Lowland Outcrops climbers’ guidebook: an area breakdown

We’re thrilled to see how well Lowland Outcrops has been received so far. A long-awaited release for many, we know a lot of climbers out there have been itching to get more out of the Lowland area with this new guide. However, for many more, the Lowlands area might not be one you’ve visited yet at all. Whilst it’s often neglected over its more photogenic counterpart up north, it offers a wealth of excellent cragging near Scotland’s largest cities which shouldn’t be missed.

In this article, author Topher Dagg takes us on a tour of the Lowlands to explain in detail exactly where the guide covers, from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Ayrshire and the Borders, and everything in between. 



Dumbarton is of course the well known spot, with world class technical test pieces and hard bouldering. But it’s worth noting nearby Dumbuck, which also provides a small selection of savagely steep sport in the upper grades. Both are easily accessed by city public transport.

North from the city lie the foothills of the Campsie Fells. These small but beautiful hills offer several options; the small basalt outcrops of Craigmore, with great trad and boulders in a quiet rural spot; Dunglass, home to sketchy trad and a good small sport wall; The Whangie, in a great position with stunning views, poor rock andhistoric routes; Craigton, featuring short trad which has recently developed more as a bouldering escarpment, and the recently developed sandstone boulders of Craigmaddie, with a wide grade range, great friction and views over the city. These and other smaller crags are generally accessible by bus to one of the smaller towns in the area, and then a walk of a few km.

To the east lies Auchinstarry, long a mainstay in central belt dolerite trad. This is easily accessible by train to Croy on the Edinb-Glasgow express. The car park area provides a 5m walk in, making this a popular crag with beginner groups, whilst further round the quarry bowl and pond edge the rock quality is variable, offering star routes up to E5.

It’s worth noting south of the city is Neilston Quarry, also very accessible from parking (and train to Neiston), and also very popular with beginner groups, with polished basalt and low-mid grade routes.


Around the city of Stirling you’ll find the pair of dolerite quarries at Cambusbarron – the more open Forth Quarry and the enclosed Thorntons (Cambu “Out” and “In” respectively). These are easy cycling distance from Stirling train station. Forth Q has good lines best at HVS-E4 and Thorntons Q trends toward slightly harder, best at E3-6, and a classic Font7A, often following cracklines. 

Wolfcrag is a small sandstone quarry, in Bridge of Allan (where there’s also a train station), with some sketchy trad but good, albeit sometimes eliminate, bouldering – a popular all-weather training venue.

To the east, Dollar Quarry is a newly redeveloped sport venue (previously sketchy overgrown trad), now providing good low-mid grade sport and popular for it.

The Trossachs, west from Stirling and near Callander, hold the mini-mountain of Ben A’an, with good trad linkups to the summit. Otherwise the area is best for schist bouldering, with many good clean, sometimes highball problems on the flanks of Ben Ledi and Ben Venue. Further west is more schist, at Stronaclachlar and the east banks of Loch Lomond. All these need a car.


There are only a few crags here. The main one is Loudoun Hill, well positioned trachyte trad high above the surrounding farmland, best in the VS-E1 range with some iconic historical routes. Not great for public transport. Quadrocks is a short but steep walk above the town of Largs (train), overlooking the sea and Arran to the west. These are short routes with a good selection of VS-E1, but also is home to some fierce bold test-pieces to E6 courtesy of Kev Shields.

Firth of Forth 

Split by the water and bridges into Fife to the north and Edinburgh to the south. Fife has a small but varied selection. Rosyth quarry is a typical dolerite bowl, sunny and popular for short routes up to Diff-HVS, although harder lines are in there the rock is not always reliable. Walkable from train at Inverkeithing. Limekilns is a curious pair of limestone cubes in beechwoods, with a lovely location, crack climbs and fossils, grades from VS-E5. This is bikable from Rosyth train but easier with a car. Hawkcraig is a fine south facing sea-cliff near a sandy beach by Aberdour (train), best for VS – HVS routes.

Edinburgh has a good set of crags all accessible by city bus. Ratho Quarry (home of EICA wall) is a mix of dolerite trad and sport HVS-E7, f6a-7c – this is some of the best safely hard trad in the area. 

Blackford Quarry is in the south side of town, offering easily top-roped slabs popular with beginners and paraclimbers (flat access), and Agazzis Rock, a small but steep bouldering training spot. 

Holyrood Park is very central (near to Arthur’s Seat) and if access issues resolve, is a very popular bouldering spot, with short trad routes ranging from severe – E1, usually soloed. Roslin Glen (reached by the bus to a famous chapel) is a beautiful wooded sandstone gorge, often sparsely protected but with excellent routes, undergoing a recent revival.

East Coast

First out from Edinburgh is the gentle farmland of East Lothian, with Traprain Law and North Berwick Law as prominent features. Traprain (needs a car) has a sunny trad south face, slabby solid trachyte with good routes up to E1. The north side of the hill has a quarry with a looser, adventurous set of sport routes. North Berwick Law (reachable by train) is a small but popular sport venue f4-7a+. Just south of North Berwick (walk/cycle but easier with car) is Balgone Heughs – a recently developed sport venue with grades ranging from 6a – 7b+ hidden in the woods, with more routes coming all the time.

Further east the Berwickshire Coast is formed of adventurous greywacke cliffs. Highlights include newly found coastal bouldering at Rough Heugh and Ladywell. The cliffs themselves are home to some terrifying typically Scottish VS (e.g. at Fast Castle) and then the most well known feature of the Souter (sea stack, HVS) and its surrounding fins of greywacke which hold some great solid trad best at HVS – E3.


It’s sparse pickings here but for the locals (or those from Edinburgh looking for a change of scene) there are some small crags clustered around Melrose and Hawick, as well as the recently discovered remote bouldering at Carlin’ Tooth.


A final note – for those of you looking for Dumfries and Galloway do not fear, this area will be covered by its own volume and work is underway as we speak!


Hear more from Topher and his Lowland Outcrops recommendations in this UKC article: The Best Central Belt Crags for Outdoor Beginners.

Images in order:

Simon Smith on Omerta, Dumbarton Rock. © Fraser Harle.

Hawthorne Rib, Ben A’an. © Roxanna Barry.

Cave Crack, Loudon Hill, high above the Ayrshire countryside. © Andrew Fraser.

Freddie Hunter on Ugh!, The Hawkcraig. © Elisha Tateno.

Claire Stein and Mick James on Gardeners Choice, Breeches Rock. © Bruce Kerr.