Hawkcraig: a boulder-strewn, yet surprisingly child-friendly beach
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Today Graeme and I travelled up from Glasgow to Hawkcraig near Aberdour with a few of our long-time climbing buddies. It was the first trad climb of the 2018 season for most of us, and has dovetailed nicely with writing a review of this crag from the perspective of bringing kids with you while you climb. Bringing kids can mean many things: if your child is an accomplished climber themselves and you're spending the day climbing together and training them for the GB Climbing Team then you're not really concerned over whether there is a safe spot to plonk them at the base of the crag. However if you're bringing a rambunctious toddler whose idea of a joyful afternoon is chasing the dog along the edge of the cliff, occasionally punctuated by periods of standing on the end of the rope as the belayer tries to pay out slack then these reviews are for you!
Hawkcraig near Aberdour is a south-facing sea cliff with a good number of middle grade routes. Access is either across an extremely rocky, boulder-strewn beach from the east or past a small hotel garden to the west. My two-year-old was disproportionately delighted to learn the word "moon" a while back and since then refuses to believe that every spherical object in the sky, from the sun to a frisbee, isn't the moon. But if the real moon is fully functioning as it should that day and the tides are doing what they're supposed to do, there is a distinct possibility of getting cut off from the beach exit in which case the west/hotel exit will take you along a grassy path back to the car park.
The boulders unfortunately mean that this beach is not a place a young tot would enjoy running around on, although slightly older kids may enjoy scrambling. As you can see however, it is possible to step along the beach carefully with a baby in a sling/carrier. The hotel to the west has a garden which backs directly onto the beach and this was where I was able to set up Crag-Tot with some toys and my beady eye on him, much like the nesting seagulls above us, to ensure he didn't wander towards the 3m drop at the end of the garden. There was no shade at all in the garden whilst we were there between 11am-3pm so sun cream and a Babushka scarf were the order of the day for the little dude. Wind was sea-blown chilly at times, despite the heat of the sun
Now as for the actual climbing review...
I wasn't climbing however I did speak to my friends who were and whilst we decided not to put their own names to comments, they let me interview their gear. We all know the saying, "If the gear could talk..." * so here's what the nuts of all those brave climbers (plus Gillian's nut-key) said:
· Saki was great for the first lead of the year. Nice bit of lay backing near the top and the thin gear got the heart pumping…
· Crag Classic Pain Pillar is always a fun climb (maybe not as a warm up ;-)) Tricky start, not too bad in the middle and bouldery finish. It's got good gear though. Hawkcraig is always a lovely place to climb with its lovely views across the Firth of Forth…
· I enjoyed leading Lily, even though it didn't seem quite the romp HE (next to me) said it would be ;-)
· That’s because I (next to HIM) didn’t actually climb Lilly; I did a lovely VDiff further right called Escalator ;-)
· Hawkcraig is always a good venue as it tends to dry quick and has a nice outlook. Guano was my hardest lead as I just couldn't get my head right for the crux move and once I got past it, I was wondering what the panic was about!
So, in summary, I think with a toddler or non-climbing young child, the use of the hotel garden is a must for making this a possibility for Ma & Pa to get some climbing in. And even so, you'd have to go in a threesome as the smallest number, as the sheer drop from the garden edge makes it unsuitable for leaving a young kid there unsupervised. I'm presuming the hotel & its garden is private property, despite it basically transitioning into a beach with no demarcation. If this is the case, our ability to avail ourselves of it depends on the goodwill of the hotel, which in turn depends on the behaviour of us, our children, and our dogs which, advisably if not mandatorily, should be kept on a dog stake at all times whilst on the lawn. So be nice, mind your animals - your bipeds and your quadrupeds! - and take your litter home with you.
* I totally made that up. But it's brilliant ...it should be a saying!!