Coastal defences are proliferating in response to climate change, leading to the creation of more vertical substrata. Efforts are being made to mitigate their impacts and create novel habitats to promote biodiversity. Little is known about the effect of aspect (i.e. north–south directionality) and inclination on intertidal biodiversity in artificial habitats. Artificial and natural habitats were compared to assess the role of aspect and substratum inclination in determining patterns of biodiversity at two tidal heights (high and mid). We also compared grazing activity between north- and south-facing surfaces in natural habitats to examine the potential for differential grazing pressure to affect community structure and functioning. Results were variable but some clear patterns emerged. Inclination had no effect on biodiversity or abundance. There was a general trend towards greater taxon richness and abundance on north-facing than south-facing substrata in natural and artificial habitats. On natural shores, the abundance and grazing activity of ‘southern’ limpets (i.e. Patella depressa) was greater on south-facing than north-facing substrata, with possible implications for further range-expansion. These results highlight the importance of incorporating shaded habitats in the construction of artificial habitats. These habitats may represent an important refuge from grazing pressure and thermal and desiccation stress in a warming climate.