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Friday, April 16, 2021

A Guide To Via Ferrata In The UK

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There are a growing number of via ferratas in the UK. We might not have lofty alpine spires to tackle but we have a fair share of quarries, cliffs and canyons. And yes, that does mean the whole via ferrata experience is generally colder and wetter than, say, in southern Spain. But that can really add an extra thrill in itself. We wouldn’t want to make it too easy for you, would we? From England to Scotland via Wales, take your pick from this list of the best via ferratas in the UK.

Via Ferrata in England

Credit: Via Ferrata Cornwall

There are three very different via ferratas that you can do in England, spread nicely across the country. The most well known is by far the via ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District. You can choose from several via ferrata routes from the growing selection on offer at Honister. The Classic route is described as an introduction to getting out of your comfort zone. For more exposure, vertical climbs and cliff edge ladders, plus a huge cargo net, the Xtreme route ascends into the mountains surrounding Honister Pass. Or, you can use via ferrata as a way to explore the old slate mine, through tunnels and caverns. All three options must be done with a guide.

How Stean Via Ferrata in the Yorkshire Dales makes a great day out and can be combined with other outdoor activities in the How Stean gorge. The via ferrata route traverses and ascends the limestone cliffs of the gorge, featuring metal beams, ladders and bridges made of two suspended metal cables: one for your feet and one for your hands. Enjoy shuffling across that. There’s the added novelty of passing under their glass-floored cafe, so you can wave at any terrified friends and relatives who aren’t on the cables with you.

“The route criss-crosses the abandoned granite quarries overlooking Falmouth Bay”

Last but by no means least, there’s been a new addition to the family: Cornwall’s first via ferrata at Goodygrane Activity Centre near Falmouth. The route criss-crosses the abandoned granite quarries overlooking Falmouth Bay. There’s a beginners’ training route, with the option to continue to greater heights (up to 20 metres above a water-filled quarry) and zip line to finish. Better still, all profits from Via Ferrata Cornwall are used to support local disadvantaged children and young people, through the work of local charity BF Adventure.

Via Ferrata in Wales

Credit: Zip World

In Wales, they don’t just have mountains; they have quarries too. This makes it the perfect place not to go higher or steeper, but underground. Yes, really. Zip World Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog has done just that with their via ferrata experience. 

Alongside the rest of their underground adventure park, including the famous trampoline caves of Bounce Below, you can explore the caverns and passages of a disused slate mine by via ferrata. The course is specially made and includes rope bridges, a tightrope and 13 zip lines. With eerie, multicoloured, scene lighting to shine the way this is quite a unique via ferrata experience.

“This is quite a unique via ferrata experience”

If all that makes you feel a bit claustrophobic, there’s at least another via ferrata to try in Wales – this time outside in the canyon of Afon Prysor river, inland from Porthmadog. North Wales Active take groups down this via ferrata, usually taking in other adventurous activities while they’re in the area. For example, a guided group can do a couple of hours that includes the via ferrata and a big abseil into the gorge. For a full day out, choose from one of their bespoke Canyon Extreme tours; pairing via ferrata with canyoning, climbing, abseiling, swimming, zip lining. Go mad on the adrenaline, and expect to get wet. 

Via Ferrata in Scotland

Credit: Vertical Descents

You might be surprised to discover that, despite having the most alpine mountains in the UK, Scotland only has one via ferrata. It’s not a big mountain crest route either. Scotland’s only via ferrata is a privately managed route, tucked into the gorge of the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall just above Kinlochleven. As you can imagine, that makes things wet – and wetter than a Highland’s summer – all year round.

“Scotland’s only via ferrata is a privately managed route, tucked into the gorge of the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall”

The route is 500m long and climbs alongside all 90m of the waterfall, the third longest in Scotland. There are metal ‘staples’ – which look just like someone’s taken an enormous staple gun to the walls – and wooden plank bridges to help you reach your destination. To have a go at the route, contact Vertical Descents.

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