The Peak District is world renowned for its gritstone climbing and bouldering. However, one thing I noticed when I moved here and started to regularly venture out for bouldering is that many of the most famous crags and the best guidebooks are geared towards harder boulders and more experienced climbers. Bouldering for me is something I do occasionally and quite sporadically – usually opting to go trad climbing instead. Therefore, I have never quite got my head around highballs, gnarly landings and seemingly holdless gritstone problems. Instead, I prefer to go to places where the boulders aren’t too high and owning just one bouldering pad is enough to protect the landings. These places usually equal to beginner-friendly crags with abundant lower grade problems. So, here are some of the places I recommend for Low Grade Bouldering in the Peak District:
Burbage South Valley Boulders – the ideal location for easy bouldering in the Peak District
Burbage South boulders are my personal favourite for a chill day out. It is also the venue which I personally recommend to people just getting into bouldering in the Peak District. The boulders are scattered on the hillside below the actual Burbage Edge with its trad routes. They are easily accessible from the large footpath running along the bottom of the valley and connected to each other via small paths winding through the bracken. The landings are mostly excellent, and most boulders have easy ways to get down. This is very important for beginners – or those of us especially conscious for the wellbeing of our ankles. I only have one bouldering pad and can protect pretty much any climb at Burbage South Boulders with it.
There are a lot of easier grades here with enough routes to warrant multiple trips. However, if you are looking for harder stuff to project the scope is limited and the problems tend to be a bit eliminate. In saying that, there are also some classic harder problems here which will keep your bouldering buddies occupied even if they climb significantly harder than you! You can also try the nearby Burbage North, but I find that routes there are often higher with poorer landings. And so more suited to climbers with slightly more experience under their belts. The Burbage Bridge area near the parking is also worth a visit for a few quality problems with minimal walking involved! But again, the concentration of easier grades here is much lower than at Burbage South Valley Boulders.
UKC page for Burbage South Valley Boulders.
Stanage Popular and Stanage Plantation – huge variety of boulders at all grades
Stanage is often recommended as a good beginner venue for the sheer number of climbs there. But with little specific directions my first experiences of bouldering at Stanage were less than ideal. On my first trip I went to the Stanage Popular/South End and found most of the climbing nails. And a lot of the boulders I tried were pretty high for my one measly bouldering pad! There are easier problems there too and I have since then had many more successful bouldering sessions at Stanage Popular. But the beginner friendly boulders are not necessarily that easy to pick out or find your first visit.
Instead, for your first trip I recommend heading to Stanage Plantation. The Plantation as an area has something for everyone – from super hard world-class boulders to beginner friendly slabs. Majority of the landings are good and, while the boulders are generally higher than at Burbage South Valley, they are still very attainable for a beginner. There are always friendly faces here to ask advice or directions from. The area itself has a cosy feel to it with many of the boulders located within a relatively small area.
Another beginner friendly boulder worth having a play on is The Buckstone which lies on the lower slopes halfway between Stanage Plantation and the High Neb. With the limited problems here you will easily tick the climbs in your grade range in one session. Regardless, I have had a couple of lovely evenings playing around and creating my own traverses and circuits here. Especially, when I have wanted a place with easy climbing with a short walk in. If you are visiting either The Buckstone or the Plantation during the summer months, keep your fingers crossed for a breeze as the midges can get bad!
The Roaches covers a vast amount of climbing divided into the Upper Tier, the Lower Tier and the Skyline areas. As a beginner it is probably easiest to start exploring what the Roaches has to offer from the Lower Tier and the Spring Boulders which have a fair number of easier routes with decent landings. Although, if you do opt for the Spring Boulders, it is worth noting that the ground around the boulders is often very wet and boggy, so bring appropriate footwear! Part of the beauty of the Roaches (apart from the fabulous views) is the number of routes. There really is something for everyone from slabs to mantles to dynos here.
The Roaches is a popular venue with walkers, as well as climber, and the limited roadside parking below the crags gets very busy – especially at weekends. Therefore, it is best to either head there on a weekday or be prepared for an early start. A great day of bouldering in the Roaches can be rounded off with a lovely cuppa and a bite to eat at the iconic Roaches Tea Rooms before heading home.
UKC page for the Roaches (Lower Tier).
This venue is a great option for low grade routes. It is located in the southern end of the Peak District just below the picturesque village of Bakewell. Cratcliffe is an atmospheric place to climb in and rarely gets as busy as the above venues. The rock here can be a bit more fragile than on the busier edges, and therefore it is especially important to be mindful of erosion. So, clean your shoes before getting on the rock!
UKC page for Cratcliffe Tor.
Wimberry is the home for some extremely gnarly trad climbing – and some surprisingly friendly bouldering. The boulders are scattered across the hillside overlooking the Dovestones Reservoir. While the reservoir itself is a popular day trip destination, the boulders can enjoy relative peace up on the hillside. The walk in is relatively easy, however the boulders here are a bit more spread out than in some of the other areas, which means a bit more walking between problems.
UKC page for Wimberry Rocks.
Which is the Best Guidebook to Use for Peak District Bouldering?
There are two comprehensive guidebooks for bouldering in the Peak District: Peak Bouldering (Rockfax) and Peak District Bouldering (Vertebrate Publishing). Both of these are excellent guidebooks with different strengths and weaknesses. Peak District Bouldering is full of amazing and inspiring photographs of some the Peak’s most iconic bouldering destinations. However, the layout and shape of the book can make it difficult to read. I also find that it does have a slight emphasis on harder routes. The black and white topo drawings are both classy and classic but can lack clarity for first-time visitors to the area.
Peak Bouldering (Rockfax), on the other hand, is designed for ease of use in mind with excellent approach notes and colourful topos. I find these especially useful for beginners and new visitors to the area. Personally, I love the style of Rockfax guides and would recommend Peak Bouldering as your first guide to the area! However, for disclaimer, I own and have used both of the guides – so nothing keeps you from getting both and deciding which suits you better!
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Looking for other things to do in the Peak District? Have a look at My Favourite Peak District Trail Runs.