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UK MOUNTAIN GUIDE

UK Mountain Guide: The Best British Peaks to Climb

  • We've said it before and we'll say it again... The United Kingdom is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world and it's awe-inspiring, diverse and dramatic landscape deserves to be explored! Though a comparatively small country, Britain has no end of beautiful backdrops to discover and its majestic mountain ranges – less lofty than continental Europe's but arguably more striking – should be high up on your adventure bucket list. From the soaring, snow-topped summits of Scafell Pike in Cumbria to the jagged peaks of Snowdon, we're here to give you the rundown of the best British mountains to climb. Whether you're in quest of the best views or the highest of hikes, the most strenuous of scrambles or beginner-friendly inclines, you're sure to stumble across a British peak on our list that'll compel you to lace up your walking shoes and get climbing! Read on, and follow our recommendations for the ultimate uphill adventure...

  • Mountain prep

    Before we begin, it's important to highlight that climbing a mountain is no simple feat! For sure, there are an array of ridges that are easily surmountable for beginners as you'll soon find out. But, whether you're a total novice or skilled hiker, it's still vital to set off well equipped for the ascent ahead. It's a bit of a no-brainer, but you'll require some trusty footwear to tackle a mountain; walking shoes or boots with strong support around the ankle and a solid grip are essential for making it safely to the top (and back down again!). Another key item is a waterproof windbreaker jacket, since mountain faces often encounter more extreme weather and leave you entirely exposed to the elements. For that same reason, warm clothing and extra layers – think lightweight and breathable fleece jackets and fleece jumpers, as well as hats and gloves – are additional items you won't want to be without, especially when you consider that temperatures often plummet at high altitudes. Because of all this, it’s absolutely essential to check the weather forecast before embarking on your hike, not only to make sure you wear the appropriate gear but also to ensure that it’s safe to set off – no one wants to be left stranded on a mountain with hazardous weather coming their way! A few other words of wisdom: take plenty of snacks with you, hydrate yourself regularly, and always let someone know where you're headed and what time you'll be back.

  • A few facts and definitions to get started: what are the highest mountains in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and what is the tallest in all of Britain?

    In the UK, the definition of a mountain commonly refers to a landform that has a height (otherwise known as a topographic prominence, or 'P' for short) of 600m or more above sea level. Although a topic of debate, this P600 classification is internationally recognised, and determines that there are around 120 mountains to be found across the UK. Statistically speaking, Scotland is home to approximately two thirds of these, making it no surprise that the biggest mountain in the British Isles sits north of the border...

    Ben Nevis

    The highest mountain in Britain (and Scotland itself therefore) is none other than Ben Nevis, which reaches an impressive 1345m heavenwards and looms over the little Scottish Highland's town of Fort William. One of the most challenging mountains to conquer – especially in extreme wintery conditions – its steep slopes are not for the faint of heart!

  • Snowdon

    Following relatively closely behind, Snowdon is the second tallest UK mountain, and holds the prestigious title of being the most popular. Scaled by over 585,000 people each year, it stands at a mighty 1085m and its panoramic views over Snowdonia National Park have been voted the very best in the UK. Although well and truly worth the effort, if the immense climb to the top seems a little daunting, this mountain’s breathtaking summit sites can be soaked up far more easily, after a mesmerising train journey up its flanks!

    Scafell Pike

    The Lake District harbours all ten of England's highest mountains, of which Scafell Pike is the largest – standing at 978m. Remotely situated and renowned for accommodating a war memorial conserved by the National Trust, this challenging peak is a rocky rollercoaster, with a mountain face that seems to contort in any which way. From atop its summit, views of Wales, Scotland and Ireland can be enjoyed on a clear day, making it a spectacular viewpoint at the heart of the four nations.

  • Slieve Donard

    Offering an equally unique climbing experience, Slieve Donard is the highest peak in Northern Ireland, protruding 850m into the sky. The site of an annual pilgrimage up until the 1830s, a century-old stone wall – named the Mourne wall – traces the ebb and flow of its terrain and, to top it all off, a supposed Neolithic Passage Tomb can be found at its apex.

  • What are the top 3 must-visit mountain ranges in the UK?

    While the twists and turns of the towering mountains mentioned above – Ben Nevis, Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Slieve Donard – should hands-down be explored, it's not unfair to say that size isn't everything... Though less imposing, there are a myriad of glorious mountain ranges jutting out from the UK landscape that still deserve to have their intriguing beauty unlocked. In our humble opinion, here are the three you definitely don't want to let pass you by...

    Ben Lomond

    Perfectly positioned next to Scotland's largest Loch, Ben Lomond is a must-see munro (the term for a Scottish mountain)! Though no way near as tall as Ben Nevis, it is Scotland's most popular climb, and with good reason; overlooking the crystal waters of Loch Lomond, its peaks offer a unique vantage point and a chance to really absorb the magnificent length, breadth and beauty of the impressive body of water that sits beneath its shadow. Ben Lomond's heavily-trodden tourist track can also be followed with relative ease and provides somewhat of a direct route to the top, making it an easy favourite for mountain walkers.

  • Kinder Scout

    Far from being the highest mountain, Kinder Scout stands at just 636m. Nevertheless, set in Derbyshire and equidistant between Sheffield and Manchester, this glorious moorland plateau is a walker's paradise. Inviting yet a little hostile at times, its rocky crags rise to the highest point in the peak district from where, on a clear day, you can catch site of many major peaks, including Snowdonia in Wales! Though slightly challenging, it’s well worth scrambling up Kinder Scout's gritstone sides, and determined climbers will be rewarded not only with widespread views at the top, but also sites of glistening waterfalls and legendary pools en route.

  • Great Gable

    Situated in the heart of the Lake District, Great Gable is one of those mountains that’s intended for seasoned climbers, owing to the steep ascents near its summit. If you're seeking an adrenaline-fueled, wilder experience, this is the mountain for you! In addition to the strenuous scramble to the top, upon reaching its ridge you'll have to navigate boulders and rocky terrain. Don't be put off by the challenge though... The award for ascending this 899m high mountain is iconic panoramic views of the entire surrounding national park. Just make sure to tackle its terrain on a clear day, to guarantee that you benefit from the best vantage point possible!

  • Where to start: beginners’ mountains

    If you're a complete newbie to hiking and are left a little daunted by the idea of taking on the highest of peaks, then let us steer you towards a handful of beginner-friendly mountains.

    Pen-y-Ghent

    If you're a complete newbie to hiking and are left a little daunted by the idea of taking on the highest of peaks, then let us steer you towards a handful of beginner-friendly mountains. Pen-y-Ghent, located in the Yorkshire Dales, is the ultimate starter mountain! It is the smallest of Yorkshire's three peaks and can be enjoyed as part of the three peaks challenge. Aside from its easily-conquerable height and gentle ascent, what makes this mountain so great is its splendid scenery which includes two large fissures – Hull Pot and Hunt Pot – that have been eked out by running water.

    Schiehallion

    Despite its conical shape which may seem a little off-putting at first, Schiehallion in Perth and Kinross is another mountain that's actually great for novices. Conquerable in 3-4 hours, a wide path winds its way up the mountain's hidden, sloping Eastern face – by far the most favourable route to take for beginners – making for a surprisingly gentle stroll to the top.

    Cat Bells

    Lastly, Cat Bells in the Lake District is another super-accessible, all-time-favourite fell. With unrivalled views across Keswick, Derwent Water and Borrowdale, it makes for a pretty short walk – you can complete it in just 2 hours! For the easiest way up and most efficient way down, we suggest approaching it anti-clockwise.

  • From the highest peak to the most captivating panorama…

    There you have it, all the inside information you need to get ready to take on the UK's finest mountains. All the peaks mentioned above are sure to provide you with hours of explorative enjoyment, terrific views, a pulse-raising workout and a good dose of fresh air, regardless of whether you're brand new to mountain climbing or you've been doing it for years! As you've no doubt realised by now, the UK’s landscape is overflowing with natural beauty, and where best to enjoy the view than from up top? And if after all your uphill escapades you're keen to kickback a little, why not keep things at sea level and explore Britain's best beaches instead?

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