October 24, 2023
Destination: United Kingdom
Best Hill & Mountain Walks in the UK
Big or small, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with climbing a hill or mountain. Once the burning in your lungs and the ache in your legs have subsided, that is, making way for the rush of endorphins as you take in the beautiful views around you.
The UK may not have the famous cascading Alps or be home to iconic peaks like Mont-Blanc or Table Mountain, but there are over 200 mountains in the UK. Most of them sit across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the biggest mountain of them all, being Ben Nevis.
From the wilds of Wales to the heights of the Highlands via Cornwall, the Lake District and one or two cracking climbs in between, here’s our pick of 16 of the best hill and mountain walks in the UK.
1. Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons
At 886m, Pen y Fan is the highest point in the Brecon Beacons and is hugely popular amongst walkers. On a clear day, the views are absolutely breathtaking, but sunrise hikes are the real winner if you’re up for an early start.
Some people climb up and down the same way, making the walk short and sweet. But for a longer day out, take on the 9-mile (14.8km) horseshoe route, from the Taf Fechan Forest up to Corn Du (873m), across to Pen y Fan (886m), and finally Fan y Big (719m).
The total elevation gain is 785m, so it’s a pretty challenging route and will take an average of five and a half hours to complete.
Route: Horseshoe Route; Alltrails.com/pen-y-fan-horseshoe-circular.
2. Golden Cap, Dorset
The Golden Cap sits on the Jurassic Coast, in Dorset, which runs all the way to Cornwall.
At 4.2 miles (6.8 km), with 292m of elevation, it’s a moderate hike. There are two steeper climbs at the beginning but after that, it’s rolling hills. The trail starts in Seatown, near Bridport, and offers wonderful views across the coastline, towards Charmouth.
At a leisurely pace, it’s suitable for families, plus The Anker Inn (Theanchorinnseatown.co.uk) at the finish is a great place for some refreshments.
Route: Golden Cap Route; Alltrails.com/golden-cap.
3. Snowdon, Wales
The iconic Snowdon mountain (Yr Wyddfa) is a must for anyone who visits Wales – and anyone who visits the UK for that matter. At 1,085m high, it’s a real hike but it really is worth the climb once you’re at the top.
There are a variety of routes to the peak, each varying in difficulty and length.
The Llanberis Path is the most common route. It’s the longest but provides a gradual climb to the summit before returning the same way.
Route: Llanberis Path, 9 miles (14.5 km); Snowdonia.gov.wales/llanberis-path.
The Pyg Track starts from Pen y Pass. It’s steep but the views are worth it. It joins the Miners’ Track (Snowdonia.gov.wales/miners-track) before the final ascent to the summit, which you can choose to take down if you wish.
Route: Pyg Track, 7 miles (11 km); Snowdonia.gov.wales/pyg-track.
The most difficult route is the Rhyd Ddu Path, as it follows a narrow ridge near the top. This route should only be tackled if you’re a confident hiker, and on a day with good weather.
Route: Rhyd Ddu Path, 7 miles (13 km); Snowdonia.gov.wales/rhyd-ddu-path.
4. Beacon Hill, Leicestershire
For anyone visiting Leicestershire, this short walk around Beacon Hill Country Park and Beacon Plantation is a great morning out. Suitable for a wide range of fitness levels, the 2.1 miles (3.4 km) route has some steady climbs and lovely views from the top.
If you wish to make the route longer, there’s a 10-mile walk, which takes in Beacon Hill, Bradgate Park, and Swithland Wood.
Short route: Beacon Hill, 2.1 miles (3.4 km); Alltrails.com/beacon-hill.
Long route: Beacon Hill – Bradgate – Swithland Wood Circular, 10.4 miles (16.7 km); Alltrails.com/beacon-hill-circular.
5. Leith Hill, Surrey
Locals love the woodlands of Leith Hill – in fact, it’s been a popular picnic spot since the 19th century. And with a variety of different routes to take to the top, you’re sure to find a distance that works for you.
At the summit of Leith Hill, there’s a tower marking the highest point in south-east England. There’s a lovely little cafe, too, where you can get a drink and a snack, or enjoy a picnic.
Route: Leith Hill Place and Tower, 2.4 miles (3.9km); Alltrails.com/leith-hill-place-and-tower.
6. Ben Nevis, Scotland
The big one. Ben Nevis is the UK’s highest mountain, sitting at 1345m. Alongside Snowdon and Scafell Pike, it makes up the famous Three Peaks Challenge, whereby the hiker must climb all three peaks in under 24 hours. But today, we’re just climbing the one!
The most common – and slightly easier – route starts in Glen Nevis and follows the Mountain Path to the top. Ben Nevis via the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête is slightly more technical, as it involves a bit of ridge scrambling, too.
Route: Ben Nevis Mountain Path, 3.98 miles (6.4km), 1300m
Route: Ben Nevis via the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête, 5.39 miles (8.7km), 1390m
7. Whernside, Yorkshire Dales
Whernside is the highest point in Yorkshire. On a clear day, you can see out to the Howgills, the Lake District, and Morecambe Bay.
With 520m of elevation gain, it’s considered a moderately challenging route. However, it’s spread across 7.8 miles (12.6km), so most of the climbs have a gradual gradient.
Enjoy a picnic at the summit and then head to the pub at the end for some well-deserved refreshments.
Route: Whernside and Ribblehead Circular, 7.8 miles (12.6km); Alltrails.com/whernside-and-ribblehead-circular.
8. Catbells, Lake District
There are many well-known hikes in the Lake District, like Helvellyn and Old Man of Coniston – some of the highest fells. But while Catbells may not be as daunting a climb, there’s no denying the magical views from the top, and along the whole route.
The route starts in Hawkes End Landing Stage, is simple to navigate, and most of the hill walking should be suitable for a variety of fitness levels.
Route: Catbells Walking Route, 3.5 miles (5.7 kms); Keswick.org/catbellswalkingroute.
9. Malvern Hills, Worcestershire
The Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of the best areas for walking in Worcestershire. Between the Hills and the Commons, there’s something for everyone, whether you want a long walk or a leisurely stroll.
This 3.3-mile (5.4km) route climbs to the mighty Worcestershire Beacon (the highest point in the county), then reaches Summer Hill and descends past Earnslaw Lake. You could make it a little longer and go via Sugarloaf Hill if you wish.
Route: Malvern Hills Circular, 3.3 miles (5.4 km)
10. Godolphin Hill Walk, Cornwall
Cornwall might be best known for its coastal walks, but it’s got its fair share of hilly walks, too. The Godolphin Hill walk isn’t too strenuous and doesn’t get overly busy, either.
Enjoy the views at the top of St Michael’s Mount and of Penzance, and take in the fresh Cornish air. There are no shops on this route, so pack snacks and water.
Route: Godolphin Hill Circular Walk, 5 miles (8 km); Alltrails.com/godolphin-hill-circular-walk.
11. Scafell Pike, Lake District
Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, is the highest mountain in England, at 978m. It’s quite a complex mountain, with a rocky ridge line that can become quite dangerous in bad weather.
There are a variety of different routes you can take to the top. One of the easiest is a 5-mile (8.4 km) out-and-back route from Wasdale, although you can turn this into a longer, circular route. A more technical route, which takes in much more of the mountain, is the Corridor Route at 8.9 miles (14.4 km).
12. Cross Fell, Lake District
Once you reach the rocky summit of this mountain at 893m (2946 ft), you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views across the fells and valleys.
There are many ways to approach the peak but it’s always more fun to do a circular hike, like this 8.2-mile (13.2 km) route. It’s a challenging climb; most of the path is quite rocky and some areas do get a little boggy, so make sure you have appropriate shoes.
Route: Cross Fell Circular, 8.2 miles (13.2 km); Explore.osmaps.com/cross-fell-cumbria.
13. Ben Lomond, Argyll, Scotland
While not the highest peak in Scotland, Ben Lomond is one of the most popular Munros at 974m (3195 ft). This circular 7.6-mile (12.3km) walk starts near the small pier at Rowardennan car park and follows a short track through the woods, before emerging on the ridge line, which takes you to the summit.
Route: Circular Rowardennan, 7.6 miles (12.3 km); Explore.osmaps.com/ben-lomond-argyll-and-bute.
14. Aran Fawddwy, Wales
Aran Fawddwy at 905m (2969 ft) is often overlooked when it comes to choosing a mountain to climb in Wales, but it certainly shouldn’t be. The views from the sweeping ridge line are spectacular, and the path to the top offers everything from waterfalls to streams, and even a little history, too.
This route is 10.8 miles (17.5 km) and starts at the Cwm Cywarch car park, although there are shorter routes you can do.
Route: Cwm Cywarch, 10.8 miles (17.5km); Komoot.com/Aran-Fawddwy.
15. Helvellyn, Lake District
Helvellyn is the third highest peak in the Lake District at 950m (3117ft) and on a clear day, offers breathtaking views across the iconic lakes.
The mountain has five ridges, so there are plenty of routes to choose from, each varying in difficulty. The most popular routes are Striding Edge, Swirral Edge, and Thirlmere.
Routes: Striding Edge Route, 8.6 miles (13.8 km); Alltrails.com/helvellyn-circular-via-striding-edge.
Swirral Edge Route, 12.8 miles (20.6 km); Alltrails.com/glenridding-swirral-edge-helvellyn-and-birks-circular.
Thirlmere Route, 9.5 miles (15.4 km); Alltrails.com/thirlmere-and-helvellyn-circular.
16. An Teallach, Scotland
An Teallach is 1,062.5m (3,486 ft) and is one of the more demanding mountain climbs in the UK, offering some tough but exhilarating scrambles, dramatic scenery, and magnificent views.
If you’re an experienced hiker and like a lot of scrambling, this peak is for you.
Like our pick of the UK’s best hill and mountain walks? If you’re looking to see some of the country’s finest scenery on foot, check out our guided tour of the Lake District’s summits.
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