Caley Crags

Caley Crags

Caley Crags overlook lower Wharfedale between Otley and Pool and are one of the most popular climbing and bouldering venues in Yorkshire.

Described in the guidebook, ‘Yorkshire Gritstone Vol.1’, as ‘probably the finest bouldering circuit in the UK‘, Caley Crags popularity also has something to do with its close proximity to Leeds. Indeed the crags are situated just above the busy A660 between Leeds and Otley and can be accessed from a couple of laybys on the roadside.

Atop one of the crags on my first visit in July 2006
Atop one of the crags on my first visit in July 2006

The area closest to the road is covered in a scattering of gritstone boulders and some often quite dense bracken. Numerous thin paths link the boulders together and when exploring the area it is worth keeping an eye out for chalk stains, the tell tale sign that someone has recently tried climbing that particular rock.

The tell tale chalk marks on one of the boulders of Caley Crags
The tell tale chalk marks on one of the boulders of Caley Crags

One of the largest gristone rocks in Yorkshire is The Great Flake which sits not far below the Rockingstone viewpoint, a popular area with dog walkers. The viewpoint is also home to a wonderfully sculptured gritstone bench which overlooks a great view across Wharfedale towards Almscliff Crag.

The smooth top of the giant boulder called 'The Great Flake'
The smooth top of the giant boulder called ‘The Great Flake’

The main buttresses of Caley Crags are found to the west of the viewpoint and provide some tough climbs for those who are so inclined. For people like me, who don’t fancy hanging from a rock several metres above the ground, the tops of many the crags can easily be reached from a path that runs just above the crags from Rockingstone to the Shawfields car park on East Chevin Road.

Picnic time on the gritstone bench at the Rockingstone viewpoint
Picnic time on the gritstone bench at the Rockingstone viewpoint

So far I’ve visited Caley Crags three times and unfortunately two of those times has been on days when the views were almost entirely obscured by haze. Undoubtedly the best visit was a nice little circular walk from the Shawfields car park in January 2013 with my wife, nephew and daughter who was only five at the time. A longer alternative that also includes neighbouring Chevin is also a fine walk.

A hazy view towards Pool from Caley Crags
A hazy view towards Pool from Caley Crags

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