Who else is getting cabin fever? It’s been a long lockdown, hasn’t it? And, as much as we agree that there’s no place like home, staring at the same four walls every day is really starting to take its toll. And it’s not just the walls: we’ve exhausted all our nearby parks to the point where, if pressed, we could walk our daily constitutional routes in our sleep.
So we’re counting down the days until we can roam free across Britain once more. And where better to enjoy the wide, open spaces from than the peaks of the UK’s most impressive mountains? If, like us, you can’t wait to go exploring and expend all that pent-up lockdown energy, ready your hiking boots — because we’ve unfurled our maps and pinpointed the best mountains in Britain. We’ll see you at the top!
Scafell Pike, Lake District
Clocking in at 978 metres, this peak has the honour of being England’s highest mountain. It also doubles up as a war memorial, for those who like a bit of history with their exercise: Lord Leconfield donated the mountain to the National Trust in 1919, in memory of the men from the Lake District who fought in the First World War.
In addition to poignant historical context, any climb is guaranteed to be accompanied by breathtaking views of one of the most beautiful areas in England. The Lake District is renowned for its panoramic vistas, and climbers may feel as though they’ve been plunged into a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. But the terrain isn’t to be underestimated — it’s steep, rocky and constitutes a full day’s outing.
Buachaille Etive Mòr, Scottish Highlands
At a sharply steep 1,021 metres, this is definitely one for experienced climbers. If you’re raring for a challenge, though, you couldn’t do better. With its pyramid shape, Buachaille Etive Mòr is one of the most recognisable mountains in Scotland and has graced many a calendar, postcard and iPhone camera roll. It also formed part of the backdrop to that famous driving-through-Scotland-scene in Skyfall.
Situated proudly at the head of Glen Etive, the views are — once again — incredible. Don’t get too distracted, though; a steep ascent is followed by a bouldery ridge, and the descent requires more than a little scrambling — so climbers will need their wits about them at all times. If you’re feeling up to a challenge after a lockdown spent walking round and round your local park, this is certainly the peak for you.
Buachaille Etive Mòr
We’re guessing you’ve heard of this one? We know, it’s something of a mountain cliche; but we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave it out. After all, Snowdon is the most popular mountain to climb in the UK; and at 1,085 metres, it’s the highest peak in Wales and England combined.
The summit is fairly accessible, with six paths ready to take you all the way there (Llanberis Path is reportedly the most popular, so if you’re looking for solitude we’d recommend taking one of the others); and if you’re only in it for the views, the Snowdon Mountain Railway can take you all the way from Llanberis to the summit’s very own station. We wouldn’t blame you; after all, the panorama is nothing short of spectacular.
While we’re in Snowdonia, we may as well stop off at Tryfan. After all, it was once voted ‘Britain’s Favourite Mountain’ in Trail magazine (and those guys know what they’re talking about when it comes to mountains). It’s not hard to see why; there’s something undeniably magical about all that ruggedness.
At 917 metres, it’s the fifteenth highest mountain in Wales — but don’t let that ranking deceive you. It’s another mountain that’s not recommended for beginners; parts of the ascent will require scrambling virtually on all fours, using both hands and feet, and it’s certainly not one for anyone prone to vertigo. This climb demands respect; but exercise caution and you should be good to go. After all, we’re never one to shy away from a challenge.
Pen y Ghent, Yorkshire Dales
At last: a mountain for beginners! If you’re a mountain novice and haven’t yet been scared off by our warnings of steep ascents and rocky terrains, then you’ll be glad you’ve stuck with us thus far. Pen y Ghent makes up one of Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks (the other two being Whernside and Ingleborough); and, at 694 metres it can be chalked up (or should that be down?) as the lowest of the three.
If you’ve always wanted to tick ‘climbed a mountain’ off your bucket list, but haven’t been able to shake off a niggling nervousness, then this is the mountain for you. And this famous peak doesn’t just offer a good, safe climb (complete with panoramic views, of course); climbers can explore Hunt Pot and Pull Pot, large fissures in the rock carved out by running water and always popular with cave-enthusiasts. No more excuses: get your post-lockdown waterproofs ready, and be prepared to head up to Yorkshire.
Pen y Ghent
Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland
As the highest mountain in Northern Ireland, this one is well worth a visit. At 850 metres, it towers above its fellow Mourne Mountains (which, as mountain collections go, is probably one of the most visually stunning ranges a mountaineer could hope for) and guarantees both exceptional views and points of cultural interest in equal measure.
The famous rocky Mourne Wall crosses over 15 of the Mourne Mountains, including this one; and at the summit, out-of-breath climbers will be rewarded with a veritable mine of Irish history. The mountain was named after Saint Donard, and the summit is home to an alleged Neolithic Passage Tomb. So there really is something for everyone: whether that’s ancient history, views that’ll take your breath away or a decent burst of exercise.
Ben Lomond, Scottish Highlands
If you haven’t heard of the mountain, we can guarantee you’ve heard of the loch: Loch Lomond is one of the most beautiful lakes in Scotland, so it stands to reason that any hike up this lochside mountain will reward any climber with dazzling views as far as the eye can see.
At 974 metres, the ascent is not to be sniffed at — but it’s a fairly simple climb, so long as you come weather-prepared (let’s be honest, it is Scotland). Like its Skyfall-starring neighbour, whose praises we’ve already sung, it is one of the enormously popular Munro Mountains. It stands proudly on the eastern shore of the loch, which makes it the most southerly Munro. That doesn’t necessarily mean the weather will be any kinder, but it does make it easily accessible from Glasgow, among other places. Another guaranteed hit with any intrepid explorer.
Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons, Wales
The list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t give a respectful nod to the Brecon Beacons; and if you’re heading Beaconwards, Pen y Fan is compulsory for any mountain enthusiast. At 886 metres, it’s the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park (along with its twin, Corn Du) and in the whole of South Wales. It’s another popular climbing destination, with the ideal combination of navigable paths and a decent height.
It’s heavily protected by the National Trust, which actively works to combat the erosion caused by all those clumping walking boots; and it’s also used by the military as a central part of the UK’s Special Forces personnel selection process. If it’s got military approval, it’s got our approval.
Pen y Fan
Cat Bells, Lake District
We know 451 metres doesn’t sound that high. But size isn’t everything; and this is the ideal beginner’s mountain, and one of the most popular fells in the beautiful Lake District. It may not be fraught with peril, and it may be more suited to the word ‘stroll’ than ‘climb’ — but trust us, it’s still worth a visit.
For those looking to book a staycation in the Lake District once lockdown is over (and, really, where better?), this humble fell is the ideal day out. Rather than a teeth-gritted, white-knuckled, ‘I’ll-make-it-if-it’s-the-last-thing-I-do’ stagger to the top, walkers can expect crisp English air, plunging views of the rolling Cumbrian hills and more picturesque picnic spots than you can shake a Thermos at. Pack your hamper, and get ready to soak up some sunshine.
Ben Nevis, Scottish Highlands
Were you wondering when this famous name was going to pop up? Well, as you’ve probably guessed, we saved the best til last. Ben Nevis is every climber’s dream, and it’s a compulsory destination for anyone wishing to get a complete mountain-climbing experience.
Taking first prize as the tallest mountain in the British Isles, it clocks in at an imposing 1,345 metres. Don’t panic, though; there’s a choice of paths to suit multiple experience levels. If you’re feeling more trepidatious than intrepid, we’d recommend the simpler Mountain Track, which kicks off at Glen Nevis. And if you’re hungering after the Bear Grylls lifestyle, we’d recommend the North Face: also known as one of the highest cliffs in the UK. Exercise caution, but prepare for the climb of a lifetime.
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