Edinburgh International Climbing Arena

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Overview of the Arena

Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA:Ratho, formerly the Ratho Adventure Centre) is an adventure sports facility located in Ratho, near Edinburgh, Scotland. Built in a disused quarry, it is the largest indoor climbing wall in the world.

Financial problems months after it opened in December 2003 put the Arena into receivership. It was purchased by the City of Edinburgh Council and fully reopened in May 2007 after a further programme of works costing around GB£6 million. The centre is now used by both recreational climbers and for competitions, and is also home to the Scottish National Judo Academy.


Interior of the Arena

Originally used for supplying stone to the Central Belt of Scotland due to its proximity to the Union Canal, the quarry expanded from around a third of its present size in 1853 to the current outline in 1895.[1] Edinburgh climbers Rab Anderson, Duncan McCallum and architect David Taylor formed the Ratho Quarry Company, and purchased the quarry in 1995 as the site for the climbing centre.[2][3] The quarry, which had been unused for around ninety years, was filled with compacted rubble and heavily overgrown with trees and shrubs, making assessment of the site difficult until significant work had been carried out, but the assumption that the floor of the quarry was flat proved to be correct.[3] Plans unveiled in late 2001 showed the estimated cost to be GB£7 million, with funding of GB£1.5 million to come from a Sportscotland lottery fund grant.[2]

The climbing centre is located in the smaller of two lobes of a figure of eight that make up the quarry.[3][4] After 250,000 tonnes (250,000 long tons; 280,000 short tons) of rubble was removed, the quarry was shown to have a broadly level floor and be almost 30 metres (98 ft) deep.[3] During construction in April 2002, the partially completed roof was ripped off in a storm.[5]

When it opened in December 2003, the centre was the largest indoor climbing arena in the world, but problems during construction increased the final cost to GB£22 million.[2][6] In March 2004 the centre went into receivership due to a leaky roof, poor management, and a lack of money, leaving a number of contractors unpaid.[7][8] It was purchased by the City of Edinburgh Council in October 2005 for GB£3.87 million, and then closed in August 2006 to allow full completion of the venue.[9][10][11]

It reopened on 25 May 2007, under the management of Edinburgh Leisure, a non-profit organisation which provides sport and leisure facilities on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council.[7] GB£6 million was spent overhauling the roof, the plumbing, improving the car park and converting an unopened scuba diving tank into a dedicated bouldering room.[7] Under new management, more emphasis was placed on making the centre accessible to families and visitors as well as experienced climbers.[7][11] The roof, consisting of 8,500 square metres (91,000 sq ft) of tensioned fabric, was replaced at the end of 2013 at a cost of around GB£500,000.[9][12]


The articulated climbing wall

There are over 11,000 bolt-on holds in the centre, with 300 routes ranging in difficulty from grades 2 to 8b.[13][14] The Aerial Assault course is an assault course suspended 30 metres (98 ft) above the main hall, which takes around 30 minutes and is open to anybody over 1.4 metres (4 ft 7 in) tall.[15] As well as a trio of boulders in the centre of the main hall, there is a dedicated bouldering room, with routes ranging in difficulty from V0 to V15.[16]

Two identical speed walls allow speed climbing competitions to be conducted head to head, and there is an articulated competition wall known as "The Hanger" that can be raised or lowered to change the angle of overhang.[17]

The larger "lobe" of the quarry is also used for outdoor climbing, although some of the rock is described as "loose and scary".[1] Formed from dolerite, there are around 65 known routes.[18][19]

Services and facilities[edit]

The bouldering area

The centre contains the world's largest indoor climbing arena, as well as bouldering facilities, the Scottish National Judo Academy, and an aerial assault course.[20]

Within the centre there is a Tiso outdoor shop and a HoneyPot Ceramics studio, as well as a cafe overlooking the main arena.[21] The centre has a gym that is available when not in use by Scottish National Judo Academy.[22] Other classes are held in the Fitness Studio.[23]



Climbers on the Speed Wall, IFSC World Youth Championship, 2010

The centre hosted the UIAA-ICC Boulder & Lead World Cup in December 2003.[24]

The centre also hosted the IFSC World Youth Championship in 2004 and 2010,[25][26] and the British Lead Climbing Championships every year until Awesome Walls in Sheffield took over in 2013.[27][28]


In the Edinburgh International Festival 2013, Leaving Planet Earth used the centre as the stage.[29]


  1. ^ a b Smith, Martin; Browne, Mike. "Scaling the heights of your local geodiversity: The Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA)". NERC Open Research Archive. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Lessware, Jonathan (25 May 2007). "£30m climbing centre's rocky road". BBC News. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Ratho Climbing Wall, Edinburgh". edinburgharchitecture.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Google Inc. "Edinburgh International Climbing Arena". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=edinburgh+international+Climbing+Arena&ll=55.923453,-3.397173&spn=0.00183,0.005284&t=h&z=18. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  5. ^ "No rock-solid opening date for climbers". The Scotsman. 29 May 2003. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "Adventure sports climbing high". BBC News. 5 July 2003. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Ryan, Mick (May 2007). "Ratho Re-Opens". UKClimbing. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Climb base firms 'won't get a penny'". The Scotsman. 16 June 2004. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Council faces £550,000 bill to replace roof on climbing centre". STV News. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Centre climbs out of money woes". BBC News. 9 September 2005. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Climb centre reopens after refit". BBC News. 25 May 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "City of Edinburgh Council selects Base for 6 figure membrane roof contract for the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena". Base Structures. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "Climbing Arena". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Biggest climbing wall is finally on the up". The Scotsman. 29 May 2003. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  15. ^ "Aerial Assault". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Bouldering Room". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "Arena Walls". wyc-2010. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Ratho Quarry". UKClimbing. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "Ratho Quarry". scottishclimbs.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "National Training Centre". Judo Scotland. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  21. ^ "Facilities". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  22. ^ "Gym". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  23. ^ "Fitness Class Studio". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  24. ^ "Ratho UIAA-ICC Climbing World Cup Finals". Rare Management. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  25. ^ "Ratho UIAA-ICC World Youth Climbing Championships". Rare Management. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  26. ^ "IFSC World YOuth Championships 2010". Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Adie, Rob (6 September 2013). "British Lead and Speed Climbing Championships 2013". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  28. ^ "First ever British Speed Climbing Championships". UKClimbing. September 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  29. ^ Brocklehurst, Steven (9 August 2013). "Edinburgh International Festival leaves planet Earth". BBC News. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°55′25″N 3°23′52″W / 55.92352°N 3.397865°W / 55.92352; -3.397865