Biking Climbing Coast to Coast Family Adventure Capital Have a Go

Climbing the Walls in Keswick

Written by Kirstie Pelling

Keswick Climbing Wall

Our Family Capital of Adventure UK season continues with a ‘have a go’ visit to Keswick Climbing Wall. Being on the Coast to Coast (C2C) route, it looked a really convenient stop off on our Coast to Coast cycle adventure. And so it was, well, kind of….

Keswick Climbing Wall

Keswick Climbing Wall

We’re climbing before we arrive

Ok, we knew there was going to be height involved when we booked a morning at a climbing centre. But we hadn’t clocked the steep climb out of Keswick to get there. That’s why by 11am on a Tuesday morning, we are red faced and puffing, reluctantly standing in hedges to give way to tractors and sure that our instruction session will have been given to someone else. As I pedal away, I realise the clue was on the map; The Keswick Climbing Wall is just over the road from Castlerigg Stone Circle, and what self respecting Druid puts their sacred monument at the bottom of a hill?

By the time we get to the top, our perfectly cooked breakfast from Lyzzick Hall Hotel is just a beautiful memory and we’re half an hour late for a session we were supposed to be sharing with another family. I bet they were on time. I bet they drove. Happily, I’m prepared to grovel.

Keswick Climbing Wall

Keswick Climbing Wall

Everywhere I look there’s someone dangling

But I’m not prepared for the multi coloured spectacle that greets me when I push open the heavy door of this converted cow shed. A rainbow of sloping walls, studded with overhangs, wiggly foot holds and odd shaped buttons. I was expecting a wall but this is a panoramic, technicolour stage set. Everywhere I look there’s someone dangling, clinging or striking out for the ceiling. I am dressed in a cycle helmet, tracksuit and trainers while they are all sporting harnesses, ropes and karabiners. They look cool. And I look hot. But not in a good way.

With skills learned in a few minutes, parents can safely protect kids as they reach for the stars

We are quickly rescheduled for the next session and half an hour later assemble with two other families at a bright yellow training wall. We pull on our harnesses and within a few minutes I’m tying figure of eights, stopper knots and clipping on karabiners like an old climbing-pro. Our instructor picks Cameron to demonstrate to the group what climbing is all about. I restrain from telling her that he could teach her a thing or two about scaling large objects; casualty is a familiar place for our middle child.

I’m amazed how quickly I feel competent

After just fifteen minutes my fears of being inadequate have been put to rest through clear, good humoured and precise instruction and I am soon belaying three kids up and down the walls, one at a time. I soon start to feel part of the crag shaped furniture (lucky as I am now attached to it) as other families tumble in for lunchtime sessions. I give them my best Chris Bonnington impression, but it’s the children that impress. Above me little spidermen and women as young as two are reaching for star shaped hand holds and stretching out supple limbs way above my head. They have a built in confidence and ability that the adults don’t. When do we lose that?

Children Climbing at Keswick Climbing Wall

Kids are natural climbers… and there’s walls to suit all tastes and abilities

We don’t teach kids climbing, we don’t need to

Above my head a middle aged Mum can’t even reach the first overhang and I am staying floor bound despite the kids protestations. I mention it to one of the instructors and he nods. “We don’t teach climbing,” he explains. “We find with kids we don’t need to. We tell them how to abseil down and teach the adults to do the safety part and let everyone get on with it.” It’s certainly a relaxed environment. The entry fee lasts the whole day, and you can climb, relax, picnic, or go and visit the stones and come back again later. It’s great for families with short attention spans, and on a freezing day like today, a warm and dry alternative to hiking up Blencathra. The local mountains may be stunning, but this seems way better for novice climbers.

After three hours of climbing, abseiling and belaying we de-harness and spill out of the centre, spouting tall tales. Cameron suggests trying out his newly shaped skills across the road on thousands of years of Druid legacy but this suggestion is quickly squashed. Afternoon is upon us and we still have several hours cycling  to do to make Penrith before dark. Hannah says she’d like her hills to be pink and purple and Cameron would prefer them with footholds and a rope, but you can’t have everything you want.

Castle Rigg Stone Circle

The Keswick Climbing Wall is just across the road from Castle Rigg Stone Circle

Have you ever tried indoor climbing as a family? 

See more of our Winter Coast to Coast (C2C) Photo Journals


We did this C2C ride across England, from Workington to Sunderland, as part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together.

Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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