Rocksports Routes

Yorkshire has great contrast in what it offers for rock climbers. although the choice is simple, as two rock types dominate the area offering very different climbing – limestone or gritstone.  Here’s some routes to inspire you and plan your next trip on to Yorkshire’s crags.

rock climbing

The Big Three

Tackle the limestone heights of the Yorkshire Dales

Level of Fitness
Red (advanced) – suitable for experienced rock climbers. There is trad climbing which provides some mid-grade classics as well as some fearsome test pieces. The sport climbing begins at grade 5+ and keeps on-going upwards to 8 and beyond.  The routes aren’t for the faint hearted, stamina is needed in abundance because most of the routes are up steep, overhanging, and bulging walls.

The Experience
The Yorkshire Dales, is a high limestone plateau, with the limestone cliffs of the ‘big three’ Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Kilnsey Crag some of the most impressive in Britain. They provide some of the best and hardest sport climbing to be found anywhere in Europe.

Malham Cove is a huge amphitheatre with great mid-grade trad routes to the hardest sport climbs in the country. Malham is popular all year round with climbers and walkers alike. The Cove is a SSSI, so special care should be taken when visiting.

Gordale Scar is an impressive gorge with towering cliffs and a tumbling waterfall at its heart. Classic traditional climbs such as Face Route as well as harder sport climbs like Pierrepoint (F7c+), climb the massive overhanging walls deep within the gorge.

Kilnsey Crag is famous for its overhanging profile which dominates this part of Wharfedale. Routes range from F6c to F9a and are the best to be found anywhere at their grade.


Number of Routes: 260
Rock Type: Limestone
Climbing Style: Sport and traditional climbing
Aspect: Vertical to overhanging Malham faces south so gets ‘all-day’ sun and although it tends to stay dry in most weathers, it does seep after heavy rainfall
Approach: Take the A65 northwest from Skipton and then head north from Gargrave to Malham village and the National Park Visitor Centre car park. From the village, follow the footpath into the Cove – allow 20 minutes
Refreshments and public toilets: Several cafés/tea shops in Malham plus a couple of pubs
Featured climb: Overshadow (F9a+)

 One to aspire to, Steve McClure has developed some truly desperate climbs on the massively steep and difficult overhanging central area of Malham Cove, including Overshadow. Routes range from easy trad to hard sport so plenty to choose from for all levels of experience.

Please note that peregrines regularly nest at Malham Cove and other limestone crags in the area – bird restrictions may be in place restricting climbing on sections of some cliffs. Check out the situation before visiting by using the BMC crag database.

Stay in Malham

Town Head Farm

Malham, BD23 4DJ, United Kingdom

The Threshing Floor at Tennant Barn

Malham, BD23 4DA, United Kingdom

The Hayloft at Tennant Barn

Malham, BD23 4DA, United Kingdom


Number of Routes: 200
Rock Type: Limestone
Climbing Type: Sport and traditional climbing
Aspect: The overhanging walls deep within Gordale Scar are a climbers’ paradise in the summer months.  Not as sheltered as it first appears, it seeps badly and often has a cold wind.
Approach: Take the A65 northwest from Skipton and then head north from Gargrave to Malham village and the National Park Visitor Centre car park. There is limited parking at the Scar and you will be better parking in Malham and walking on the road signposted Gordale before picking up the footpath just after the tea van – allow 20-25 minutes.
Refreshments and public toilets:  Tea van at Gordale Bridge
Featured climb:  Pierrepoint (F7c+)

Stay near Gordale

Town Head Farm

Malham, BD23 4DJ, United Kingdom

The Threshing Floor at Tennant Barn

Malham, BD23 4DA, United Kingdom

The Hayloft at Tennant Barn

Malham, BD23 4DA, United Kingdom


Number of Routes: 160
Rock Type: Limestone
Climbing Style: Sport and traditional climbing with some bouldering
Aspect: Overhanging throughout and faces east, so gets the morning sun. Normally stays dry even when it is raining although it seeps badly in the winter.
Approach: Take the B6160 north from Skipton, and Kilnsey appears by the roadside 4km north of Grassington. There is a large lay-by for parking just past the crag, where there is usually a tea wagon.
Refreshments and public toilets: Pub and café/farm shop in Kilnsey.
Featured climb: Comedy (F7c)

One of the most popular sport climbs at Kilnsey, although there’s not much to laugh at as you climb the steeply overhanging prow up which Comedy climbs. Although Comedy is still ‘quite tough’, many climbers come to try their luck on this great route.

Stay near Kilnsey

The Blue Bell Inn

Middle Lane Kettlewell, Kettlewell, BD23 5QX, United Kingdom

Pennycroft Guest House

Far Lane Kettlewell, Kettlewell, BD23 5QY , United Kingdom

Fern House

Fern House, Fern House, Middle Lane, Kettlewell, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 5QX, United Kingdom

Robin Proctor’s Scar

Number of Routes: 36
Rock Type:  Limestone
Climbing Type: Sport climbing
Aspect: Quick drying, sunny spot with a steep and impressive main wall
Approach: Easy walk in from either Clapham or Austwick
Refreshments and public toilets: Clapham and Austwick
Featured climb: Wheels on fire (F6a+)

Stay nearby

The Dairy

The Dairy, Mewith Ln, Lancaster LA2 7AR

Wenning Bank

Wenning Bank, Wenning Bank, Clapham, Lancaster, North Yorkshire, LA2 8ES, United Kingdom

October Cottage

October Cottage, 8 Flying Horse Shoe Cottages, Clapham, Lancaster, North Yorkshire, LA2 8ES, United Kingdom

Twistleton Scar

Number of Routes: 247
Rock Type:  Limestone
Climbing Type: Traditional climbing
Aspect: Situated on the north side of Chapel-le-Dale in a lovely quiet, sunny location. Mainly short traditional routes on good quality rock
Approach: Small fee payable to park below the crag
Refreshments and public toilets: Ingleton
Featured climb: Night Club (VDiff)

Stay at Ingleton

Harling House Bed & Breakfast

Rarber Top Lane, Ingleton, North Yorkshire, LA6 3DN, United Kingdom

Pauls Fold Holiday Cottage

Ingleton, LA6 3EN, United Kingdom

Greta Cottage

Ingleton, LA6 3EZ, United Kingdom


Number of Routes: 110 + bouldering
Rock Type: Gritstone
Climbing Type: Traditional climbing and bouldering
Aspect: High on top of the northern ridge of Lower Wharfedale, Almscliff is visible for miles.
Approach:  Just off the main Otley-Harrogate road (A658) near Huby, some 8kms south-west of Harrogate
Refreshments and public toilets: Otley and Harrogate
Featured climb: Flying Arete (Font 6b)

Stay near Almscliffe

1 The Old Chapel

Otley, LS21 1LR, United Kingdom

The Horse & Farrier

7 Bridge Street, Otley, LS21 1BQ, United Kingdom

The cottage a 2 bed at Meagill farm country retrea

Meagill Lane, Otley, LS212PE, United Kingdom


Number of routes: c. 200 + bouldering
Rock Type: Gritstone
Climbing Type: Traditional climbing and bouldering
Aspect: High on the edge of the infamous Ilkley Moor, Ilkley Quarry, The Cow and Calf, and the Rock Valley dominate the view from the valley.
Approach: A super short walk-in from the nearby moor road which leads directly up from the centre of Ilkley.
Refreshments and public toilets: The Cow and Calf is the ‘on the doorstep’ pub
Featured climbs: Wellington Crack (E4 5c) and ‘A’ Climb (Sev)

Stay at Ilkley

The Hayloft

Green Ln, Burley Woodhead, Ilkley LS29 7BA, UK

Myddelton Grange

Ilkley, LS29 0EB, United Kingdom

Garden Cottage

Ilkley, LS29 8SY, United Kingdom


Number of routes: c. 120 short routes and boulders
Rock Type: Gritstone
Climbing Type: Trad climbing and bouldering
Aspect: High on the north edge of Colsterdale. Although relatively diminutive in height, Slipstones offers challenging routes and bouldering.
Approach: From Masham head through Healey and into Colsterdale
Refreshments and public toilets: The real ale pubs in the local villages are not to be missed
Featured climb: Killer (E4 6b)

Stay at Masham

Green Willow

8 Thorpe Road, Masham, HG4 4HZ

The Old Dairy

2 Wellgarth Court, Masham, North Yorkshire, HG4 4EN

River View

14 Silver Street, Masham, HG4 4DX

Rock Climbing Grades

Rock climbs are graded from easy to extremely difficult. Several different grading systems are used depending on the style of climbing. Sub-grades are often used such as 7a+ which is harder that a 7a but easier than a 7b:

Sport Climbing: The French grading system is widely used for sport climbing ranging from F6a, F6b, F6c which are easy routes, to F7a, Fb, F7c which are middle grade, through to F8a, F8b, F8c which are very difficult. The hardest routes are F9a and F9b.

Traditional Climbing: The English Trad. System is used here in the UK which has two components; the adjective grade and a technical grade.

The Adjective Grade is an overall grade to reflect the overall difficult and seriousness. The easiest grades are Moderate (M), Easy (E), Difficult (D) and Very Difficult (VD). The middle grades are Severe (Sev), Very Severe (VS) and Hard Very Severe (HVS). The hardest grades are Extremely Severe, which are split into E1, the easiest, through to E11, currently the hardest.
The Technical Grade is a measure of the hardest moves on the route. The easiest grades are 4a, 4b, 4c, the mid grades are 5a, 5b, 5c, the harder grades are 6a, 6b, 6c and the hardest of all is the seventh grade, of which 7a and 7b are the hardest which exist at the moment.

Bouldering: The Fontainebleau Grading system is widely used for bouldering.  The easiest grades are Font 3, 4, 5, whilst the middle grades are Font 6a, 6b, 6c and the harder grades are Font 7a, 7b, 7c. The hardest grades at the moment are Font 8a, 8b, 8c.

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