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Staycation Destination: South Wales Sport Climbing

In the 'new normal' world we now find ourselves in, 'Staycations' are the new order of the day and our Ambassadors have assembled their top tips for climbing closer to home.

South Wales Sport Climbing

When you think about climbing in South Wales, the first destination that springs to mind for many is Pembrokeshire- undoubtedly this is one of the best trad climbing destinations Wales (and possibly the whole UK) has to offer, however the rest of the South Wales is bursting with an excellent array sport climbing destinations that often get overshadowed and forgotten by the better known areas.

From south of the Brecon Beacons to the West border in Pembrokeshire there are spectacular sea cliffs, inland sandstone quarries and much, much more to be explored. A surge in bolting during the 1980’s has lead to a resurgence of sport climbing in South Wales, which now boasts over 1750 routes over a
wide range of grades from 3-8b+, there really is something for everyone.

The Gower

In 1956, Gower became the first area in the UK to become a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), making it undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas to climb in. The compact limestone lends itself to some of the steepest climbing in South Wales making it often quite physical to climb. Yes- it is true, it does rain a lot in Wales, but if you manage to visit on a “Gower Gold” weekend, you will be greeted with clear blue skies, dawn to dusk sunshine and crystal clear sea- yes it really is that good!

The climbing on Gower is varied, the routes tend to lend themselves to a more power-endurance climber, though there are plenty of short, punchy, routes that rarely get repeated due to their bouldery nature, so there really is something for everyone. With most crags being located right on the sea-front it is advised you take your swimmers to cool off at the end of a hard day's climbing.

Retribution, 7b, Trial Wall. Credit: Freya Strawson

Perhaps the most popular destination on the South Wales coastline and located on one of Wales’ best beaches, is the newly developed “Shipwreck Cove” on Rhossilli Beach. Recently bolted (2012-2014) by Simon Rawlinson, Ben West and Rob Lamey, this beach crag offers excellent, diverse climbing that spans a variety of styles and grades. This cove sits on the very far left of the beach (when looking out to sea), and offers an impressive 25m cliff hidden away from the crowds on the beach.

Though initially the long, steep routes may seem a bit daunting, this is a very amenable crag for any grade. Further around from the main crag is the superb “Mermaid Wall” which offers an excellent range of low-mid grades, including a Top 50 4c, “Fistful of Tenners”, which should be on anyone's ticklist. The climbing here follows obvious breaks in the rock, which are often technical and sustained. Do not be put off by the barnacles that cover the first two clips- though a clip stick is advised to navigate these sections safely!

Shipwreck Cove itself hosts perhaps the most popular high 7’s and low 8’s on Gower. The perfect crag for those steely fingered climbers who can just keep hanging on. The classics “Vennerne” and “Air Show,” would not be out of place at any World class Spanish crag. If endurance-fests aren’t your thing, then the very steep, short and powerful “Achilles Wrath, 8b” and “King George Vs the Suffragettes, 7a” are great short test-pieces. Opposite this main cliff is a collection of mid 6’s great for warming up or those looking for lower grades.

Helvetia, 8b+, Shipwreck. Credit: Ali Kennedy


A tarp is strongly advised for climbing here as the bottom is very sandy. As is a clip-stick for the first few bolts as it is often wet. Climbing is possible 3 hours either side of high-tide, 2 hours of Mermaid Wall, and slightly longer if you are willing to wade through some water- you may think this isn’t long, but don’t underestimate these crags, 6 hours is long enough to trash even the fittest climbers.

Often busy, mid-week there are less crowds. Best in Summer as seeps after prolonged rainfall.

With over 10 sectors along the coastline use the table below to choose the ideal sport crag for you.

Crag Grade Range Comments


4c - 8b+

A wide range of grades and angles. great crag for 7a’s and mid-mileage. My personal favourite crag.15 min walk in.

Trial Wall

5a - 8a+

Technical climbing directly above the crag “Shipwreck”. Non tidal. 10 min walk in directly by the car park. Swim spot below the crag!

Third Sister, Debs Zawn, Zulu Wall

4 - 8a+

Less popular due to the longer walk (only 30+ mins), but that shouldn’t deter anyone as the routes are amazing. Best for high 7’s and 8’s, but plenty of lower mileage too.

Watch House

5 - 7b

Two contrasting crags near Southgate, Watch House Slabs- which will test the technial abilities of any climber and the overhanging Watch House East which is more conventional climbing.

Bowen's Parlour

4 - 7c

Collection of great walls, overhangs and small zawns. Some sections are tidal. 10 min approach, though difficult to find one first acquaintance, worth it though.

Minchin Hole

5 - 7c+

Some of the best steep climbing in the area. Often can climb here in Winter if seepage not present.

Witches Point

5c - 8a+

Steep climbing located next to a fine surf beach. Many excellent routes that need crisp conditions to be enjoyed to full. Only marginal tidal- high exit for if you get stuck.

Rest Days

To get you started my recommendations would be:

  • Power of the Leopard Skin Leg Warmers (3+)
  • The Clot Thickens (6a+)
  • The Day The Sky Fell In (6b+)
  • Goose in Lucy (6c)
  • The Raven (7a+)
  • Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove (7b)
  • One Ton Depot (7b+)
  • Vennerne (7c+)
  • Palace of Swords Reversed (8a)
  • Air Show (8a+)
  • Achilles Wrath (8b)
  • Helvetia (8b+)

Inland Crags

If sea and sand isn’t your thing then South Wales has many excellent inland crags and quarries. The most popular being Dinas Rock, tucked away in a narrow gorge at the northern end of the Neath Valley, Dinas Rock is one of the best inland cliffs in South Wales.

Its walls of high quality limestone are covered with overlaps, roofs, subtle grooves and water-worn features which combine to give some fine climbing- there is even a roof crack if you want to get jamming. Technique and perseverance are needed as much as strength and power. Not all the climbing is in the higher grades and the flat, easy, short approach from the car park makes this a very amenable crag. There is also bouldering (if that’s your thing!).

South Wales boasts a plethora of inland quarries. Often sandstone, they offer a unique style that involves big locks between crimpy edges and small feet. Hard to onsight, unless chalked, as the tiny seems that make the hand holds are invisible until you are above them, this makes a very fun style of climbing!

There are so many quarries and inland crags across South Wales, it would be impossible to include them all. Use the table below to choose the ideal sport crag for you.

Crag Grade Range Comments


5 - 7c

One of the best! Lovely spot, easy access and brilliant routes.

The Gap

5 - 7c

A truly historic South Wales crag and training crag for many South Wales climbers. One of the largest inland crags. Very fingery and technical climbing.ext

Navigation Quarry

5 - 7b

One of the sunniest. Variable restrictions due to birds, please check online for more information.


4 - 7a

Excellent little quarry with clean, well bolted routes. A nice destination to hang out and climb.

Mountain Ash

5 - 7b+

Great for a very sunny day, shrouded by trees, often suffers from seepage after prolonged rain. Many magnificent routes.


4 - 7b+

Very technical climbing- the walls looks utterly blank. Bring your steely finger strength. Easier climbs are very enjoyable.

My top route recommendations would be:

  • Rising Sap (6a+)
  • Bluster (6b)
  • Deus Ex Machina (6c)
  • Mawr Mawr Mawr (7a)
  • One Track Mind (7a+)
  • Propaganda (7a+)
  • Encore Manifique (7b)
  • Face (7b+)

Palace of Swords, 8a/+, Foxhole. Credit: Elis Rees


Guidebooks: South Wales Sport Climbs, South Wales Rock, Gower Rock, Pembroke Rock

Parking: local Pay & Display and National Trust car parks available.

Where to stay: South Wales is host to many a fine campsite

Want more Staycation suggestions? Check our Ambassadors tips for a range of UK venues

Rhoslyn was a 3RD ROCK Ambassador in 2020.

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