High Rocks Outdoor Climbing
High Rocks is privately owned and is well maintained. It is a popular tourist destination and is set within botanical gardens. It spans approximately 7.9 acres and consists of a main wall and several boulders. High Rocks is not climbable until late spring/summer due to taking a long time to dry from the UK's rainy winters. On visiting the High Rocks Inn, the staff seemed very pleasant and helpful. High Rocks is a popular site for the general public with some great walks and a series of bridges known as ‘Aerial Walk’ linking the top of the rocks. Spa Valley Railway runs alongside the rocks and links the site with areas like Tunbridge Wells. An unfenced and free access section of High Rocks known as the High Rocks Continuation Wall can be reached to the east of High Rocks.
High Rocks offers a wealth of climbs including some great chimney climbs and jamming cracks. Climbing and bouldering problems are of higher grades and as a result, High Rocks tends to attract more experienced climbers. The length of the climb on offer tends to be longer than any other Southern Sandstone site, though the rocks do not exceed 12 metres. High Rocks consists of a main, north facing wall and several large boulders. There are a few easier climbs on offer including One of Our Chimneys is Missing (2b) and Deadwood Chimney (2b) however most of the rated and more popular routes are of higher grading. Classics include Infidel (6a), Krait Arete (6b), Nemesis (6b) and Kinda Lingers (6c).
Following an agreement with the Owner, we are pleased to announce that limited climbing is now permitted at High Rocks. In order to ensure access is maintained, it is essential that the following restrictions and procedures are followed carefully. If conditions are abused, climbing will, once again, be suspended.
- Climbing will be available on weekdays when High Rocks is open. Some weekends are possible, especially Sundays. Availability will be made clear at pre-booking.
- Climbers must pre-book at least one day before you wish to climb.
- There will be no access for climbers turning up on the day without pre-booking.
- Book by telephone 01892 515532 or by email
- Climbing is £12 per person for the day. Payment will be taken when booking along with name and contact details.
- Opening time is 10:15 and closing will be about an hour before the light fails.
- Season tickets are not available.
- Access is for roped climbing only – bouldering and abseiling are not permitted.
- Climbers are to make themselves known to staff on arrival by using the intercom system at the gate and enter the rocks as directed. Access is only to be made through this gate.
- When climbing, please respect High Rocks’ staff requests to have your name checked against the day’s list or move to a different climb if requested.
Please note the following:
- No Bouldering/Bouldering mats.
- No abseiling.
- No Group climbing.
- All climbers must be age 18 or over. No children.
- High Rocks is a different climbing environment to Harrison’s, Stone Farm and Bowles Rocks. It is a natural crag with only limited man-made additions. The only belay bolts are on the Hut Boulder.
- For all other climbs, natural belays must be used. There are numerous trees ideal for the purpose, but many are set back from the crag edge. You will need a length of static rope to build a belay. This should be a minimum of 10m in length but it is worth taking a longer or a second length where a ‘Y’ hang is required. Slings are of limited use. Chose another climb if you cannot ensure that your karabiner hangs over the edge of the crag and that no moving ropes come into contact with the rock. An additional rope/handline is advised for retreat from the Isolated Boulder.
- As the name suggests, some of the climbs are high, maybe 12m or more at the north end of the crag and may require a longer than normal climbing rope.
- Apart from the main crag, there are various Isolated Buttresses at High Rocks – each has its own character and access method. The three main isolated buttresses are:
- Matterhorn Boulder – access by an easy climb on the ramp at the rear to fix a belay, mainly from the overhanging tree branch. Downclimb the ramp when you finish your climb. Do not lower off from the route you just climbed.
- Isolated Boulder – Initial access by soloing a route. Ordinary Route (4a) or Simian Progress (5a) are probably the easiest. Once on top, set up the rope and belay for your selected climb. Ensure your karabiner hangs over the edge of the crag. There are a few smaller trees and a large one in the middle. In order to get back down,
arrange a rope to hang down Ordinary Route and back climb using the rope as a handline for assistance. Do not lower off from the route you just climbed.
- Hut Boulder – There are five pairs of bolts above the popular climbs on the Hut Boulder and these should be used in pairs (there are no interconnecting wires) to build a belay. There is also a legacy iron loop. Whilst this had proven well-fixed at bolt tests, its provenance and overall condition is not known. Hang your karabiner over the edge and ensure moving ropes do not come into contact with the rock. Initial access may be made by soloing a route (Crack Route 4c is an obvious contender). Alternatively, throw a static rope over the Hut Boulder from the mainland. There are a pair of bolts on the mainland near the top of Easy Crack for tying off to. Either use a Shunt or similar protection device to climb Crack Route (4c) or attach a karabiner and climbing rope to the other end of the static line and tie off in a position where Crack Route (4c) may be climbed on top-rope to gain access to the top of the boulder. Ideally, Crack Route should be down climbed when finishing a climb. Do not simply lower off from the route you just climbed.
- Further advice on Accessing Isolated Buttresses, How to rig Ropes on Southern Sandstone, and Essential gear for Southern Sandstone may be found in the “Top 5 skills for southern Sandstone” series on the BMC website.
- As with all southern Sandstone crags, please follow the BMC Sandstone Code of Practice.
- If you are unsure about setting up belays, read the guidebooks or ask other climbers.
- High Rocks, (like other Southern Sandstone crags) is a finite resource, not a climbing wall – do not treat it like one. Respect the rock – refrain from hanging on the rope practising moves as this causes unnecessary wear to the top of the crag by weighting and unweighting the belay rope. Minimise the amount of chalk you use. When you finish your climb, untie and walk back to the ground. Do not lower off.
High Rocks is said to have formed when a melting ice sheet at the end of the last ice age uncovered hardened silt deposited when the area was part of the Wealden Lake. There are traces of inhabitants from the Middle Stone and Iron Age using this site and it is reported that pottery found here is some of the oldest in England. King James II visited the area in 1670 and made the woodland a resort/pleasure ground complete with a maze, gambling and cold baths meaning that High Rocks became a popular tourist destination. You can still see the brick remains of a Victorian Tea room near to Hut boulder. High Rocks is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
High Rocks is well signposted from Tunbridge Wells situated opposite a large restaurant and former hotel known as The High Rocks Inn. You’ll find the Inn and entrance to the rocks after driving over a railway bridge. To access the rocks there is a fee which needs to be paid at the pub opposite the rocks. Climbing costs £10 per person for the day and seasonal passes are available for £45. Members of the public can also visit with adults paying a fee of £3 and children £1. Fees go to the upkeep of the site and staff make regular checks of the site to ensure climbers have paid. The Spa Valley Railway has a station near to the rocks. In season trains run from here to Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West. To access the rocks go through the turnstile entrance and climb the sets of steps.
There is a car park at The High Rocks Inn, a short walk from the rocks. Parking is free.
There are no bolts above climbs at High Rocks except on Hut Boulder. A long static sling or second rope is needed for belays. There are no amenities on-site, however, the High Rocks Inn is a few minutes away.