The Best of Coasteering in the UK

14 May, 2020 in Destinations, Tips for Travellers & United Kingdom

Now is the time for something new, something different. Give your holiday a fresh outlook, an adventure the whole family or your friends. Coasteering is more than an activity, it’s a chance to feel alive, to push yourself beyond limits you wrongly set.

You may be wondering, what even is coasteering? No worries, it’s fairly new, but after this blog post you’ll know only what coasteering is, but the best places for coasteering in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and our top tips for a coasteering trip. Stick around to also find out why you should combine camping with coasteering, and rent a motorhome to top it all off. 

What is Coasteering?

Just in case you’re a complete beginner to coasteering, or need a refresher, we’ll go over what to expect and how to go coasteering. If you’re a seasoned pro, feel free to skip ahead to the best coasteering spots in the UK.

Coasteering can be considered as extreme rockpooling, treating shorelines like an eco-adventure playground. It encompasses numerous aspects, including but not limited to: rock-climbing, rock-hopping, cave-exploring, swimming, shore-scrambling, and of course cliff-jumping. It basically involves following a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, with no aid of boats, surf boards or other crafts. 

The term was first coined by John Cleare, a combination of “mountaineering” and “coast”, and some of the first instances of coasteering occurred in Wales. It’s a great workout, an all-round fitness activity that builds strength and coordination as well as burning hundreds of calories. Why go to a gym when you can make the cliffs one? Certainly more thrilling! It also allows you to reach locations you usually can’t get to by foot, to explore the unknown.

And every trip is unique due to changing tides, waves and wildlife. A cave visited a year ago could have completely altered by now, different seasons bring different creatures out, where you once scaled a rock, you may now be forced to leap off the cliff and swim the distance. 

How to go Coasteering

Coasteering can be dangerous, working with rough tides, climbing without a harness, but it doesn’t have to be! You should never start by going coasteering alone, and instead look to accredited operators. Their guides will teach you the correct techniques for coasteering, and they know the best spots! Their knowledge of the area also ensures you won’t disrupt any wildlife breeding grounds.

Anyone above the age of eight with the ability to swim can go coasteering. Coasteering isn’t an ageist sport, as long as you have the energy and mobility to enjoy it safely! Confidence in the water is important, but you’ll be helped with a wetsuit, buoyancy aid and safety helmet. 

All you need to go coasteering? A swimsuit to go under your wetsuit, preferably a well-fitted comfortable one - no need for glamour, it will be covered! A pair of old trainers that can protect your feet and grip the rocks. A buoyancy aid and a helmet - supplied by your guide if you go for that option! Be sure to check the weather and tide times to plan your trip perfectly.

The Best Coasteering Locations in the UK

Coasteering varies across the UK locations, as each water and cliff are unique! So coasteering in Wales will be a completely different experience to coasteering in England. There are even differences within England, such as coasteering in the south west or heading east. So be sure to do your research and try as many as possible! A great way to do this is a motorhome holiday, exploring the different possibilities and enjoying comfortable rest under the stars. But be sure to leave enough rest days in between, with perhaps just a gentle hike for your sore muscles. 

These are best coasteering in the UK locations, by country:

Coasteering in England

  1. Horwick - A trip to Northumberland is topped off nicely by coasteering in Horwick. Not only will you explore caves and gullies, but in Horwick you’ll find a ship and submarine wreck as well! Keep an eye out for passing dolphins and porpoises, and prepare to swim with the seals. A renowned location for coasteering in England, enjoy features such as The Toilet, The Flush, Downtime, Beer Belly Bulge and the Tricky Traverse. 
  2. St Bees to Fleswick - Not one for the faint hearted or beginners, there is a stunning scenic route in Cumbria that can only be accessed by hiking or coasteering in. An incredible climb, there are great traversing and bouldering sections. But be sure to check the bird nesting restrictions at certain points of the year!
  3. Dancing Ledges - a prime spot for coasteering in the south west of England, and a chance to see the Jurassic Coast up close and personal. With four swim through caves, with an ammonite fossil the size of a truck tyre, there are countless sights to thrill you during this tour.
  4. Mullion Cove - coasteering in Cornwall is a renowned tradition, and for good reason! The best spot for coasteering on the west coast of Cornwall, on the Lizard Peninsula, the features vary day to day based on the impressive swell and north westerly winds. It stands out in particular for its stunning rock formations and arches to explore. One of the many choices for coasteering during a Cornwall road trip.
  5. Isle of Wight - there are various options for coasteering on the Isle of Wight. In particular, Freshwater Bay is known to be an exhilarating adventure, and coasteering will allow you to reach the more inaccessible parts of the island’s coastline. Jump over rock archways, duck underwater into invisible caves and swim through wave filled gaps, coasteering in the Isle of Wight will certainly not disappointed. Well combined with a trip to this gorgeous island.

Coasteering in Scotland

  1. Oban - this popular seaside town is ideal for coasteering in Scotland. You’ll be exposed to a variety of wildlife, including otters, seals and more. A popular adventure group for this is Vertical Descents, who begin their trip at Corran Halls.
  2. Arduish - negotiate this dramatic coastline, with numerous opportunities to test your limits and jump into the unknown! Keep an eye out for sea otters, seals, dolphins, basking sharks and various seabirds. A shorter trip, this is a great start to coasteering.
  3. Arbroath - the closest coasteering in Scotland option for Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee. North of the historical fishing village, you’ll be kept busy with this breathtaking coastline - include bowholes! It’s also one of the sunniest areas of Scotland, which you’ll appreciate when warming up after.
  4. Elie - on the south Fife Peninsula, you’ll find this ideal spot. Wild swim amongst the local pod of dolphins, and enjoy the golden sand beaches revealed in this coasteering adventure

Coasteering in Wales

Pembrokeshire is in fact the birthplace of coasteering! The southwest corner of Wales is renowned for a formidable coastal scenery, with a diversity of marine landscapes unique to this area of the UK. From sandy beaches leading into dramatic limestone cliffs, glacial valleys to towering rock stacks, spectacular bays and sea caves, you’ll find a bit of everything on this coasteering buffet!

  1. Abereiddy Bay - this westerly facing bay is very sheltered, ensuring it is suitable at all states of tide. You’ll find plenty of cliff jumps and water features along the northern coastline, and at low tide there are numerous caves to explore. Be sure to jump into the Blue Lagoon whilst there! This location is used for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series competition.

  2. Three Cliffs Bay - in Gower, you’ll find everything you need for the best coasteering experience at Three Cliffs Bay. You can park at the Gower Heritage Centre and then follow the woodland walk to the bay, there are numerous jumps of varying heights as well as caves waiting to be explored.
  3. St Noni Bay - the ideal beginner coasteering experience! Park at Porth Clais harbour and you’ll find plenty of paths leading down to the water. In particular, Cathedral Cave is a highlight at low tide. Despite being a beginner location, this stretch of coastline can be exposed during rough seas, so be prepared and cautious.
  4. Stackpole - park at the National Trust carpark and then head out to the harbour, following the coastline up north. In summer, you can enjoy the crystal clear waters, as you jump right into them! Best finished at Barafunddle beach, which has been voted the best beach in all of Britain.
  5. Holy Island - as if you need another excuse to go Anglesey! Surrounded by incredible cliffs, the hardest part will be choosing where to go. With a range of difficulty, Holy Island is the perfect coasteering getaway, particularly the South Stack Island to North Stack journey.

Coasteering in Northern Ireland

  1. Bloody Bridge - perfect for another looking to enjoy both bouldering and coasteering! This coasteering location in Northern Ireland is unique for the river flowing over granite boulders on its way from Slieve Donard ton the sea, which creates numerous impressive waterfalls and deep pools to be explored.
  2. Ballintoy - Park in the harbour and enjoy the various coasteering spots surrounding the rocky outcrops and small islands. It features the full brunt of the Irish Sea, and was actually used as a filming location for HBO’s Game of Thrones.
  3. Ballyhornan - known for a variety of sea caves, cliff jumps, Irish Sea swells and more! But not to be attempted without a qualified guide or bounty of experience.
  4. Ramore Head - not a coasteering option for beginners! This exposed venue will test your skills and perseverance, with unbelievable jumps to negotiate, resulting in the ultimate satisfaction when you reach that final jump.
  5. White Rocks - if you’re all about the caves, this is the best coasteering spot in Northern Ireland for you! Another highly dangerous spot for the inexperienced, be careful not to get cut off by the tide.

Another ideal coasteering location is Jersey. In particular, the Greve De Lecq features a variety of challenges in a short distance. You’ll get to pass through gullies, caves and a 40 metre tunnel that takes you to a stunning secret beach! It includes a venus pool and the world famous Rhino jump.

Tips for Coasteering

Now that you know where to go coasteering, it's time to consider the trip itself! Here are our top tips for coasteering, and keeping safe while coasteering.

  1. Coasteering is truly a team activity, so consider who you’d like to go with. It’s the perfect family day out that the kids will adore, or a unique idea for a bachelor party! Celebrate a birthday, anniversary or weekend by coasteering. Life’s too short, so let’s jump off cliffs while we can. Going alone? No worries, you can go with an organised tour group, a great way to meet new people.
  2. The gear is vital. A wetsuit isn’t just for comfort, it also protects you from the chilly water. The life jacket ensures waves don’t get the better of you, even the best swimmer will benefit from that extra push. And a good pair of trainers keeps your feet protected from snagging rocks.
  3. Start small, build it up. You never go coasteering and start with a ten metre jump into the water. First you’ll do a few gentle jumps, float into fissures and caves, scramble about as you explore. By building it up, you’re unlikely to get a sudden surge of vertigo or fear, and make the most of your day. This also ensures you don’t run out of energy an hour in!
  4. Don’t forget your dry stuff! Nothing is worse than getting out of the icy water and realising you don’t have something cosy to change into. This includes underwear, the biggest thing forgotten when packing for the day!
  5. Listen to instructions. You’re eager to go, eye already on the prize blue waters, but don’t tune out! Coasteering is fun and safe when everyone knows what they’re doing and the procedures for things going amiss. When you’re in trouble, it’ll be too late to learn.
  6. Like the wild camping motto. Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Don’t take things from caves, particularly when wildlife are involved. This is their home, you’re a guest, so respect nature, look at nature, but don’t steal it.
  7. Ensure you work with a company that is NCC approved. The National Coasteering Charter set minimum operating standards, training standards and more.
  8. Going without a company? Always tell someone where your group is going! This is vital.

Camping and Coasteering

Like jam on scones, camping and coasteering are the perfect match. Don’t trudge back to a hotel or your home after your exhausting day of coasteering, instead head straight to your motorhome. It will provide you with the comfort that camping would not, more of a motorhome glamping experience, but still provides the freedom you crave. You’ll be self sufficient, cooking in your campervan and enjoying a celebratory drink under the stars. Given that you’ll already be in nature for coasteering, it makes sense to follow this with a nearby campsite or free motorhome camping, to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. You can keep it simple, and hire a VW campervan, or enjoy a luxury motorhome as a treat!

Coasteering is an experience like no other, a way to escape the mundane and truly feel alive. Nothing is more invigorating than jumping off a cliff, diving into azure waters. Test yourself, push your limits, you won’t regret it. Now you know the best places for coasteering in the UK, as well as coasteering tips for beginners. Top off your coasteering experience with a motorhome trip, or take a road trip to all the best coasteering spots in the UK. Follow the adventure.