There are loads of brilliant, female-focused climbing walls in the UK - the perfect places to get the hang of a new hobby.
While those knobbly brightly coloured walls and harnesses may bring back memories of field trips or dreaded ‘team building’ office days out, more and more of us are taking up climbing for a whole host of reasons.
Beyond being a challenging and rewarding sport, in the hunt for new and exciting ways to keep fit, it seems that scaling a 20 meter wall has become to be one of them. A full body work out: strengthening your core helps you to balance, while your legs and glutes power you upwards and your arms and shoulders hoist you higher and higher. It trumps HIIT circuits any day.
And it’s not just your health it does wonders for. Kate Nash previously told Stylist about the role climbing plays in her self-care, as both a physical and mental work out. Whether climbing is me-time or a way to socialise, the wellness and mental health benefits are a big draw for many new climbers.
Vertigirls began in 2008 as grant-funded introductory climbing sessions for women with mental health issues. Participants said they gained confidence in themselves and trust in others, while feeling the benefits that exercise could have on their mental health first-hand . Its initial success saw it grow into a British Mountaineering Council affiliated climbing group that’s since introduced hundreds of women to climbing.
Writing for Women Climb, a group that trains, supports and connects female climbers across the UK, Lorna Potter of Bristol Women Climbers says that climbing with women can be a more supportive and encouraging environment: “They’re often really honest about the challenges of dealing with a lack of confidence, fear etc and able to work together to overcome it.”
If all that is enough to convince to give climbing ago, you’re in luck as the UK is home to over 400 climbing walls. Here we’ve picked out some real stand outs that are particularly geared towards women.
The Edinburgh International Climbing Arena is built into a disused quarry just outside the city in the village of Ratho, from which it takes its name. Ratho is the largest indoor climbing arena in Europe, with more than 300 routes and walls reaching 28m high.
Their newly launched ‘This girl Can…’ women only coaching aims to build and nurture the growing number of women climbers with the support of experienced female climbing coaches. Whether you want to try out climbing or bouldering (low height climbing without ropes), Ratho offers up one of the biggest walls in the world. It’s a large bouldering room with free-standing boulders and ‘The Hanger’, a wall that can be raised or lowered to change its angle.
It also boasts a Clip ‘n Climb obstacle course (think crazy golf but for climbing) that the 10 year old inside of you is itching to clamber onto.
Where is it? South Platt Hill, Ratho, Newbridge EH28 8AA
When is it open? Monday to Thursday, 8am-10pm. Saturday and Sunday, 9am-6pm.
The Castle Climbing Centre in Stoke Newington looks like just that, a castle tucked into North London. It’s actually a former water pumping station, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Bouldering is the strong suit here. Ahead of the game, they’ve been running their ‘Women with Altitude’ session for 18 years but are rebranding to ‘Women’s Bouldering Social’ with a new slot of Thursdays 7-9pm to make it easier to find and join in.
Celebrating the new session with a launch event on 15 September, the Castle will host the Women’s Adventure Film Tour 18/19. The series of inspirational new short films focuses on inspiring and extraordinary women in adventure and is sure to fire you up to start scrambling over walls rope free.
Where is it? Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, London N4 2HA
When is it open? Monday to Friday, 12pm-10pm. Saturday and Sunday, 9am-7pm.
Indoor climbing may not have the same breathtaking views as craggy cliffs or coastlines, but Manchester Climbing Centre scores pretty high on scenery. St Benedict’s Church closed in 2002 after over a 120 years in action, now the stained glass windows and sweeping buttressing set the backdrop for a pretty special climb.
You can have a full snoop around on the virtual tour function on their website as well as take a handy quiz to find out which sessions or courses are right for your experience and goals. The highest route is over 60ft tall and bouldering is well covered too. Combining culture with climbing, the centre hosts music events, lectures and film nights. Swing by their climbing yoga for a post climb stretch and drop in Wednesday evenings for Women’s Club.
Where is it? St. Benedict’s Church, Bennett Street, Manchester, M12 5ND
When is it open? Monday to Friday, 10am-10pm. Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm.
For the ultimate self-care experience Tenby Climbing centre has the perfect après-climb set up. Step out of the centre right onto Castle beach on the Welsh coast. The sandy cove is straight out of a movie, lined with picture perfect pastel houses looking out onto the ruins of Tenby Castle rising up out of the water.
Tenby offers half day outdoor climbing where you can fully take in the surroundings, but before you’re ready for the rocks book yourself onto one of their introduction to climbing courses. Friday evening is social club at The Overhang climbing wall and the time to make some friends or find a new climbing partner.
After a physically and mentally demanding climb press pause and soak up the waves lapping against the shore and the sea breeze whistling around you. The 287 unopened emails in your inbox have no business here.
Where is it? Castle Slipway, Castle Beach, Tenby, Pembrokeshire SA70 7BP
When is it open? Monday to Thursday, 4pm-9pm, Friday, 6pm-9pm, Saturday and Sunday, 12pm-5pm
The first bouldering only club to be awarded National Performance Centre status by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), The Climbing Works is highly regarded among climbers. It hosts the Climbing Works International Festival every year drawing in some of the best climbers from across the world.
World class problems (bouldering routes are known as problems) challenge the most elite climbers, but newbies are well catered to with free weekly sessions for new climbers and improvers. Brownie points for their green efforts, they’ve stopped selling bottled water and offer free tea and coffee to anyone that walks, cycles or takes the bus to get there.
Where is it? Unit B, Centenary Works, Little London Road, Sheffield, S8 0UJ
When is it open? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday Friday, 12om-10pm, Wednesdays, 10am-10pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-8pm.
The Mile End Climbing Wall is a not-for-profit organisation maintained by its own charity ‘Development through Challenge’. They work with vulnerable young people, youth offending groups, schools and those with special educational needs to foster personal development through challenging physical activity.
Every penny of profit goes back into developing and maintaining the facilities and subsidising these programs. A great way to give back to the community, by climbing at Mile End Climbing wall you’ll be helping others to flourish from all the benefits of climbing too.
Among courses and sessions for all abilities there’s a drop in women’s bouldering session on Friday evenings that’s free to attend (normal entry fees apply). Designed for improvers and led by a female coach, the sessions focus on problems, strength and technique specific to women climbers.
Where is it? Haverfield Road, London, E3 5BE
When is it open? Monday to Friday, 10am-9.30am, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm.
Offering something a little different, Ice Factor houses the world’s largest indoor ice climbing wall made of 500 tonnes of real ice and snow towering 12M high. You can live out the arctic explorer fantasies you didn’t know you had, before warming yourself back up with a selection of malt whiskeys and ales from across the Highlands and islands in Chillers bar and grill.
Local seasonal produce is whipped up into hot meals till 9.30pm seven days a week, if that’s not enough to convince you to brave the cold, their rock climbing facilities more than hold their own. Running instructed courses for military groups you know they mean business. Their rock climbing taster sessions are probably a little less heavy going, but this is the spot for any aspiring G.I. Jane.
Where is it? Kinlochleven, Lochaber, PH50 4SF
When is it open? Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9am-6pm, Tuesday and Thursday, 9am-10pm.
Spread over five floors, the Warehouse Climbing Centre is another to have announced new Ladies only sessions in 2018. They already run weekly social sessions for new and old climbers to work on their technique and skills in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
Along with teamwork and communication, the friendly Gloucester institution puts climbing’s capacity for building concentration, confidence and self-belief at the heart of its sell. On top of climbing and bouldering the centre also gives you a chance to have a crack at caving. Perhaps more crawling than climbing, their fibreglass resin cave stretches for 90M of ‘seemingly impossible passageways, tight tunnels, boulders and challenging chambers.’ If you’re not keen on heights, caving would be a great way to get in on the action.
Where is it? Parliament St, Gloucester GL1 1HY
When is it open? Monday to Friday, 10am-10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 9am-8pm.