Rock Climbing in Caithness

As little as ten years ago the amount of recorded rock climbing in Caithness was very limited. In particular the East coast was unexplored.

During the nineties several areas were developed until at this point there are in excess of three hundred named routes. Most of these routes have been published in the SMC guide to the Northern Highlands vol. 2 which will be available in climbing shops in Inverness.

Although there are seemingly endless miles of cliffs to choose from, there are in fact a relatively small number of areas suitable for climbing. These have to be bird free, have a ledge at the bottom and be made up of dry sound rock.

The vast majority of Caithness sea cliffs are of more interest to the ornithologist and botanist than the rock climber. This being said, the few places which are suitable offer crag climbing to compare with anywhere in the North of Scotland.

It is a sad fact that while climbing at Latheronwheel or Mid Clyth you are more likely to meet climbers from outside the county than locals. It seems that while the rest of Britain has experienced a surge in interest in climbing, Caithness has yet to wake up to the sport.

The areas with accessible climbing are at the following sites:

Rock Climbing in Caithness

Fig: Rock Climbing
in Caithness

The most frequently visited areas are at Latheronwheel and Mid Clyth.

Each of the other areas listed have something different and special.

  • Sarclet: has a convoluted system of bays and pillars sculpted from bright pink conglomerate which is surprisingly sound.
  • Occumster: is centred around an impressive castellated buttress.
  • Noss: is a curious collection of oddly shaped short routes, the best of which are geometric puzzles to be solved.
  • Auckengill : is a lovely spot to pass an afternoon only a few yards from the main road half a mile South of the harbour.
  • Skirza: has a couple of two pitch routes at Wife Geo and some challenging problems at Salt skerry.

Due to the recent development of the climbing areas in Caithness it is still possible for new routes low in the grades to be recorded by someone prepared to explore a little. Climbing in Caithness should be an attraction like the world class surf in Thurso which could be an asset to the county and should be attracting visitors all summer. Caithness rock should not be a secret.

Map references:

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