pitch 3, Aguille de l'M - Chamonix] [Something Easy - near Glencoe]
[Rock Climbing] [Ice Climbing]


This area is in serious need of construction. Please feel free to contribute your own experiences! (Climbing experiences.)


Please be under no illusion. The information below is by no means a comprehensive list of places to climb in Scotland. We would like it to be one day, and you can help us (and users of these pages) achieve a better service by telling us about wherever you have been!

The details below and the pages about each of the areas will hopefully provide you with an idea of what each area is like. It's then up to you to go and see for yourself. If you do go, and you like it please tell us!

Many of the areas, particularly mountain areas, will be suitable for both summer and winter climbing alike. For ease of use, we have mentioned each area in both sections and split the individual page into two sections, one for rock and one for ice.

For non Rock/Ice information we have...

Wherever you go - ENJOY!

Understanding the Guides

Have a look at Adam's grade list. As is normal for the UK, we have a somewhat 'original' grading system, but once you get to know it, you'll see it's pretty good.

Rock Climbing Areas

[Northern Highlands] [The Cairngorms/North East] [Skye & the Islands] [Central Highlands] [Central Lowlands - Glasgow] [Central Lowlands - Edinburgh] [The Lowlands/Borders] [Other Stuff]

  • Northern Highlands

    Mountains like sleeping dinosaurs (someone said it) set in a wilderness. Huge potential for new-routes. Masses of climbs, epic multi-pitch mountain routes etc etc. Go there if you have time. Accessible from Inverness, quite a drive from everywhere else. Well worth the effort, though!
    Even further into the wilderness than Torridon. Breathtaking scenery and huge scope for explorative climbing. This is where adventurous climbers like Chris Bonnington have been known to play. Mountain routes galore. (Just make sure you've enough fuel.)
    Stac Polleidh (pron. Stack Polly)
    Awesome. Inverpolly is miles from anywhere, so best leave from Inverness. Wonderful vertical rock climbing if you have a head for heights and a heart for exposure. This is drama on a grand scale.

  • The Cairngorms

    The Northern Corries
    • Coire an t' Sneachta
    • Coire Lagan

    Supreme climbing in a wonderful setting. Easily accessible from everywhere. Just head for Inverness and take the turning off the A9 for Aviemore. The head for the ski centre. There's a well contructed path into the corries. Like most mountain areas, there are hundreds of climbs here!

    The Southern Cairngorms

    Less famous(?) than the Northern Corries, but only because there is no Ski Centre here. You have to walk or bike it to the mountain crags. Hell's Lum is well worth a visit. Some classic routes, some epic. Derry Lodge is a popular base, just off the A9.

    The Aberdeen Sea Cliffs

    There's loads of climbing available around Aberdeen, especially on the local sea cliffs.

  • Skye and the Western Isles

    Rock Routes

    There is lots of amazing climbing in Skye, however, there is also a fair amount of rain! (& midges.) Whenever I've visited (which is quite a few times) I've always been rained off and have managed to climb a grand total of 0 rock routes. The SMC guide to Skye says that you should:

    "Wait for settled anti-cyclone conditions (a High Pressure Weather System) over Scotland then GO.

    Which is fine if you can just drop everything and go climbing... it's slightly harder for people who work to organise a successful trip to Skye... HOWEVER... if you DO have the opportunity to go and the weather is with you, DO IT the experience will be unparalleled in the UK (except, possibly by the best routes on Ben Nevis).

    The Cuillin Ridge

    The Scottish Alps. Phenomenal beauty, wonderful rock climbing for all abilities! This world-famous ridge is a must see, must do! Coire Lagan is a great start for climbing, Glen Brittle is the normal place for camping, Sligachan has a pub/hotel/campsite... it's also close to the ridge! Go. Mind the weather, though.

    Isle of Arran

    Reputed to be brilliant for everyone. Some of the picures I've seen certainly reflect this image. Fairly accessible from Glasgow. Take the ferry! Glen Clova is the most popular venue with walkers and rock climbers.

  • Central Highlands


    Probably the best climbing venue in the world! (?) Easily accessible from everywhere via Fort William or Crianlarich, climbing to suit everyones ability, too. Bold new routing if you want, hard trad routes, easy multi-pitch classics, everything. Enough rock to last your lifetime!
    Glencoe has a dedicated guidebook.

    Ben Nevis

    Scotland's highest, most climbed, most famous mountain. Don't follow the Tourist Route to the top... get around behind it and view the splendour of its cliffs. In fact, do more than that, climb them! The biggest in mainland Britain. Accessible from everywhere, head for Fort William!
    Ben Nevis has several dedicated guidebooks.

    Glen Nevis

    You got it! Right next to Ben Nevis. Some brilliant crags, easily accessible from a car-park (no 2 hour hikes up a mountain here) with some cutting edge routes. Try them only if you're brilliant or mad. (There are some easier climbs here too.)

    The Trossachs

    Well worth a visit. Often overlooked because of their proximity to Glencoe & Ben Nevis, but well worth a visit in their own right.

    Dunkeld (Craig a Barns)

    Easily accessible from everywhere via the A9, good local amenities and smashing rock climbing. Three crags, two Ospreys (+ chicks), trad routes for everybody and sport routes for people who can fly! (F7b+) Exceptionally nice scenery. Definitely worth visiting for a day!

    Glen Ogle

    On the way to Crianlarich from Stirling and just past Lochearnhead. This is the glen with the old railway viaduct at one side. Did you know that all those little crags are bolted? Go have a look! (There's even an F8b up there!)

  • Central Lowlands - Glasgow

    Dumbarton Rock

    Home to loads of hard boulder problems. Some extremely hard trad & sport routes (includng Requiem E7 6c***). Extremely popular with Glasgow based climbers. Well worth visiting! Although it might be really busy there are plenty of routes to go around.

    Auchinstarry Quarry

    This quarry is in Kilsyth. Nice setting, own car-park, pond to fish/fall in. Home to Nijinski and some other really technical climbs. Lots of routes in the middle grades, too. Perfect for an evening in the sunshine.

    The Whangie

    A delightful piece of natural rock architecture overlooking Loch Lomond and the Central Highlands. Only 30 min from Glasgow and Stirling but easily accessible from Edinburgh, too. Head for Loch Lomond and follow signs for Drymen (A809). The car parks at the bottom, the climbs are at the back. 15 min walk. Excellent.

  • Central Lowlands - Edinburgh

    Salisbury Crags

    One of the most impressive crags anywhere. Located in Edinurgh City Centre in Queen's/Holyrood Park. Currently you are not permitted to climb on most of this, though South Quary is excellent for an evenings bouldering.

    Ratho Quarry

    This quarry is currently suffering construction work. It is eventually intended to house some offices and the Scottish National Climbing Centre. It used to be a smashing place to climb.

    Rosyth Quarry

    A pleasant (if vandalised) quarry easily accessible from Edinburgh. (20 mins by car.) Located near the town of Rosyth, take the first exit before/after the Forth Road Bridge. Some quality routes - Nice for an evenings climbing.

    Blackford Hill (Edinburgh)

    A good place for locals to do a spot of bouldering on the south side of the city. Steep overhaning, jaggy rock which stays dry. Some leading/top-roping.

    Aberdour - The Hawkcraig

    An accessible, tidal sea-cliff. Plenty of nice, varied cimbs on good rock in pleasant surroundings. The local classic is Pain Pillar VS 4c***. Perhaps 40 minutes drive from Edinburgh.

    Roslin Glen

    A collection of nice crags hidden in Roslin Glen (home of Rosslyn Chapel). Head down the hill into the woods from the Chapel car-park. The climbs here are generally hard... see the back cover of the SMC Lowland outcrops Guide. 25 minute drive south from Edinburgh following the Liberton/Penicuik road.

    North Berwick Law

    Take the A1 south from the city and follow the road to North Berwick. There are local signs to the hill (which you'll see). The climbing is 'behind' the hill (rightwards) from the car-park. There's a bolted area with some nice routes. Only a few trad climbs documented (so far) but there are people new-routing here, too.

    Traprain Law

    Take the A1 south from Edinburgh and keep going until you reach a small village called East Linton. Hang a right up the hill and past a couple of farms. The hill is on your right. Popular with local climbers. The best routes are polished. Well worth a visit. New-routing opportunities available in the nearby quarry.

  • The Lowlands

    Clifton Crag - Dumfriesshire

    Clifton is one of Southern Scotland's best kept secrets. South facing, quick drying, close to the road and in a beautiful location: its only weak point is the diminutive stature of the climbs. However, these pack such a punch into their short length that they are guaranteed to leave you just as drained as a 50m pitch would on most other crags.
    See also: Corwar Crag

  • Other places to climb

    Cornwall - Cornish Sea Cliffs
    Nope! it's not Scotland but what the hell!...

Ice Climbing Areas

[Northern Highlands] [The Cairngorms] [Skye & the Islands] [Central Highlands] [Ben Nevis] [Glencoe]

Snow and Ice can often completely change an area as far as climbing goes. Where it's been rubbish in the summer (chossy/crumbling gullies) is can often become a magnificent ice-filled playground in the winter! When it's been good in the summer, steep technical rock climbs might still be climbable, most become mixed-rock/ice routes requiring a specialised repetoire of skills to ascend.

On the whole, snow makes Scotland even better... brilliant places like Glencoe are brilliant in the winter, too! Places that no-one visits them in the summer are transformed from unremarkable 'hills' to busy magnets for ice-climbers.

Wherever you're thinking of going, BE PREPARED.
Check out the Scottish Avalanche Information Service and the weather.

  • Northern Highlands


    The mountains of Torridon, especially Ben Eigh & Liathach lend themselves brilliantly to winter climbing! Superb icefalls in abundance, there's even a gully climb through a crashed WW2 Lancaster Bomber! Much better for climbing in winter than summer. Check out the conditions first though, it can sometims be milder up in the North West.

  • The Cairngorms

    There is both summer and winter climbing to be had throughout this mountain range. If you have the time, experience and commitment why not delve deeper into the range. Check out Glen Avon.

    The Northern Corries
    • Coire an t'Sneachta
    • Coire Lagan

    These two corries are simply magnificent in their winter dress. Aviemore, being in the North East is often colder than the rest of the country. These corries often see the first action of the winter and come into condition quickly! North facing, they get cold very quickly... that means icy quickly! Brilliant, extensive, varied, popular climbing for everyone - all winter!
    If you're lucky, you'll even be able to cadge a lift on a ski tow to get you up the mountain in double-quick time!

    The Southern Cairngorms

    Not as popular as their more northerly sisters, but only because you have to walk much further to get to the climbs! This is a location for the enthusiast! You'll probably get the route you want to yourself if you set off early enough... check out Hell's Lum Crag, Shelterstone and basically everything else!

  • Skye and the Western Isles


    The Isle of Skye is subject to 'freak' weather all your. Brilliant sunshine one day, torrential rain the next. It can also be remarkable mild in the winter. Make sure there is snow before heading off! When it does snow, the Cuillin become an alpine challenge! The ridge traverse is a joy! Make sure you gve yourself at least 2-3 days... there are also some terrific gully climbs, but you'll have to be quick, there can be dramatic thaws here due to the Gulf Stream.


    Although Arran is also a Western Isle it appears to be more reliably cold throughout the winter. This is probably due to the more northerly orientation/aspect of the mountains. If you have the time to do it properly, get out there. This isn't a day trip in winter!

  • Ben Nevis/Aonach Mor

    The Cliffs of Ben Nevis

    These cliffs deserve a special mention because they are probably the most popular winter climbing venue in the country, if not Europe. Make no mistake, if you want on a route, get there early. In winter, the corrie can become a small tented village (at 1000m up and 20oC below!).

    The concentration of Great Routes is staggering. These range from Grade I/II routes to Grade VIII/IX (I'm mad and I can fly) routes. They will all be busy!
    Don't let the crowds put you off, just get up there early... start climbing by torchlight.

    The mountain's reputation as the country's finest winter climbing venue is widespread. It also has several deicated guidebooks.

    Aonach Mor

    Aonach Mor is 7 miles north of Ben Nevis and has two main climbing areas. While it is nowhere near as big, grand, dramatic, impressive etc. as Ben Nevis it is a lot more accessible.
    For the lazy climbers among us there's a dedicated climbers gondola taking you to 650m and another chair-lift to 850m saving your legs for the climbing... not the 1.5 hour walk-in. (There's a pub up there, too.)

  • Glencoe

    SC Gully in the centre, Stob Coire nan Lochain, Glencoe
    Ice Climbing in Glencoe

    Glencoe's massive appeal actually heightens in winter. As soon as the snow starts to fall, intrepid travellers from across the country head for The Coe. The don't always check the snow reports, though! This often results in accidents or dissappointment...

    This is a Winter Climbers Wonderland... it's probably just as busy as Ben Nevis here, but the routes are spread throughout the Glen. You might not get your chosen climb to yourself (if you pick a classic) but you won't wait in a queue either!

    There are two pubs farly close to the climbing. The routes are probably only an hours (+) walk from wherever you decide to park and the atmosphere is amazing! You'll nearly always find a route to suit you chosen level of ability, even if you think you can fly. If you can't fly, there are plenty of climbs for mortals and novices! (who are with experienced partner).

    Winter climbing in the Western Highlands.