Quarry Climbing in Edinburgh International Climbing Arena


One of Europe’s largest indoor climbing facilities
resides in a diabase quarry. On warm days, members may choose from a dreamy climber’s menu: 62 lead lines, 20 auto belays or top ropes, nearly 100 boulders, two IFSC speed routes, training boards, fingerboards, a fitness studio, fitness classes, rappelling, food from two cafes, a kids Clip N Climb area, saunas, a gear shop, and a work break at the conference center. 

Yes, this gym has everything for the dedicated gym rat except beds. 

The quarry was originally used to supply stone to the Central Belt of Scotland in the mid 1800s. After 90ish years of gathering dust, local climbers purchased the quarry in 1995. After 280,000 tonnes of rubble were excavated, the 100 feet deep pit was ready for renovation. Three stories of walls were added to the sides, with the middle rising to support five stories. Next came climbing walls ranging from 12-28 meters (39 to 92 feet) and stand alone boulders. In total, the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena boasts 2,400 square meters (25,833 square feet) of sport climbing wall space and over 400 square meters (4,306 square feet) of bouldering space. Approximately 15,000 holds are up in the main climbing area on any given day.

Outside the walls, sections of the quarry remain for the more outdoor-enthused. Climbers can enjoy year-round, easy access climbs located a mere hundred feet from the building’s interior. There are a total of 58 routes: 12 sport climbs (5.8 to 5.12c), 46 trad climbs (5.7 to 5.14a) and four boulder problems (VB to V1).

Clip N’ climb is a kids climbing area complete with several unique challenges. The Vertical Drop Slide features three meters (10 feet) of free fall before curving to a soft landing. Kids are kitted out in a skydiving suit and helmet before tackling this extreme slide. Other challenges are a wall constructed of stacked balls with indented jugs, a wall with rotating holds, a speed wall with a built-in timer and walls with themed challenges, such as lightning crack (with a cutout crack), dry ice (climbers “dry tool” up using a peg), and face to face (featuring holds on either side of clear plexiglass).

For the working adults, there’s a conference room for the impromptu meeting and a fitness area for quick sweats. The whole family can grab snacks throughout the day at one of the two in-house cafes. Both cafes offer the usual deli fare, including sandwiches, paninis, salads, baked goods and, of course, coffee. 

Since 2009, the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena has hosted ten IFSC World Cups and Championships. Old schoolers like Angie Eiter and Chris Sharma participated in the gym’s early competitions, while familiar comp stars like Jakob Schubert, Romain Desgrange, and Janja Garnbret are the more recent visitors. 

“It is actually the place where climbers Jorg Verhoeven and Katha Saurwein met for the first time aged 19 and 16, and had their first date,” said Victoria Harper, operations manager. 

The Edinburgh International Climbing Arena is one of the few IFSC venues that is up year-round. Visitors who plan their trips around the IFSC circuit can hop on official sport routes following competitions. 


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The Castle Climbing Center: A Gym For the Environment

  • Delaney Miller is a three time U.S. Champion in the open Sports Climbing Series. In total, Miller has won 12 Championship titles between youth and adult, National and Pan-American competitions. She has three years of coaching experience and a degree in Health and Exercise Science from Colorado State University.

    • Show Comments

    • Duncan McCallum

      Hi Delaney, I was one of the original crew who set up the place and commissioned the lead and origami comp wall as well as raising all the public money for the project. It was a long painful process and one day worth a big article on tempering architectural and funding pressures and desires over practicality. The legacy is good though. For my sins I have found myself developing another project in Inverness. This one a little less crazy. Duncan

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