Give it a go!

Climbing is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in Scotland and, with sport climbing on the shortlist to become an Olympic sport in 2020, there has never been a better time to give it a go. If you, or your child, likes the idea of climbing but you don't know where to get started, read below for our top tips.

Scotland is ideally placed for a budding climber, with a range of indoor climbing walls in most major towns and cities, plus a fantastic array of boulders, crags and cliffs on our mountains and coast to progress towards. Many primary schools across Scotland have introduced low level ‘traverse’ walls to their playgrounds too, so the chance is your kids will already have had a go.

While anyone can practice clambering up, down and around small rocks and boulders in the great outdoors, climbing is an activity with some obvious potential risks, so it is worth getting some expert advice in a safe, controlled environment like an indoor climbing wall first.

1. Head indoors

Indoor climbing walls offer all weather access which means Scotland’s unpredictable weather needn’t get in the way of your enjoyment. From the vast Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho, one of the biggest indoor climbing centres in the world, there are popular indoor walls and bouldering centres in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William, all the way up to Orkney.

Most of Scotland’s indoor climbing centres offer taster sessions for youngsters and adults. They are a great way to try climbing for the first time and you can hire climbing shoes and harnesses before deciding if you want to invest in your own. Many walls also offer children’s birthday parties too!

Each climbing wall is different, but generally staff will give you a short induction before letting you loose on the climbing wall. If you have experienced climbing friends or family they can supervise you, but if not, most walls offer one to one or group coaching.

2. Get kitted out

Like most sports, there are some essential bits of kit you will want to invest in if you catch the bug.

Much of this will depend on your experience level and whether you prefer to climb indoors or out. It needn't be expensive, but being part of a club can help give access to some of the bulkier items.

3. Get clubbing

Joining a club is a great way to get the most out of your climbing. If you are a complete beginner or have been climbing for years, meeting with like-minded climbers is a great way to develop your skills and have fun too.

In Scotland there are plenty of clubs to choose from, ranging from clubs that only climb indoors to clubs that walk up mountains and everything in between.

Many climbing walls have their own kids clubs which can be a brilliant and a low cost way to get your children involved, especially if you are not a climber yourself. You might even like to learn alongside your child. Most universities and colleges also have their own student clubs, offering a chance to gain experience, socialise and take part in an exciting sport while studying.

4. Moving on up

If you would like to improve your climbing abilities, the best way is to get training through the National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme (NICAS).

NICAS (and NIBAS for bouldering) offers structure and motivation for new climbers, helping you to develop your skills and gain the most out of climbing, as well as having your achievements recognised. As you gain experience, you can continue onto higher levels of NICAS or NIBAS, find out if your climbing wall offers advanced coaching sessions or has a youth competition squad.

  • Find out more about NICAS and NIBAS
  • Check out our climbing wall map search to find out which climbing walls offer this training scheme - their staff will be able to supply advice, NICAS Logbooks and NICAS training sessions.
  • Discover more about climbing coaching opportunities in Scotland

5. Go outdoors

After you have learnt the ropes, so to speak, you can continue to climb for fun at your local indoor wall or challenge yourself outdoors in Scotland’s stunning mountains, crags and cliffs.

Making the transition from indoor to outdoor climbing is not a problem, but you use some different skills and techniques and equipment. Many clubs organise day trips and weekend meets at outdoor climbing and bouldering sites, great if its new to you.

The new Forestry Commission woodland outdoor adventure and bouldering park at Cuningar Loop in Glasgow is definitely worth a visit too. Recently opened, it’s the biggest outdoor bouldering park in Britain, developed as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy.

6. Test your skills

You don't need to be a pro to enter your first comp... You can gain loads of experience by having a go and just checking out how others perform.

Many climbing walls have their own competitive leagues and we organise a wide range of competitions from the Youth Climbing Series, to the Scottish Schools Competition and the Scottish National Bouldering League.

7. Join us

ClimbScotland is part of Mountaineering Scotland, offering services, support and advice for climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers.

We have over 14000 members and you can become one from only £15.50 a year. Or if your child climbs, you can become a ClimbScotland Supporter for just £5. If you are a club, a school or other organisation that helps young climbers you can join us as a Partner for free and gain acces to loads of useful resources and our Regional Development Officers.

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