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. There is no definitive guidebook for Cheddar, though the South West Climbs Volume 1 guidebook covers the best of the traditional and sport climbing to be found.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, and are covered in the South West Climbs Volume 1 guidebook. To the north of Bristol is the Frome Valley that offers esoteric traditional climbing and bouldering on sandstone rock that is detailed in the Frome Valley Sandstone guidebook.
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.