Words: Cathy Casey, The Climber’s Shop
Did you know that you can climb straight off the beach in Cumbria?
Nestled in deciduous woodland, the delightful Armathwaite Crag offers something for everyone with a huge range of grades winding up its collection of orange Penrith Sandstone walls. It’s sheltered south facing aspect overlooking the Eden River often makes the best of the weather when conditions in the mountains are less favourable and you can have lunch on the little sandy beach as a bonus! Add to this a level and short walk in, art installations and the nearby village shop and pubs and you have the recipe for probably one of the best little crags you’ve never heard of!
Our favourite time to visit is in the late Spring where, after parking at the bridge in the village you follow the winding footpath through Coombs Wood amid carpets of native bluebells and wild garlic before cutting down the steep climber’s path to Beach Bay. It’s only small but a great place for a picnic if you are visiting with family or welcome soft landing for avid boulderers.
If the river is low it is possible to traverse downstream, around to some old carved faces, there are five in total along with a salmon and a fishermans poem; a quotation from Isaac Watson’s “Compleat Angler” all said to be carved into the rock by an eccentric local scholar and traveller William Mounsey in 1855.
In addition to the excellent Glenwillie Grooves taking a straight line up off the beach there are a multitude of starred routes to enjoy along the crag with The Bullgine Run (Vdiff), Ituna (S) and Flasherman(VS) rating as some of our favourites, we’ve even been known to pitch The Bullgine Run with the kids and have cup cakes on the huge tree belay before heading up to finish at one of the Eden benchmark sculptures on the path above. “Vista” is a carved boulder where a pair of boots, a rucsack and clothing emerges out of the rock. If you look closely at the cap there is a small face that was carved to mimic one of the stone faces on the main crag below.
You could visit Armathwaite and just climb the suggested Lakeland Revival route to claim your t-shirt but we would heartily recommend taking half a day or even more to enjoy the routes this crag has to offer and to savour the peace and tranquillity of this little known slice of Eden.
Check out Glenwillie Grooves on the ‘Valley Routes’ route card HERE.
Armathwaite crags are just upstream of the sleepy Pennine village of the same name which is served by the Settle to Carlisle railway. The Eden Valley & South Lakes Limestone Guide covers the crag in full and if you are visiting be sure to pop into the local shop and pubs.
Access information can be found HERE.
Top Tip: Keep an eye out for Adders.