The Isle of Portland is effectively a huge limestone boulder off the coast of Dorset and is one of the UK’s premier climbing destinations for climbers of all abilities. Trad and sport climbers will find plenty to test them, whether they’re climbing solo or as part of an organised activity course. Portland is also a great place for families, kids and beginners to don a helmet and harness to begin scaling the heights.
Portland’s location, out into the English Channel, means there are lots of south, south-west and west-facing crags and cliff faces that catch the sun, making it a great year-round climbing destination. The limestone rocks at these sunny spots dry out quickly, creating more accessible options.
There are also areas on the island that offer protection from sea winds and the weather is often very different from the mainland. Equally, conditions can be as dramatic as the landscape itself on Portland’s southerly tips, making for an epic adventure.
The most famous climbing spots in Portland
At the last count, there were some 18 identified climbing areas on Portland. Each offers a multitude of routes, depending on the experience you’re seeking, your ability level and the grade of the climb you’re prepared to take on. Many people consider the west side of Portland to offer the best climbing on the island, as the sun hits here long into the afternoon. However, the eastern coast makes for a great morning ascent and some of the easier routes can be found here.
Beginners tend to head for the Fallen Slab, Cuttings or Cheyne Weares areas. Intermediates might progress to The Battleship, Blacknor and the Lighthouse areas. Climbing experts will find plenty to challenge themselves at Coastguard Cliffs and Wallsend, but each separate place offers climbs to suit all three levels. As Portland takes its fair share of batterings from winter storms, the crags and faces change annually and with the seasons, making each visit a unique one.
Bouldering, scrambling and hiking trails
There are lots of dramatic trails around Portland, offering the opportunity for a ramble and a hike combined with bouldering and scrambling. The South West Coast Path meanders its way around the island, offering a 10-mile section with waymarked paths. You’ll find sections of the route that do require a bit of a scramble.
Portland was also extensively quarried from the 14th century right up until modern times, so there are trails as well as climbs to be found in the abandoned quarry locations. The boulder areas strewn across Portland and around its shoreline also offer abundant opportunities for bouldering.
Where to stay during a Portland climbing trip
There are no full time campsites in Portland, but there is a summer only campsite that is first come first served close to the Portland Bill. There are also plenty of B&B options. Those with a tent can stay over in Weymouth, where there are plenty of sites. If you’re fortunate enough to have a camper van, you’ll find that all the best climbing places in Portland are really close to the island’s car parks, meaning you can rock up, change and hit the heights within minutes. Or, for something truly unique, exhilarating and surprisingly restful, why not spend the night on a portaledge with a cliff camping option?
All that remains is to choose your experience. If you’re looking for Dorset climbing courses, climbing in Portland sessions, trad climbing or learning to lead courses, contact us to find out more.