I always like taking my life in my hands and what better surroundings than with a bunch of polite English people. That's right, I'm the one up the wall swearing, sorry about that.
I've been to the Castle a few times and it's a great place to spend a few hours. It's slightly reminiscent of your school gym in terms of smells and facilities but then again it's not a day spa so suck it up.
I've been up most of the walls and for a novice like me they are pretty challenging. They also have bouldering which looks beyond impossible for a newbie and i believe they change the climbs around every so often so the regulars don't get bored.
This place is such a yuppie family destination so don't be surprised to see tiny children running around demanding cream crackers.
Looking for a different kind of workout in London or maybe just watched Cliffhanger one too many times? Why not head to The Castle; London's best indoor climbing centre.
The Castle Climbing Centre started off life in 1852 as a water pumping station but since opening as a climbing centre in 1995 has become one of the leading climbing facilities in Europe.
Having a good level of experience climbing from back in the US, I took a friend along who was a complete noob to show em' the ropes.
The Castle is enormous in scale with many different sections and areas to test your skills. There is a choice of bouldering, roped climbing and even abseiling, which is done from one of the towers! There is even a little cafe and a shop where you can buy or rent any gear you might need.
It might seem a bit pricey as a non-registered member at £13 or £12 as a member, but signing up as a member for £5 gives you the option to come at off peak times for only £7 per visit. After signing all the paperwork preventing you from suing them if gravity injures you, it was on to the action.
I was going to teach my friend how to belay, but he didn't do his homework and I wasn't going to let a guy whose shoelaces are always undone try a figure eight or bowline knot on my rope.....so bouldering it was!
There are a lot of different ability level routes and areas to choose from with the bouldering areas covering parts of the ground floor, upstairs and the larger new boulders outside, more closely resembling those you'd find in the wild :)
Overall, an enjoyable afternoon out, but with a rock climbing centre a lot closer to where I live, this well known treasure will have to remain an occasional treat!
Just a few months late...
Of course, being an avid climber and finding the Castle a conveniently short walk away from me, I am a bit biased. But I'm also a bit spoilt with 4+ rock gyms back home, not to mention Sender One. With that said, I've experienced a variety of climbing gyms, the best to the worst, and the Castle is indeed fit for royalty.
The concept is obviously cool and I've taken quite a few pics to show off to friends, haha. A "rockclimbing castle" can come off sounding a bit gimmicky, but quality and professionalism abound here.
PLUS: This is a huge three floor space, with several offerings and a lot of variety. It covers all the basic types of climbing nicely (as mentioned in other reviews), has a seemingly endless amount of courses, hosts competitions, organises group events, sells equipment, and even has a cafe serving up freshly grown greens from the outdoor garden in the back (which you can check out).
MINUS: In trying to do it all, the layout is quite confusing. The women's change rooms are on the first floor while men's are on the second. The lead climbing is in the same space as the cafe (which has no rubbish bins), with some random bouldering elements thrown in. The space designated for stretching is awkwardly amongst lockers and traversing practice. I explored this whole space and still could not for the life of me find the "gym space" staff at the counter mentioned to me.
PLUS: There is quite a bit of space devoted to bouldering (including sections for traversing and feature climbing) scattered throughout the three floors. Hundreds of harness free routes along with a wide range of difficulty. This is just excellent. Too often I see bouldering left to the wayside in larger gyms.
MINUS: Again, in regards to my hunt for the mysterious "gym space," the Castle doesn't have weights, other strength building equipment, or any cardio machines. This is a huge minus for me as I prefer a multi-faceted work out to cap off my usual gym routine.
PLUS: They do have a campus board AND a system board. And even a finger board. Definitely necessary if you're looking to get serious about climbing and take it to the next level. Don't overlook these tools!
MINUS: I found the grading system a bit confusing as routes marked more difficult than others were quite easy, and vice versa. Very odd. Perhaps this is a "lost in translation" sort of deal happening with the conversion.
PLUS: They have a "buddy system" for climbers who come alone but would like to do some top-roping. Obviously, your chances of finding a partner still depend on several other factors, but they've made it easier for single climbers like me.
MINUS: I saw a lot of unsafe belaying practices here. Staff didn't seem too strict on the type of device, as you can use anything from a Gri-gri to just a standard ATC (called something else here? I asked about this equipment over the phone and got a confused response). But perhaps this makes it more difficult to ensure that climbers know basic safety and belay methods. Hmmm. Makes me a bit uncomfortable since you need to have a really high level of trust for your belayer, I think.
PLUS: The price is right. Only £7 for students if you go during off-peak hours. This rate is unbelievable.
To summarise, this is a huuuge facility with copious options to satisfy a wide range of climbers, and is relatively successful in its endeavours. The environment is friendly and energetic, and the attention given to bouldering and traversing skills makes this a great spot if you'd like to climb but are coming solo. Also a fantastic place to entertain your visiting friends!
Only in London would you find a castle in the middle of a mile of council flats, and within this castle find a rock climbing gym. This place is amazing, and having gotten a small taste of it, I now want to go back for more. Plenty of wallspace, lots of variety, good vibe, nice cafe, fair prices, etc, etc, etc. Definitely rad.
How did this castle come to be? The website only tells us that it was previously a water-pumping station. But before it was a water-pumping station it was surely a castle, right? I mean it couldn't not have first been a castle. Don't know if I want the real history or would rather just stick to the one constructed in my imagination...
I mean... it's a castle. One with its innards ripped out and replaced by variegated cell walls dotted with multi-coloured hand- and footholds. Does it -get- much cooler than this for a rock climbing gym?
The three floors of top roping, lead climbing, and bouldering merely comprise a fraction of what this mega-centre has to offer. They now have a more traditional gym space, walls of lockers (remember to bring a pound coin to use them), a kit shop, and a cute little café on the top floor.
On top of offering an awe-inspiring venue, the staff I've encountered have been absolutely lovely. Even when they spot something going less-than-right, they come by to gently offer words of wisdom rather than scathing criticism. Plus, as manual as the check-in process here is*, the front desk employees keep things moving right along.
I thought that climbing was going to be one of those things that I might have to give up for good after I moved away from NoVA and my beloved Sportrock Gym there, but I've discovered a whole new level of climbing gym brilliance at the Castle.
* My former climbing gym had a swipe card system which automated the check-in process completely. Whilst it's not a hassle, it would reduce the work required of the front desk staff here nominally.
I'm not sure who looked at an ancient castle in Finsbury Park and went, "Hmmmm, I want to climb that sonova." And then they did.
The Castle Climbing Centre is just that - a castle with it's insides ripped out and replaced with climbing walls, bouldering walls, a small cafe bar and a few surprises along the way (like comfortable couches spread throughout the building when you just need to collapse or a beautiful semi-hidden garden out back.)
It's a great centre. It costs £12 to climb but if you've never dome it before, you have to come with a member. Then it's another £5 to rent a harness and climbing shoes. A little expensive but no more so than anywhere else and you can buy bulk passes to make it less so if you know you're coming back.
It's a beautiful space with tons of room. We were there on a popular Sunday afternoon and there was still plenty of room for us to climb all over. I did the normal ropes course and then tried bouldering for the first time where you climb free without the ropes. That was pretty damn amazing.
My only small complaint is that they have water fountains made for filling up water bottles but not for drinking water. You can still drink from there, they're just a little uncomfortable. Still, small gripe.
Overall, totally worth checking out and unlike anything else in the city, or really, anywhere.
A very big rock climbing gym inside of a building that looks like a castle (it was never a castle, just a water pumping station).
It's got a lot of space, lots of walls, lots of problems (I mean that in a good way -- rock-climbing problems, not problem problems). it's better than the climbing centre in Bermondsey, and the one at London Bridge closed down. I don't know if there are many other climbing centres in London, but I don't really need to look any further. This is the place I will be going to.
The staff here is pretty nice. Safety is paramount to the whole operation. There's an eco-slant to the whole thing which is charming. Also, I had a flapjack cake in the cafe that was fantastic.
This is known as the best climbing centre in London. I'd go one further. If there is another indoor climbing centre in the entire UK that claims to be better than the castle, they must be PHE-NOM-E-NAL. Seriously this place has everything and I mean everything a climber of any level could want. You can abseil down the tower, inside and out. You can boulder on so many different surfaces, the mind boggles. With flat walls, over-hangs, walls where the angles can be changed, you'll never get bored. There are massive walls for rope climbing, training rooms, and a number of well thought out courses so you can learn how to traverse this monolithic structure. If you are experienced they throw regular competitions so you can test yourself.
When you get tired there is a nice social area with a cafe where you can chill. When you are ready to go again the centre often employs a DJ to get everyone in the mood.
This is without question the best climbing centre I have ever seen.
The Castle is one of my favorite places in London, I am slightly reluctant to review it for fear of attracting more people. If you enjoy climbing, it is hard to beat The Castle for variety of climbs, laid back atmosphere and good music. Even if you are not normally a fan of indoor climbing, this place is still a fantastic oasis, where you escape the hectic London lifestyle. I often while away several hours a week here, chilling in the cafe, climbing with my friends and running around with my friends' children.
If you are a beginner, it is probably best to get yourself on a course, as you will not be allowed to climb on your own without any basic safety knowledge. The course offering the best value, is the Afternoon Introduction which costs 50 pounds for five hours of instruction.
For more experienced climbers, you will need to pay a small joining fee of 4 pounds, then 11 pounds for each session (6.50 if you are a student and show up before 4pm). There are a wide range of routes for all levels and plenty of bouldering areas, built into the multiple levels of the old water tower. The cafe serves basic snacks and drinks at a reasonable price, and is a great place to watch people climb while you take a rest.
The Castle is very child friendly, with many parents bringing their kids on a Saturday morning. There are specific sessions for the over 9s, but if you bring younger children, you will have to teach them yourself. Babies are welcome too, but it is much easier if you can bring a third adult to look after them whilst the other two are climbing.
The best times to climb are before 7 on weekdays and before 12 at the weekend, after this, the wall becomes extremely crowded and noisy. There is little the Castle can do about this, except to try and expand capacity, which it has done frequently over the last few years. Though apart from the overcrowding, this is a great way to spend a few hours escaping the London chaos, if you can't get yourself out into the countryside.
Thanks to Yelp and a few friends who share a love of climbing I have started frequenting the Castle a little more regularly. Luckily the 'bulk buy' I bought 2 years ago never expires so I still have a few pre-paid sessions left.
There are loads of climbing routes for top ropes, lead ropes and they have a few routes with strange & scary self belaying devices attached to the top of the climbs (who would you trust more - your mate or a machine).
There are quite a few bouldering routes around the place but I don't do so much of that. I like climbs that take longer than a minute or so.
The cafe upstairs serves great cake and organic everything (with great views of real life 'spidermen' climbing the most difficult climbs in the castle). In fact the whole place is environmentally friendly right down to the detergent they use in the bathrooms.
The staff wander around making sure people are belaying safely and giving advice if you are confused about anything.
There a plenty of courses that you can do if you want to improve your technique or even learn the basics. I'd recommend doing the 4 week course as opposed to the intensive 5 hour Saturday course (you arms will be like jelly if you do this one) but if you want to get it done quickly then the option is there for you.
Went with a bunch of friends, much better to go with a group actually, so you could all take turns belaying and climbing and resting. Some were registered there so that meant that we could be their guest without having to pay extra to register ourselves. Part of registering was taking a test of your climbing skills. I do not live in the area so I didn't want to register and I was not skilled enough for their test.
There are so many climbs to be climbed! and boulders to conquer.
All the things coming out of the cafe looked and smelled great. But we were going for a roast later so I was waiting for that.
It was nice that the routes had a decent range of options so that we could all stick around the same area and all still have a challenge.
Cheap rental prices, harness, lockers, etc.
Hopefully we'll have another climbing adventure here soon.
I went along for the afternoon introductory course last Thursday and although (for a absolute beginner, i.e non-climber!) climbing the walls was pretty hard work on the arms (and I definitely felt it the next day!) and getting to grips with the climbing techniques, harness and rope knot tips was at times challenging, it was good fun and I'm glad I did it!
Jack our tutor was friendly and explained the basics well. You felt well informed and supported before you went anywhere near the wall!
The introductory course I registered for was for half a day starting at 2.15-7.15pm. Six students to one tutor. The course cost £50.00 (per person). It a great course for those keen to start climbing independently as soon as possible, those short of time, as well as for people wishing to refresh old skills. I was the only complete beginner on my course and at first felt a bit daunted, but with some coaching and guidance I felt I held my own!
There are a variety of other courses for different levels and at different (peak times) available:
Our course programme included climbing warm ups, how to put on a harness, tie knots & belay for a partner. By the end of the course I felt competent to climb with a partner without instruction - quite an achievement for an absolute novice. Now I've just got to get the confidence to go back! The good thing is there are plenty of classes you join so you can climb with a partner (if, like me, you don't have too many friends up for the challenge!). Women with altitude is the first one I'm going to try - wish me luck!
I've been to a few climbing gyms, mostly in Australia and in London, but this one is the best one by far.
It's atmospheric, being in a building that looks like a castle is pretty cool.
It's big, which means that even when it's crowded you can always climb, and when its not, you have heaps of variety.
It has a great mix of begginer, top-rope, lead climbing, and my personal favourite, lots of bouldering.
It also has a nice little cafe, some funky music playing and reasonable membership deals.
The crowd is a nice mix of begginers, rambling club types, regular hacks and gym monsters.
Now this is a marvellous place to visit especially if you are into climbing but don't have any real mountains nearby. Just because you happen to live in a built up city doesn't mean to say you cannot climb a mountain,as you can always go for an indoor climbing wall which is a lot better because you don't have to worry about the cold,icy conditions.This one in Green Lanes that I like to frequent used to be apumping station and some-one has put it to good use.
It has two big floors with first class equipment with varying degree of bouldering walls,a huge range of courses for all levels run by some very friendly women.
Recently the climbing opened up a new cave room with a scaleable ceiling. It is a membership club and the prices are a bit steep,but don't let that put you off-if its something you really want to do.
The Castle in my opinion is the best climbing centre in London. It's an old Water Tower that has been converted and has three floors of walls for climbing and bouldering. Some of the walls are really high and the grades go from easier to almost impossible, with upside down walls.
The staff are experienced and friendly and run a range of courses from beginner to advanced. There is also a great shop for shoes, harnesses and outdoor equipment.
The cafe on the top floor is great for a break and tea and tiffin.
I learnt to climb here and still climb there now. Great place!
Certainly one of London's best climbing walls. Offering a good selection of routes over 3 floors. There are a large amount of top ropes in place to suit the beginner as well as a good selection of leading walls and a range of bouldering to suit all types.
The first floor is dominated by a range of top roping and leading walls alongside a slabby to vertical bouldering wall and some more advanced training facilities, campus boards etc.
The middle floor offers a range of bouldering including some nice steep traverse around two large blocs, well set up especially for the beginner. It also boasts some traversing and the best bouldering area in a slightly dropped level. There are a good range of graded routes here from the 4s to 6s to suit all.
The top floor offers the tallest leading walls, a concrete featured bouldering wall and coffee shop.
Grades throughout are quite tough compared to most opther climbing walls, expressed in French and english tech grades for routes and V and English tech grades for Bouldering.
Whilst fairly expensive for a one off visit, around £15 including joining fee, there are longer term unlimited usage tickets available which offer verry good value if you can visit more frequently. e.g. £115 for a quarter which means you can climb for 7 or 8 quid if you are prepared to visit a couple of times a week.
Easy access from Manor House tube stop on the Piccadilly line. The only downside is probably the inevitable popularity although you never have to wait long as there are plenty of routes to do.
Lovely climbing centre with a wide variety of indoor climbing options and friendly staff, and it's actually in a castle! Or at least a really big old house that was built to look like a castle!
If you want to take on a new hobby, may I suggest climbing. There is a fantastic climbing centre for all levels. There is a monthly membership plus a mandatory training course which is paid for extra on top of your membership. You must be serious before you invest in the membership and all the gear. It is best if you have a friend who wants to climb as well because for this sport having a strong partner is your life line. The climbing centre is spread over two flours with 450 routes to take, it would take a long time to get bored here. There is a cafe which is a little pricey with basic snacks for energy before you climb and a shop for any gear you need. The instructors and staff are really good there, is a friendly atmosphere, good tunes, and if you are lucky you might get to see Jude Law
The Castle climbing wall is, in my opinion, the best indoor climbing centre in London. Housed in a beautiful old castle, the centre provides the perfect alternative to the gym.
I'm not much of an indoor climber, I much prefer the great outdoors, but living in London the options of rock climbs are limited so indoor walls it is. The Castle has over 450 routes with more than 90 roped lines so there are plenty to choose from. There are also 250 bouldering problems which are spread across two floors of the building.
As with any climbing centre there are courses for beginners, intermediate & advanced, as well as various other options, such as women only sessions.
It's a sociable place, decent music played as you climb and if you don't have a climbing partner you could stick to bouldering or sign up for a climbing partner.
So much better than going to the gym!!
As someone who wrote a glowing review of Mile End Climbing wall, you may wonder what on earth I'm doing here? Well, I'm not a spy; after some thought I've decided to make the migration. I'm after a more active social scene and some new faces. For me, 2009 is about doing new stuff so in terms of climbing that means a) stopping bouldering as those traverses are wreacking havoc on my fingers and b) trying a new place. I'm far too lazy to bother schlepping it all the way over to the Westway and back after a hard day's work, so The Castle it is!
I was always so resistant, as a staunch Mile End supporter, of people's protestations that the Castle was a great and wonderous experience now I see what all the fuss was about. For a start, the place is HUGE in a 'oh no, I think i've lost my friends' kind of way. They do some really well thought-out classes, such as climbing with grace and learning strong moves as well as the usual leading, bouldering and taster staples that you'd find at your usual wall. They have DJ nights on Thursdays, a well stocked climbing shop with hire facilities, a cafe with a dissapointing lack of healthy stuff on offer (what are you trying to do, people? Fatten me up?) But they don't charge for lockers, which is ace. The variety of climbing styles here is exemplary. Caves? Check. Lead climbs? Check. Toproping? Check? They also had the kind of punishing overhangs that I used to be addicted to pre-carpal tunnel They're open very late too (till 10 on some nights, so why go out to the club at all?) Oh and best of all they even have 'Women with Altitude' sessions on Mondays - a women only meet where you can find new climbing partners or if you are so inclined to (ahem) 'meet new people'.
Am I getting my membership here next week? Heck yeah!
Best indoor climbing in the world!
This place is incredible and a good substitute for going to the pub. It is a disused waterworks that looks like a castle, by the resevoir and boating clubs. Inside the walls are studded with climbing routes, from beginners' bouldering to expert scaling heights. There are introductory courses and different advanced courses in techniques. You need to show that you have the basic knowledge and safety skills before you can become a member; otherwise you need a member to accompany you. There is always great music playing and a comfy sofa to lounge upon if you need a rest. The cafe has wonderful toasties and cakes and teas and you can sit in awe watching the more experienced climbers hanging from the ceiling. Outside is a hammock, where those less energetically inclined relax and smoke.
This indoor climbing centre is easily the largest rock climbing venue in London.
Some plus points:
- very well equiped
- includes an on-site specialist shop where you can purchase and hire gear from
- has courses of very different climbing grades which get changed weekly so you never get used to a certain climb
- based in a converted castle (hence the name) you can even abseil down on of the castle's towers (around 80m in height)
- very friendly atmosphere where novices and experts mix easily, and advice is given freely
The only bad thing is that the changing rooms are a bit run down, but at the end of the day it's the climbing that important.
Edit (December): Well, the all-organic, green spirit has its drawbacks in winter... The upper space is heated, and crowded. The lower space isn't heated so much, and freezing. As are the showers. You're warned :-)
Maybe the best indoor climbing center in London. It's a former Victorian mock-castle factory, so plenty of space.
Routes are changed often, there are smaller and longer ones, some to be climbed as lead (no top rope), and five bouldering zones.
The changing rooms are clean, lockers are in full view so safe; there is a small cafe, free wifi, and a small gear shop (harness, shoes renting possible).
The whole place is managed with an eco-friendly policy, but still is very professional.
This place is awe inspiring inside and out. When I first looked at it I thought it was a museum inside or something, but the place is amazing. It seems to cater for all types of rock climbers not just all levels. They have all the help and equipment you would need if you were starting out. They have a great cafe, where after a hard afternoon on the walls you can sit back and watch others go up and down. They don't just let you hit the walls, if you are new you have to do an induction and if you know your stuff you have to show a member of staff that you do. I think this is great as it keeps the place safe and therefore fun.
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