Perthshire: Rock Climbing around Dunkeld

Crag/Area Descriptions

Dunkeld is an area of outstanding beauty (though I'm not sure if this is official) and is home to a pair of nesting Ospreys which you can go and visit, and hopefully see the chicks, for the better part of the Spring/Summer.
Located somthing like 30km north of Perth this area is easily accessible from Edinburgh. It's probably an extra 50 miles from Glasgow, though. The crags are a few kilometres north of the town itself. If you like touristy things, the town is well worth a visit. The grounds of the Chapel/Cathedral (?) are on the banks of the river... an excelent place to eat lunch.

Dunkeld is also home to some lovely Big Crags. These are all to be found on the wooded hillside directly above the town. You should be able to see the main face of Polney crag from the A9 as you approach Dunkeld.

The main crags are:

The SMC Highland Outcrops Guide covers Dunkeld and the surrounding areas.

  • If you have an old guidebook you might find that everything is graded VS. Beware.

Polney Crag

Access to here is gained by driving North out of Dunkeld an following the road up the hill. You can see the crag from the roadside, and parking seems to be safely on the pavement.

The actual substance of the rock on this crag is a little uncertain [loose] in places, but this should be obvious when you arrive; most of the really nasty loose stuff is in the descent gullies, so take care when abseiling! The routes here get so much traffic that almost all of the questionable hand-holds will have fallen off long ago. Some of the easier routes, near the descent gully might be dusty, but the rest should be relatively clean.

There are some smashing climbs on this crag, ranging from Diffs to E1s. This is almost the ideal place to learn to lead or second! There are lots of easy climbs for beggingers to get their confidence up on, with inumerable Diffs, and many VDiffs, though gear can be a little sparse on some of the easy leads!
If you just want to climb some routes, or bask in the Scottish sunshine (no sarcasm intended) this is probably the cliff for you.
If you're looking for more challenging routes, try Cave crags. Whatever you decide, just go and have a good time.

Upper & Lower Cave Crags

Access to these crags is made from the main car-park just up from the main road through Dunkeld. Turn of (first right if you're going North from Dunkeld) at the sign for the Ospreys and then take the first left up a dirt track into a private estateto the public car-park.
From the car-park follow the path (there is also a large map). You should be able to see the crags from the path if you keep heading uphill. The rock is to be found through the bushes shortly after the 'interesting' cave (Lady Charlotte's cave).

Lower Cave Crag

This crag is easily identifiably by its proximity to the cave on the tourist path.. just look for this on the map in the car-park and your off! Upper Cave Crag is directly above.

This rock is quite fierce, with E4's numbered among it's challenges. There are no sport routes down here but some of the routes will prove to be particularly entertaining.
Although there are some VS climbs here, most climbs are E1+. There are a couple of grotty easy climbs, one is caled Grot - it's easy to see why. This crag is frequently slimy and horrible in places.

Upper Cave Crag

Located directly above Lower Cave Crag, this is a serious bit of rock, with a high concentration of Sport Routes and Bold, Technical trad routes. The sport section is a continuously steep wall of rock, with lots of bolts. These routes are hard.
There are, however, many many E-points to be had assuming you're a good climber and appreciate a challenge. If you don't climb E6 regularly (or never, like me!) there's lots of FUN bouldering here! The trad routes lie to either side of the sport climbing.

  • The trad routes include a few easier routes at HVS - E1 but most have technical grade of 6a/b (british). There are however (on the right hand section) several climbs E1-2 which have a lower technical grade...
  • The sport routes clock in at 7b+ (french).

Recommended Routes

Fuck Face HVS** 5a 10m, 25m
Lower Cave Crag: this is an excellent route! The first pitch is the hardest (technically) but the second is longer and more exposed. * Look for the arete with the roof (The Hood) and go around it to the right. There's a nice big sloping ledge up there, too (first belay). * Start up the smooth corner and make your way onto the ledge (Belay). There used to be some nice rusty pegs here, if they're still there please ignore them! The second pitch moves up through the steep wall (to the right) and onto some easier ground. Continue up rightwards to the top.
Ivy Crack (MVS) / Poison Ivy (HVS)
Polney Crag: From the main cliff, walk all the way around around to the far left (5-6 mins). The path (well worn) goes around the corner to the right where there is a deep corner. * The polished corner/crack line is Ivy Crack. Belay/Ab from the tree.. * Poison Ivy is the next line to the right... (this climb can be really vicious if you get it wrong!) Start between the two corners at the bottom of the arete. Move up the right-hand side (fun) and head up the flake. The overhanging corner (layback) provides a sharp and entertaining route to the top.


It probably isn't worth traveling to Dunkeld just to boulder. Most visitors come because it's a great place to climb routes, learn to lead or just have a nice day in the sun... If you're here, though and you want to do some bouldering there are ample opportunities.

Upper Cave Crag is home to all the sport routes, and most of the harder trad routes, you'll definitely find some worthwhile/challenging problems to do here!

Getting there...

Dunkeld is reached by following the A9 north from Perth or south from Inverness. It is really easy to find.

  • From Edinburgh you need to head for the Forth Road Bridge (Toll 80p one-way) and continue up the motorway though Fife to Perthshire. When you get to the Perth junction make sure you take the exit marked Crianlarich (A9).
  • From Glasgow, you probably want to take the Motorway (M74 or M8/9) to Stirling and then follow the signs for Perth. Once again, watch carefully for the correct turn-off when you approach Perth. You need to take the A9.
  • From Inverness, just head south down the A9 and you'll get there.


There are no current access issues for the crags themselves. Please be considerate, though.


In peak season, the car-park in the forest may be full of tourists. In this case you will need to park directly beneath the crags. Instead of turning up to the right (Ospreys) follow the road to the left (the old A9). Near the top of a hill, on a sweeping bend(!), you'll find a nice long layby. You can park here. Please be careful with your car doors, this is a very fast road.

  • For Cave Crags it is best to use the car park.
  • For Polney Crag the layby is closest.

The town of Dunkeld has all the ususal facilities including some nice snack-bars and a couple of good pubs.