Bouldering Gyms | The Very Best Bouldering Gyms In The UK New
Do you know your bouldering from your belays? Your rock over from your dyno?
Bouldering and indoor climbing have soared in popularity in recent years, and with that rise there has been a concurrent explosion in the number of bouldering gyms and climbing centres popping up around the UK.
Having surveyed our students, fitness professionals, and climbers, and contacted over one hundred of the best bouldering gyms in the country, we managed to come up with an exclusive list of the 38 best bouldering gyms (UK).
All of these centres bring unique elements to the table, but some of the things they have in common are a fantastic range of facilities, their reputation in the climbing industry, the availability of expert tutors on site, and perhaps most importantly, supportive and enthusiastic communities ready to welcome new and experienced climbers alike.
Whether you’re looking for the best UK bouldering spots for beginners, or a centre with a reputation for competition climbing, there’ll be something here for you. All our climbing walls and climbing centres are organised by region, so you can easily search for the best indoor climbing wall near to where you are. We’ve also provided a featured bouldering gyms list before the meat of our article, to help really narrow down your choices.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a handy bouldering FAQ section at the bottom of this article, to help with any lingering questions you may have.
Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get stuck in!
What are the 8 Best Bouldering Gyms in the UK?
The Foundry – Sheffield
HarroWall – London
The Climbing Hangar – Liverpool
The Climbing Works – Sheffield
Highball Climbing Centre – Norwich
The Climbing Depot – Birmingham
Best bouldering gyms in Scotland
Glasgow Climbing Centre
Glasgow Climbing Centre has everything a budding climber could possibly need, based in the heart of one of Scotland’s greatest cities. They cater for climbers of all abilities, with a mixture of bouldering, lead ropes, top roping, and autobelays. Their bouldering facilities in particular are impressive, with three dedicated areas and around 100 different problems available at any one time.
What’s more, Glasgow Climbing Centre regularly reset their walls, with around 58% of their overall routes less than one month old, and none of their routes older than two months. Therefore, you can guarantee a fresh and exciting experience with each visit.
Of course, this bouldering gym holds its community in equal regard to the facility itself:
“We think of ourselves as a community hub for climbers, rather than a climbing gym. We know our customers, chat with them, and find out how they are climbing. Our setting team is keen to craft problems and routes that appeal to a customer’s favourite style, or one they are working to improve on.
“They stay for the banter, and some start down the climbing path too. With this sense of belonging to something, and our great chat, you could consider us as a top Craic Climbing venue.”
Ice Factor – Kinlochleven
Sure, the main attraction of Ice Factor may be the largest indoor ice climbing wall in the world. However, climbers more familiar with their hands than they are with ice picks will testify that Ice Factor’s impressive variety of roped climbing routes, twinned with a popular bouldering room, more than suffices to warrant their inclusion in our list of the best bouldering gyms in the UK.
The routes are also regularly reset by experienced climber Dave Macleod, ensuring that climbers will be kept interested and challenged. In addition to these fantastic facilities, Ice Factor places emphasis on welcoming climbers from all walks of life:
“Being based in Kinlochleven, we are conveniently placed for those that are passing through on holiday in the beautiful Highlands, and to those experienced climbers who are here for a taste of the local outdoor routes. With us, such climbers can escape the weather or have an indoor training session with a coffee/beer on hand in our centre’s café and Chillers bar.”
Three Wise Monkeys – Fort William
Three Wise Monkeys is all about personality. As you may have gathered from the name, this is no ordinary climbing centre. The team behind Three Wise Monkeys committed themselves to creating a fun, inclusive, and environmentally friendly bouldering gym. And in that regard, they have definitely succeeded.
The climbing wall pitches itself as a kind of wet weather sanctuary for the many climbers who flock to Fort William for outdoor pursuits. This doesn’t mean, however, that their walls should be treated as some kind of second-string option when the rain clouds gather. With regular resets, and both roped climbing in addition to a good number of bouldering routes, Three Wise Monkeys has proven popular with locals and travelling climbers for both their welcoming ethos, and the quality of their facilities.
“The introduction of a climbing centre to Fort William just over two years ago has been really well received by local and visiting climbers alike. No matter how awesome the local climbing is, everyone needs a sanctuary for training, as well as for escaping the weather (and midges).
“One of the most appreciated benefits of climbing at 3 Wise Monkeys is that we’ve got a route setting guarantee! This is a promise we give to our customers that routes and boulder problems will always be reset within a certain deadline, or they can get their money back. We didn’t want to become one of those lost and forgotten walls in a far flung location that you visit once a century, which still have the same routes and problems as the last time you visited.
“On top of that, the menu is now fast becoming quite exquisite!”
Best bouldering gyms in the North East and Yorkshire
Climb Newcastle is ideal for beginners and seasoned veterans alike. Operating out of two venues, The Valley in Ouseburn and The Pool in Byker, visitors pay one membership fee to gain access to both bouldering gyms. As such, emphasis is placed upon inclusivity: The Valley in Ouseburn catering for serious bouldering enthusiasts, and The Pool in Byker offering classes and training areas for both adults and children. The dual venue also makes it perfect for climbers in the North East wondering “what’s best rock climbing near me” – surely the more choice, the better!
This emphasis on accessibility for the sport is emphasised by the staff. Chris Graham told us that, “at climb Newcastle we pride ourselves on offering an inclusive environment for climbers of all ages and abilities. Our unique centres are within walking distance of each other, offering everything from beginners’ areas and dedicated kids’ rooms, to one of the UK’s largest competition walls.
“It’s a place where first time climbers can mix with international athletes in a relaxed environment and friendly community.”
The Climbing Works – Sheffield
The Climbing Works is a monster of a venue, not just in terms of its local area, not even just in terms of the bouldering UK scene, but internationally. Opening in 2006, the venue, which now has two dedicated buildings to bouldering, was for a time the largest bouldering gym in the world. Indeed, the venue has also been awarded National Performance Centre status, and is therefore able to cater for climbers from beginners to elite athletes.
Owed to its size, The Climbing Works offers a massive 600 boulder problems, with around 120 climbs for casual climbers and over 100 climbs set for experts and elite level athletes, including members of the British Bouldering Team. In line with bouldering’s ethos of being an inclusive sport, The Climbing Works also offers a student rate on Wednesday afternoons, and has a large social media following online.
The Foundry – Sheffield
Put simply, The Foundry is a legendary venue for aficionados of indoor rock climbing and bouldering in the UK, and we were not surprised in the least when our students and climbers voted for it in their droves. Although it was the first dedicated climbing wall to appear in the UK, and maintains a serious reputation in the industry, The Foundry runs classes for all, including regular introduction to climbing courses and 1:1 coaching sessions including the facilities to run lattice assessments.
The Foundry also has big names like Steve McLure and Dave Mason setting routes for them, ensuring that their four distinct bouldering circuits are full of tricky and challenging problems for climbers of all abilities. However, if there is one thing The Foundry is famous for, it’s their unique bouldering wall: The Wave. Differing from normal wooden walls, this resin construction mimics the feel of real rock, and is the central attraction of this legendary venue. The brainchild of legendary climber Jerry Moffat, he says of his creation:
“The idea of The Wave was to simulate climbing outside, enabling the climber to transfer the skills learnt indoors during our wet winters, to real rock later in the year. The Wave absolutely does this. Every single professional climber who’s come to the Peak District has had a go on the wave and loved it. Put simply, it’s great climbing.”
The Climbing Lab – Leeds
Boldly advertising themselves as the best indoor climbing wall in Leeds, The Climbing Lab does a lot to deliver on this promise. Offering beginner and experienced climbing courses all week from their massive 500m sq. climbing area, this dedicated bouldering gym also runs competitions, and has a thriving social community.
The climbing centre is also popular for its bouldering problems, with new routes set every two weeks at a variety of different grades and difficulties. In addition to climbing, there are also dedicated training areas, for those looking to seriously improve their skills on the wall. Because the venue is run by climbers, you can guarantee that they can cater for your ambition, regardless of your skill-level.
Of course, when it comes down to it, a large part of climbing is how much people enjoy themselves on the wall. Staff from The Climbing Lab told us, “One thing we hear all the time from climbers of all abilities is how much they love the friendly and relaxed atmosphere at The Climbing Lab. There is a real sense of community where nobody feels alienated or unwelcome because of their ability.”
ROKT – Huddersfield
Put simply, ROKT is huge, both in terms of reputation and in its actual size. As well as its indoor climbing facilities, which we’ll come to in a minute, this multi-purpose venue boasts the UK’s highest man-made outdoor climbing wall, a Nerf arena, escape rooms, an award winning pub, and a restaurant.
But it’s the climbing we’re here for. Diehard climbers need not worry that, with all those other distractions, ROKT won’t deliver when compared to the standard of other bouldering gyms and climbing walls. In fact, with over 400 meters squared of climbing surface, ROKT is one of the largest dedicated climbing centres in the UK.
Beginners also need not be intimidated. In ROKT’s own words, “Whether you are an experienced climber, you’re a little rusty, or you’ve never climbed before – we have the facilities to suit your needs.
“If you are a boulderer or rope climber, the facilities within the centre are extensive and will provide you with everything a climber needs to have fun, train safely, and push on through the grades.”
City Bloc – Leeds
Founded in 2009, City Bloc is by no means the oldest bouldering gym on our list. Nor is it the biggest… What it does have, however, is the prestige of its creators: four members of the British bouldering team. Pair this with a serious reputation for being one of the best bouldering-specific venues in the country, in addition to City Bloc’s avid community of elite and newbie climbers, and you end up with a facility that inarguably deserves its place on our list of the best bouldering gyms (UK).
Facilities include 800m sq. of climbing space, containing 9 different bouldering circuits which are reset every week, and a training area that includes a beastmaker finger board, gymnastic rings, free weights, and yoga mats, to name a few. Given the expertise of the staff, one of the main attractions of the venue is the option to partake in free beginners’ coaching sessions throughout the week, as well as 1:1 coaching which can be booked through City Bloc’s website.
“The centre might be on the smaller side for a modern bouldering wall, but all styles of climbing are catered for and the coziness just adds to the great vibe. The wall was originally designed by four former members of the British bouldering team – Ben Meeks, Tom Sugden, Martin Smith and Rachel Seymour. They wanted to replicate angles they had climbed on in international competitions, so many parts of the wall are handpicked from some of the best climbing walls around the world. The wall stays up to date with the latest holds and volumes available on the market, and head-setter Ben Meeks is one of the highest qualified setters in the country.
“The grades range from beginners with many new to climbing joining every week, up to professional with some of the world’s best often visiting and using the wall as a training venue.”
Best bouldering gyms in the North West
Eden Rock – Carlisle
Though Eden Rock technically now has two venues, Eden Rock Carlisle and Eden Rock Edinburgh, it is the original Carlisle centre that was recommended by our students. And if you’ve visited, you will see why…
With over 240 problems to scramble up at any one time, the climbing centre boasts routes appropriate for climbers of all skills. What’s more, Eden Rock has, in their own words, “one of the best wooden circuits in the world, lovingly handmade by our team, and sourced from our own gardens.”
Eden Rock are all about inclusivity when it comes to rock climbing. As such, they employ three route setters of different shapes, sizes and abilities, ensuring that there is something for everyone to climb.
And it goes further: “We have training facilities designed by the massively talented Dan Varian (One of the founders of Beastmaker), which are some of the best in world, hidden here in Carlisle!
“I guess one of the most important things that has shaped us is that we started without much money, so really had to do everything by ourselves, particularly with regard to being creative with what we did instead of just throwing money at it. Eden Rock is very much who we are and we’re very glad people like it!”
Kendal Wall – Lake District
Kendal wall is another one of those institutions known by climbers up and down the country. Starting from humble beginnings, the idea of three climbers in the early 90s to open a dedicated climbing wall, the Kendal Wall has grown to become a legend of the bouldering UK scene, and remains one of the top indoor climbing venues in the UK.
And it gets better. Many of our students voted for Kendal Wall as a result of its newly extended bouldering facilities which opened in 2010 as part of the centre’s huge development scheme. There are dedicated rooms for beginners and intermediate boulderers, as well as routes and problems catered for the expert audience that this bouldering gym regularly attracts. In addition, there are plenty of other forms of climbing, including the UK’s tallest wall (25m) and the infamous 20m King Kong wall, with a range of different problems.
“We feel that we have a fantastic centre, with a huge variety of climbing and bouldering to suit all abilities. For bouldering, there is an easier selection of problems in the Den on the first floor, ideal if people are new to bouldering and a great area to warm up. We also have 6 auto-belays in the main wall including one on our 20 meter wall, so if you don’t happen to have a partner to climb with you can always come along and improve your endurance on these. There is also our training room facility which you can use (with an induction) to either recover from injury or for your warm up.
“For the more experienced climber we have all the above and our spectacular Petzl main wall at 25 meters, still the tallest in England. There really is so much to do!”
Manchester Climbing Centre
You may be drawn to this amazing North-West climbing wall purely as a result of the stunning venue in which it is based. In truth, there are many reasons to visit Manchester Climbing Centre – not least the availability of two dedicated bouldering areas, a traverse room, autobelays, top-ropes, and lead climbs – but the bouldering gym’s setting of a repurposed 19th century church with huge stained glass windows is, nevertheless, something to be impressed by.
And, let’s be honest, the staff aren’t afraid of talking about the amazing climbing centre they have helped to build (and why would they be!)…
“I think the biggest draw to our centre is a combination of the community feel and great energy in the centre, plus the amazing location, both in terms of city centre and the building we are in.
“We are one big family at MCC and I believe that comes across in all the events and setting we do. As our website says, we are trying to fuse climbing with culture to create a vibrant community, driven by passion. From week to week we are trying to mix things up with different setting and competitions, but also film nights, lectures and music events. All of this means that MCC can be a quite unique climbing experience.”
The Climbing Hangar – Liverpool
The Climbing Hangar Liverpool offers some serious facilities for bouldering and climbing purists. The whole climbing centre is dedicated to bouldering, and with over two floors packed with circuits and routes appropriate for climbers of all abilities, it’s a stunning venue.
As a result of its reputation, The Climbing Hangar attracts some serious climbers, but has also created an atmosphere where anyone feels welcome. Running everything from competitions and climbing opens, to NIBAS courses for kids, the hugely popular “Hangar Women Rock” class every Wednesday, and social climbing on a Friday evening until late, the venue has valued its community in addition to its climbing walls. And if that wasn’t enough, there is a fantastically well stocked training area with gymnastic rings and finger boards, a shop, and a café that serves some of the best coffee around. If you’re looking for maximum enjoyment alongside world class facilities, this is your venue.
Awesome Walls – Stockport
Awesome Walls Stockport is a multipurpose climbing centre for boulderers, top-rope climbers, and lead-rope climbers. Part of the Awesome Walls family, the Stockport venue was popular with our students and climbers because of their expert courses to help you improve your technique, and develop a love for the sport. In addition, their massive 23.5 metre wall is one of the biggest in the UK, and provides a focal point for the venue…however intimidating it may be.
“Our customers are our priority and we strive to deliver the best experience to everyone no matter their age, or whether they are a novice or an advanced climber.
“We offer as much as we can to our members, including free membership, free parking, discounts, regular route changes, and a variety of wall styles, combined with our passion and love for everyone who comes through our doors. As such, we are a place where anyone can try something new, train, have a great time, and somewhere we are sure they will want to come back.”
Best bouldering gyms in the Midlands
Opened a decade ago in 2008, Redpoint Birmingham has gone from strength to strength in their short ten years on the Bouldering UK scene. They are perhaps most famous for their use of tricky angles and shapes throughout the climbing centre, with tempting stalactites hanging from every inch of the roof.
However, we’re here for the bouldering, and again Redpoint Birmingham does not disappoint. Their bouldering is split across four areas, comprised of: Redbloc, vertical climbing walls, and all manner of overhangs with a 100m traverse route to practise your endurance; The Bunker, a basement bouldering area full of overhangs and a roof that extends for 40ft; a fully kitted training room containing Beastmaker fingerboards and so much more; and Babybloc, designed for group sessions and childrens’ climbing.
Rest assured, with over 200 bouldering problems to be tackled at any one time, Redpoint Birmingham can cater for all manner of climbers.
“We have a reputation for quality routes, great customer service and a friendly atmosphere. This means that beginners and Jedi climbers alike can all feel at home. We change routes regularly and all of our staff are passionate about climbing and happy to help.
“As our bouldering centre, Redbloc, is just one part of our climbing centre; we cater for all types of climber. We also have a great on site shop – the legendary Rock On – and we run outdoor climbing courses to help indoor climbers make the transition to the world of outdoor climbing. We also have great cakes!”
The Climbing Depot – Birmingham
Part of the hugely successful and popular Climbing Depot family, The Climbing Depot Birmingham is one of the newest venues on our list. Currently the biggest bouldering gym in the midlands, and the second largest in the UK, the Climbing Depot is already a nationally recognised powerhouse.
The venue is, therefore, large enough to cater for climbers of all abilities, with weekly re-sets, coaching courses, yoga nights, and kids’ clubs ensuring there is something for everyone. With over 250 climbs at any one time, and 10 circuits graded V0 to V11+, the venue also promises the widest range of holds of any wall in the UK, in addition to dedicated training areas, a well-stocked shop, and a café for relaxing. If you’re looking for a venue to really immerse yourself in this increasingly popular sport, there aren’t many better places than The Climbing Depot.
“The Climbing Depot – Birmingham is one of the newest centres in the UK, and no expense has been spared in providing the absolute best in indoor climbing experiences. From the cafe to the climbing area – there is a high quality finish throughout. Building on 10 years of prior experience – with climbing centres in Leeds, Nottingham, and Manchester – The Climbing Depot provides tailored sessions and general entry for every standard and age of climber – from complete beginner to National Team member, and from toddlers to OAPs!
“Once you’re hooked they’ve got coaching sessions, new problems every week, kids sessions, and they also host several large events each year, with competitions, gear demonstrations, and more taking place throughout the year.”
Ape Index – Leicester
Ape Index is perhaps our most multi-purpose venue, with indoor climbing facilities, ninja warrior-style training, and an obstacle race gym (which looks about as fun as it sounds). Set up by Nigel Leeming, the facility is designed as part-climbing centre, and part training base where beginners and experts can improve their fitness in a variety of fun and effective ways, designed specifically to improve explosive pulling and jumping power: crucial for top level climbers.
Nigel himself holds the training aspect of his facility in equal regard to the bouldering itself. He says, “[We offer] a broad range of movement based activities: rock climbing, ninja warrior, obstacle skills, gymnastics, and parkour. As such we can offer aspiring movement based athletes a great area to train in, keeping them well rounded.”
But let’s not forget about the bouldering. Ape Index’s 200 sq. metre climbing wall, which is reset on a regular basis, more than suffices to keep climbers entertained meaning it can stand alone as both bouldering gym and fitness hub.
Climbing The Walls – Shrewsbury
Perhaps a little optimistically, Climbing The Walls advertises on their site that their climbing walls are appropriate for ages 5-105. While there may not necessarily be many centurions scrambling up these Shrewsbury walls on a regular basis, this bouldering gym does boast an impressive range of climbing related challenges and games. From their ingeniously designed action walls, adding an added puzzle element to climbing, to their 200 square metres of bouldering walls over two floors, Climbing The Walls is an excellent choice for those looking for constantly reinvented challenges.
Of their bouldering options, Climbing The Walls told us, “Consisting of over 100 problems at any one time. Climbing The Walls keep our problems totally fresh with regular route changes every six weeks, using some of the UKs top route setters.
“We also chose Walltopia to fit out our 12 month old centre, and as such and lot of thought was put behind design of the bouldering area. This has resulted in some great angles to test even the best of boulderers. Routes range from V-0 to V-8 so there’s something for absolutely everyone, and Climbing The Walls recently announced accreditation to teach up to NICAS Level 5 as a primary centre”
Wolf Mountain – Wolverhampton
Perhaps winner of the best-named-gym award, Wolf Mountain was established in 2005, combining an impressive number of top rope routes, with a creative bouldering section and training facilities for climbers, including the infamous (and ominously named) Stamina Tunnel (pictured above). The climbing centre is set up to be accessible for anyone, with beginners only requiring a quick safety briefing and some tips before being unleashed upon the venue’s many bouldering problems.
What we noticed in our research was the close-knit community that drives the popularity of the venue. Along those lines, the staff told us that, “here at Wolf Mountain we have a sense of community amongst our climbers, where the good climbers interact with the novices and visa versa. Climbers of all ages discuss, encourage and help each other to become the best they can, while also challenging each other to improve in a fun environment.”
The Ballroom Climbing Wall – Coventry
Opened just over a year ago by a trio of entrepreneurial climbers, The Ballroom Climbing Wall has quickly garnered a reputation for being a fun bouldering gym with some serious challenges on offer. Although the team and centre may be comparatively smaller than some others on this list of the best bouldering gyms UK, The Ballroom still manages to run group and coaching sessions for all ages, as well as themed evenings and events throughout the year.
When we asked the team how they have achieved this early success, they told us, “We created a team of people who not only live for climbing, but who also share this passion with anyone and everyone that walks through our doors. This, coupled with world beating holds, the country’s best setters, and a mean coffee menu, resulted in what we believe to be one of the best Bouldering centres in the country today.”
“The spirit of the Ballroom has its community to thank as well – we have created one of the most open and friendly atmospheres seen in a bouldering wall – allowing all climbers, regardless of ability, to come and enjoy climbing without feeling judged or embarrassed if they fall off the easiest of jug ladders!”
Best bouldering gyms in the South West
The Climbing Hangar – Plymouth
The Climbing Hangar Plymouth are the very definition of new kids on the bloc(k), having only opened their doors in March 2018. They have, however, proven popular, both with climbers in the South West and with our students. And it’s true, part of this may be down to their affiliation with the wider Climbing Hangar family, currently operating out of Liverpool and London. However, most of their success is homemade, and stems from their excellent attention to detail and facilities.
The quality of the problems and climbs available at The Climbing Hangar is assured, given the existing reputation of venues like The Climbing Hangar Liverpool. The Plymouth incarnation then, brings to the table a huge dedicated bouldering space, a training area with Beastmaker hangboards, campus boards, weights and more, a next generation Moon Board to train on, and a World Cup Circuit for amateur climbers to test their abilities.
“The Climbing Hangar, Plymouth is an extraordinarily spacious dedicated bouldering centre with many nooks and crannies to explore! With problems set to suit and challenge climbers of all abilities, we have created an extremely inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. Our focus is on creating a community feel with a cosy cafe, bodacious boulder and sumptuous studio space, giving everyone a plethora of opportunities to meet new people and have a great time!”
RockBurn Bridport is a small yet continually expanding centre in the south-west of Dorset. With a dedicated bouldering arena, as well as taster sessions and group classes that run through the week, what really sticks out about this gym is the grassroots and community feel of the venue. The venue actively welcomes families, and has provisions for school visits and Duke of Edinburgh courses, therefore opening up bouldering to locals and youngsters in the immediate vicinity.
The team reflects this community feel, comprised of a tightly knit group: Will Martin the Managing Director and brains behind the whole project; Kevin Long, head coach and route setter; and Hannah Whaley, who runs sessions including Rockburn’s ladies night on Friday evenings, in addition to setting routes for the centre.
Of his venue, Will told us:
“I designed and built the centre after years of working in other climbing and outdoor venues. Our centre is on the smaller end of the scale with 75 linear metres of wall. We are actively developing still, adding key new features to the centre to ensure climbers have everything they need to develop their strength, skillset and techniques appropriately.
“My aim is to create an environment where climbers can come and have a social climb, test themselves, get some input and banter and generally keep things in the vein of friends coming over to climb.”
Undercover Rock – Bristol
Bristol’s Undercover Rock is one of those blessed venues (quite literally) which enjoys the setting of a 15th century church, meaning climbers can really take in the views when they’re half way up some of Undercover Rock’s varied climbing walls. And it’s true, most of this venue is dedicated to rope climbing, with a lot of the tutors and sessions being dedicated to this form of the sport.
There is, however, a dedicated bouldering section, with regularly reset problems and routes to keep local climbers coming back for more. In addition to a varied programme of beginner’s sessions and advanced tutorials, the climbing centre also runs a healthy calendar of competitions, catering for athletes on the more experienced end of the spectrum.
“Situated in a 15th century church, Undercover Rock (UCR) in Bristol is the South West’s oldest climbing wall (open since 1992). UCR offers a unique climbing experience, the dramatic setting has walls up to 13 metres high which lead into interesting roof spaces and archways, giving-way to hangovers and powerful gradients.
“But it’s not just for the pros; with top-roping, lead climbing and with a dedicated bouldering area for training whatever your climbing know-how, UCR is a must visit for anyone living in or visiting Bristol.”
Golden Gecko Climbing – Romsey
Our students and climbers only had good things to say about Golden Gecko. In fact, despite the fact that the venue also has auto belay facilities and a range of roped climbing options, it was the 150 metres squared of bouldering space that attracted the most praise.
Golden Gecko regularly switch up their routes and bouldering problems, which attracts a range of climbers to their venue, from children to professionals. Their walls include tricky overhangs and arêtes, as well as traverse sections and some top-quality volumes, and the range of difficulties available means that there is plenty of room for climbers to develop and hone their skills.
“Golden Gecko offers a unique mix of bouldering, roped climbing and a set of 10 auto belays. This mix allows us to cater for climbers from 5 years with little or no experience right up to experienced climber who are looking to train indoor to prepare for big adventures outdoors. Our friendly and open environment welcomes all newcomers to enjoy this fast-growing sport.
“Climbing provides individual challenges which you set to your own level with physical advantages of a full body workout and 3D problem solving. We can offer inductions for both ropes and bouldering beginners, as well as fun, have-a-go sessions where you can concentrate on the climbing movement without the worry of ropes.”
Best bouldering gyms in the South East
Boulder Shack Climbing Gym – Southampton
The first thing we noticed about Boulder Shack Climbing Gym was their dedication to getting as many different demographics into climbing as possible. The bouldering gym runs regular induction classes for adults, introducing them both to the climbing centre and rock climbing in general. Boulder Shack also runs a wide range of classes for kids, including holiday climbing programmes and junior climbing taster sessions. They are also fantastic for competitions, and as a dedicated bouldering venue, there’s more than enough space to develop and improve as a beginner to bouldering.
“Here at Boulder Shack we make climbing activities as approachable and as fun as possible in a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. We are a community supported climbing wall that thrives by making the priorities of our customers our own.
“The variety of climbing facilities attracts beginners and professionals alike, and with fitness classes and a café area, there really is something for everyone.”
Craggy Island – Guildford
It’s been all change at Craggy Island in Guildford, with the large venue recently benefiting from a substantial expansion and rebuild. As you might expect then, there’s plenty here to keep everyone entertained, including over 300 frequently set routes, and a massive, brand new bouldering wall, in addition to the centres existing facilities.
The centre runs “Get into Climbing” and “Climbing for Kids” programs, to ensure that everyone feels welcome, and that they can confidently improve their skills on the wall. What’s more, serious climbers can rest safe in the knowledge that routes have been created by renowned setter, Mark Croxall, former bouldering world cup winner.
“Our mission is to provide routes with variety, interest and technical quality for climbers at all levels throughout both Craggy Island centres. Craggy Guildford has 100 rope lines split 50/50 top rope and lead. A 50 route bouldering wall, 8 auto belays, a traverse wall and a dedicated training area on a mezzanine – free from distractions and youngsters.
“We re-set all of our walls and bouldering areas on a constant rotation, and combined with the sheer size of our climbing centres, this means that you can climb as much as you like and never get bored or reach the limit of your climbing ambition. But most importantly you’ll always get a warm welcome at Craggy.”
Boulder Brighton, as you might expect from the name, is Brighton’s premier climbing wall dedicated entirely to bouldering. This place cares about one thing and one thing only: facilitating the best climbing experience for their enthusiastic community. With this in mind, they run an extensive program of adult training sessions, kids’ classes, as well as a healthy timetable of competitions for the more serious athletes.
Because of their love of what they call “climbing in its purest form,” Boulder Brighton have built a venue over 1,000 sq. metres in size, with over 250 regularly reset problems for climbers of all abilities. Rest assured, regardless of what you want to get out of bouldering, Boulder Brighton will have you covered.
They told us, “At the end of the day, a climbing centre is only as good as the routes on the walls. We know this at Boulder Brighton, and we spend huge amounts of time and money trying to get the best climbs that we possibly can. We set a chunk of new routes at least once a week, often two or three times, we buy fancy new holds whenever we see something new and exciting on the market, and we make sure that we have a good variety of route-setters setting in different styles, whether they’re in-house staff of visiting guest setters.
“But all of this would be worthless if it weren’t for our amazing community of staff and climbers – bouldering is always a friendly sport, but we think we’ve got a pretty special bunch of people down here in Brighton. There’s lots of space around the walls to sit, chat, and plot how to take down your latest project, and that means that talking to people you’ve never met before becomes completely normal and happens every day. Whatever grade you’re climbing, you’ll find plenty of help available.”
Colchester Climbing Project
Proud of their status as Essex’s only dedicated bouldering gym, Colchester Climbing Project is all about improving people’s health through this fun and community-driven sport. As such, they have all the facilities you might expect from a top-quality bouldering centre, including kit hire, a dedicated shop, over 150 climbs and problems at any one time, and a training area including a moon board. They also have some pretty neat extras for more adventurous climbers, including a 7m tunnel and caving area.
While the team has decades of bouldering experience shared between them, above all else they value their open and welcoming nature. This extends from offering climbing advice to new members, and the diverse range of routes set around the centre making climbing available to everyone.
“When we started to put together the idea of what we wanted from our centre, we decided to put our customer’s needs at the forefront of what we want to offer. All this adds up to a place in which you can come and de-stress. We don’t want to just be a place that people come to climb, we want to be THE place that’s at the centre of their climbing lifestyle.
“The founding team behind CCP are a group of passionate climbers with decades of experience in the industry. This has driven us to deliver as high quality product as possible. We love sharing our knowledge and having a good time with our customers which creates a supportive environment for all abilities.”
Highball Climbing Centre – Norwich
There is no doubting that highball is a top quality bouldering gym. They describe themselves as an “adult training facility with a family friendly atmosphere,” and this ethos is reflected in their excellent facilities, which include state of the art matting for safety, the largest competition grade bouldering wall in East Anglia, strength and conditioning areas with Beastmaker Training board, a library of resources, and much, much more.
And if 600 metres sq. of bouldering surface wasn’t enough to tempt you, Highball Climbing centre, according to both our students, and the venue’s reviews and testimonials, is just about the best community a climber could hope for. Supporting each other through competitions like The Big Flash annual climbing festival, as well as a varied programme of social events, you could not hope to find a more welcoming venue to practise indoor rock climbing.
“Highball has risen from the Norfolk flatlands with the mission to develop world class climbing facilities for all ages and abilities. In five short years, we have progressed from a small group of core adult climbers to a much larger vibrant community including young climbers and young athletes performing on the national stage. In doing so, we have introduced thousands of new people to the sport, and we host one of the best Annual Bouldering Competitions in the country, The Big Flash.
“Our Crew, Cafe and Community receive fabulous feedback from everyone, from one off visitors to visiting climbers and competitors nationwide, and our relentless route setting schedule means our regular climbers never get bored. The most important value we have is Never Stand Still; we have lived and died by this since day one, reinvesting and developing the centre year on year; we keep pushing forward…”
Best bouldering gyms in London
The Arch is one of London’s premiere indoor rock climbing venues. If you haven’t climbed before, they offer intro lessons to get you going on their walls, but after this you will be free to visit and climb whenever you want. What’s most tempting for climbers is that membership will grant you access to any of their three London venues: The Arch North; The Arch Biscuit; and The Arch Building One.
Of course, perhaps what makes the Arch so popular with London climbers, as well as their facilities, is their existing community.
“We offer a dynamic social environment to hang out with friends, make new bouldering buddies and drink coffee. Our setting is second to none and with 5 route-sets & over 100 new blocks a week, there’s no time to get bored! We have dedicated training areas, an 18-metre roof and a super long traverse wall.
“New to bouldering? With Introduction lessons running daily and free follow up Improver sessions there’s nothing holding you back. Already a climber? Come to use our Moon board, work some problems or join our BumpMyGrade session. Fancy a challenge? Join our monthly TAMRU Competition night.”
Castle Climbing – London
Established in 1995, Castle Climbing describe themselves as a mixed-use climbing centre, meaning that they cater for bouldering, top-roping, autobelay and lead climbing. But bouldering purists need not fear. Given that it’s the bouldering we’re here for, Castle Climbing offers 10 different bouldering areas, including, fairly uniquely, three outdoor walls.
The centre is set up to be easily navigated by all, following standard grading from VB to V5, and with each different route colour coded.
“Aside from the abundance of climbing on offer and unique features of the building (it actually looks like a Castle!) there’s much more to our Centre than your conventional climbing wall.
“We’ve got an award winning vegetarian Café with healthy meals and snacks to replenish you after climbing. We’re also constantly developing the Castle, with new areas opening up each year. Our routes are set by the best in the industry and we’re always on the lookout for innovative ways to make our climbs more exciting for customers.
“Potentially the most distinctive characteristics of the Castle is the inclusive atmosphere and our commitment to sustainable development. For many of our customers the Castle is an integral part of their life and we pride ourselves on the community that has developed here.”
Westway Climbing – London
What can we say about Westway climbing, other than the fact they are one of London’s biggest and most well-equipped climbing centres? Well, we could start with the fact that our students voted in droves to have them included in this article, and then there’s the not-so-small matter of their facilities…
Westway has a massive 350 rope climbing routes, up to 150 bouldering problems at any one time, 4 belay machines, training rooms and a renowned coaching and junior programme. But don’t just take it from us…
“The Westway is a leading, lead and Bouldering centre in zone 2 of the Capital. We are the largest Climbing Centre in the South of England and we offer a huge range of different climbing styles and cater for every level of climber – from Beginners all the way through to the absolute elite.
“Having recently expanded our Bouldering walls and looking to rejuvenate our Beginners areas this year we are well set to facilitate for the Students of Imperial, Kings, UCL, Brunel and further afield.”
Harrowall – London
As the UK’s largest bouldering centre, HarroWall has a number of eye-watering features. For starters, their venue is absolutely massive. At 40,000 sq. ft. of climbing space, it is by some distance the largest climbing centre on this list. But it isn’t just quantity: HarroWall have got plenty of quality, too. All of their walls, for example, were purpose built by Walltopia, the world’s leading climbing manufacturer.
And the best bit? The vast majority of that space is dedicated to bouldering, with problems ranging in difficulty from beginners, to seasoned professionals. And if that wasn’t enough, the more adventurous climbers can enjoy access to the largest indoor cave in Europe with multiple challenges built in, a Krazy Kong facility, and a piece of kit terrifyingly named “The Death Slide.” So what do the creators of such a venue have to say for themselves…
“Knowing we were building something huge, we knew we had to really invest in the build to wow everyone from day one. This meant creating a climbing centre for all abilities that delivered all styles using the very best climbing holds the industry has to offer. We have a dedicated play area though to multiple elite training boards in addition to endurance training facilities.
“This creates a pathway for climbers of all ages, abilities and disciplines to train, enjoy and explore HarroWall. Membership to HarroWall also has the fantastic added benefit of entry to out two central London centres VauxWall West and East, with more centres in the pipeline.”
Hackney Wick Boulder Project
If there is one climbing centre on this list of the best bouldering gyms (UK) that places community above all else, then it surely has to be Hackney Wick Boulder Project. Even the name of this venue, preferring project over “climbing wall” or “climbing centre,” appears to suggest that the social aspect of climbing is at the forefront of their mind. However, that is not to suggest that Hackney Wick Boulder Project falls short in terms of climbing. In fact, our London based students said that the small, close knit feel of this facility is part of its appeal, combining familiar faces with newly set routes and ever-changing challenges.
“At Hackney Wick Boulder Project we feel putting our passion into a few things is better than trying to spread it across everything. We believe in our core product of Climbing, Music, Coffee and Community, and our customers often comment on the friendliness of the staff, the atmosphere created with carefully curated playlists and the excellent route-setting.
“Despite being a small climbing wall we have become a social hub and crossroads for local artists, musicians, athletes and residents of Hackney Wick encouraging collaboration, new relationships and a sense of belonging.”
Best bouldering gyms in Wales
Dynamic Rock – Swansea
You could be mistaken for believing that Dynamic Rock’s ambitions were modest. On their website, they claim not to have set out to build one of Britain’s biggest, or even Wales’ biggest indoor rock climbing walls, but instead to provide a friendly centre for climbers from all walks of life. What’s more, they are a non-profit organisation, with all funds being put back into their climbing wall.
Well, what Dynamic Rock have built is a bouldering gym with a serious reputation. Their small, but regularly reset bouldering room is open to anyone above the age of seven years old. The climbing centre also runs coaching sessions for climbers who want to improve their skills. What is clear, from both Dynamic Rock’s excellent testimonials, and the friendly nature of the staff, is that everyone involved with this venue is proud to call it their own.
“We feel that Dynamic Rock has been noticed because we have the best, friendliest, and most welcoming staff. We pride ourselves on our community feel and relaxed approach. We pack in as many problems as we can, especially lots of the most commonly climbed grades, and our setters are fun, creative and committed to ensuring that our customers have a super fun experience.”
Beacon Climbing – Caernafon
Beacon climbing has that unique feather in their cap that they can proudly boast: that they are the largest indoor climbing centre in the region (North Wales). The facility first opened in 1994, making it one of the longest lasting bouldering gyms in the UK, and it has since established its reputation among beginners and pro climbers alike. With extensive bouldering facilities, as well as rope climbing and Crazy Climb, ideal for active kids, Beacon Climbing has an amazingly diverse and welcoming community.
If you are a beginner, they also run a popular Climbing Intro course for £80, which also gives you access to one month’s free climbing, so you can test out your new skills.
“Our aim at Beacon has always been to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy climbing regardless of age or ability. Our users are aged 4-80,+ and our climbing is designed to cater for all levels, from first experience to elite performance.
“We’re not just about climbing either. We’re about people, and Beacon remains at the heart of the local climbing community. Our users make us what we are and by choosing to climb at Beacon, you are creating an opportunity to meet some of the best, most likeminded people in the are.”
Boardroom Climbing – Flintshire
With a slogan like, “We are more than just a climbing wall, we are a way of life,” it’s fair to say that Boardroom Climbing has fully bought into the enthusiasm for the sport that many boulderers share. The climbing centre is dedicated largely to bouldering, and has problems suitable for all ages and abilities, in addition to some serious training facilities including lattice boards and personalised training plans.
The centre also runs training sessions for adults and children alike. As such, as you might imagine, the centre’s testimonials from climbers and our students were overwhelmingly positive, talking about both the venue’s facilities, and the team behind it.
“We aim to inspire health and happiness, passion and knowledge through a creatively stimulating and physically challenging environment. Helping you realise and achieve your full potential. We call it play!
“The Boardroom is a community, we are a family. Oh, and we use amazing route setters, cook great food, serve wonderful coffee, dangerously moreish cake and have a wonderful, friendly, happy and very knowledgeable team.”
Best bouldering gyms in Northern Ireland
Boulder World Belfast
When it comes to bouldering in Northern Ireland, Boulder World Belfast is a heavyweight. As the biggest (and as they would argue, quite convincingly, the best) bouldering gym in NI, Boulder World Belfast has that perfect mix of challenging routes for competition climbers, and entry-level problems for beginners. They also have an active calendar of community events, competitions, coaching, and welcome sessions, ensuring everyone’s needs are covered.
Where Boulder World Belfast also excels is their range of facilities. With a comprehensive range of boulders that are regularly reset, which also include state of the art grips and volumes, as well as training rooms, a well-stocked shop, and a café for climbers to relax and chat, members really do benefit from the size and reputation of this excellent venue.
“From day one we have tried to ensure we provide the facilities and environment to allow every single person who comes to our wall to very simply have ‘the best day ever…” It’s really that simple.
And that’s it!
We hope we answered all of your questions regarding the best bouldering gyms in the UK.
If you feel we missed anyone off, or if you spotted your local climbing wall and want to champion them as one of the best in the country, be sure to get in touch by leaving a comment below.
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What is a bouldering gym?
A bouldering gym is any facility that offers dedicated bouldering circuits and walls. As opposed to lead rope and top rope walls, bouldering walls are lower in height, and require a climber to scale the wall without the aid of harnesses or ropes, above a padded floor. Many climbing centres offer a combination of all three styles of climbing, therefore bouldering gyms and climbing centres are often synonymous terms.
What gear do I need before bouldering?
The beauty of bouldering is that very little equipment is required. With no ropes or harnesses, all you need is a pair of climbing shoes and some chalk in a chalk bag (both of which you can rent at any bouldering gym), in addition to comfortable clothing. You may also want to consider using finger tape to avoid painful blisters and cuts.
What should I wear while bouldering?
For a beginner, joggers or leggings and a t-shirt will more than suffice on the wall. As long as the clothing is comfortable and allows for flexibility, no specialist clothing is required. Bouldering can be an intense exercise, so shorts and breathable tops are also good options for more serious climbers. Be sure to remove all jewellery while climbing to avoid injury.
How is bouldering different to rock climbing?
Often, “bouldering” and “rock climbing” are synonymous terms. Both sports, for example, have outdoor and indoor variants. Bouldering, however, refers explicitly to climbing without the aid of harnesses or ropes, whereas rock climbing more generally encompasses practices including bouldering, lead rope climbing, and top rope climbing.
What do bouldering grades mean?
Bouldering grades simply refer to the difficulty of the route (or “problem”). The most common grade in the UK is the V scale, which is open ended meaning, theoretically, there is no top difficulty. On the V scale, grades start at V0 or VB (the easiest problems), and currently go all the way up to V17 (the most difficult). Indoor facilities often also colour code their climbing walls, according to the V scale.
How are bouldering problems graded?
Bouldering problems are graded according to the V Scale or the Font Scale. At indoor bouldering facilities, problems are created by a route-setter. Generally, the route-setter will climb all new routes and problems, and grade according to his or her subjective judgement and past climbing experience. In terms of outdoor bouldering, the first climber to complete a problem will set a grade, with any amendments being made by subsequent climbers.
What are bouldering circuits?
Bouldering circuits are a collection of routes or problems, often organised by colour at indoor bouldering facilities. Climbers will often look to improve their strength and endurance by completing a whole circuit (or a large portion of one) in one session. Circuits may be grouped by difficulty, but in some instances are also grouped according to routes that specifically test endurance, strength, or technique.