The Best Mountains To Climb In The UK

Beautiful vistas, panoramic views, adventurous climbing routes… the UK is home to some of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. Whether you’re a seasoned climber looking for a new challenge, or a complete beginner, these are the peaks to know.
NICK COZIER

BEST FOR… FAMILY HIKES

Ingleborough, Yorkshire Dales

Height: 723m

Difficulty: Beginner

Climbing Time: 2 Hours 40 Minutes

Among the Yorkshire Dales is Ingleborough, a mountain often climbed as part of the ‘Three Peaks challenge’. Famous for its remote beauty, on a clear day, you should be able to spot Morecambe Bay alongside breath-taking views of the rest of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Ingleborough’s rounded shape and flat top make for a scenic climbing route that’s not too difficult, so it’s a great option for beginners and those with children in tow.

A popular route starts at the small Yorkshire village of Clapham, which leads on to Ingleborough Cave and the limestone gorge of Trow Gill. From there, follow the footpath to Gaping Gill, a deep pothole you’ll need to be careful of, and straight on up to the flat summit. Once you’ve made your way back down the same path, stop off in Clapham for a hearty family pub lunch.

Clougha Pike, Lancashire

Height: 413m

Difficulty: Beginner

Total Climbing Time: 4 Hours

Nestled in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Clougha Pike is a cliff-like mountain ideal for first timers. A great option for families or those with little climbing experience, the road is easy to follow and doesn’t involve any treacherous paths. Towards the top of the mountain, in the summer you’ll spot beautiful wildflowers and babbling brooks, while the winter offers some of the best snow-topped vistas in the county. 

For a day trip, Clougha can be reached via a scenic route starting at Rowton Brook. Follow the upwards path to see views of Snowdonia and the Isle of Man, although those looking for a more difficult climb can continue along the path eastwards to Grit Fell and Ward's Stone – the highest hill in the Forest of Bowland with spectacular valley views. 

 

Dufton Pike, The Pennines

Height: 481m

Difficulty: Intermediate

Climbing Time: 2 Hours 40 Minutes

Although Dufton Pike is a relatively small mountain, it can prove a challenging climb. Set in the picturesque village of the same name, it’s a short but sharp hike to the summit where you’ll get panoramic views of Eden Valley and Lakeland Fells. The Pike is also surrounded by beautiful moors, meadows and woodland, where you’ll be able to spot an array of wildlife. The area has been hailed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a UNESCO heritage site, so it’s little wonder it’s one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country. 

The main route is on public footpaths so it’s easy to follow – a sustained but gradual climb will lead you to the summit in under three hours, though the path can be quite muddy and rough in places so it’s a good idea to take proper walking boots. Dufton Pike is also a great option for dogs, so feel free to take your four-legged friend along. 

Pennines

BEST FOR… AN ADVENTURE IN A DAY

Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons

Height: 886m

Difficulty: Intermediate

Total Climbing Time: 2.5 Hours 

As the highest peak in Brecon Beacons National Park, Pen y Fan is the mountain to climb if you’re after a strenuous hike. Its highlands are home to waterfalls, valleys and vast woodland, so you won’t be short of things to see during your trek. Pen y Fan is one of the most popular walks in the UK, thanks to its many walking routes and stunning scenery – at the very top you’ll be able to spot the Bristol Channel and much of Gower in Wales. However, be prepared for unpredictable conditions, as the weather can be changeable here, so it’s a good idea to ensure you’re fully equipped. 

There are five main walking routes, though one of the best is to follow the circuit from the Taf Fechan Forest, following the path across a stream to a stone bridge that’ll lead you to the start of the Taff Trail. From there, you’ll pass the Neuadd Reservoir, which is not to be missed, and continue to climb until you reach the summit. 

 

Cat Bells, The Lake District 

Height: 451m

Difficulty: Beginner

Total Climbing Time: 2 Hours 

The Lake District is home to some of the most impressive and easily accessible mountains in the country, but Cat Bells is one of the best in our view. Meaning ‘the home of the wild cat’, this peak offers panoramic views of the Lake District and its famous mirror-like waters and green dales. If you can, pick a sunny day to enjoy a picnic in one of Cat Bells’ many visitor-friendly valleys. Whether travelling with friends or family, consider this a must-visit. 

The best route starts at Keswick, a small Lake District market town, that follows a path towards Fawe Park, to finally reach the summit of Cat Bells. If you’re a climbing beginner, this is a great place to start, and the walking routes are easily adaptable for those who want to enjoy a longer walk, or a day out as part of a group.  

Glyder Fawr, Snowdonia

Height: 1,001m

Difficulty: Intermediate

Total Climbing Time: 3 Hours

As part of the Snowdonia range, Glyder Fawr is known for its distinctive spiked top that was famously formed during the ice age. It’s the fifth highest mountain in the park, and the terrain is quite rocky, so you’ll need to take care – particularly during wet weather. To avoid a difficult climb, head to Glyder Fawr during the summer months to make the most of the majestic views at the top.

There are three ways to approach the mountain, but for those with some climbing ability, the best path begins at Idwal Cottage near Llyn Ogwen. From there, take the path to Cwm Idwal, a beautiful nature reserve home to an array of wildlife, before making your way towards the ‘Devil's Kitchen’ – a distinctive rock formation that resembles a chimney. You’ll get a good view of Snowdon, before reaching Glyder Fawr’s summit via the main Glyder Fach path. 

 

Mam Tor & The Great Ridge, Peak District

Height: 517m

Difficulty: Beginner

Total Climbing Time: 2 Hours

Located in the heart of the Peak District, Mam Tor (meaning mother hill) and the connecting Great Ridge make up one of the most famous walking routes in Derbyshire. It’s technically a hill, but its gently steeping sides are distinctly mountain-like – it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re heading to the Peak District. 

From the top of Mam Tor, there are stunning views of Peak District National Park where you’ll be able to see limestone hills, the Vale of Edale, Peveril Castle and Hope Valley. Paragliders can make use of the picturesque hills, although those after an interesting hike should follow the Mam Tor Circular trail. Steeped in ancient history, the route follows stone steps round the hill on an easy-to-follow path, before coming to the Blue John Cavern which is home to rare mineral water. From there, follow the path to the top where you’ll be rewarded with stunning landscape. The circular walk can be completed in around two hours.

Scafell Pike
Pen Y Fan
Mam Tor

BEST FOR… EXPERIENCED CLIMBERS

Tryfan, Snowdonia

Height: 914m

Difficulty: Challenging 

Total Climbing Time: 5 Hours

Standing at a lofty 3,000 feet, Tryfan is one of the highest peaks in Wales and one of the most famous mountains in the UK, thanks to its enormous three-headed grey rock peak. As part of the Snowdonia mountain range, Tryfan is not for the faint hearted – only well-equipped mountain climbers who want a challenge should take on its steep routes. If you press ahead, prepare to be rewarded with stunning vistas of Snowdonia and the surrounding hills. If you want a great photo opportunity, head to ‘Adam and Eve’, two adjacent pillars at the summit. 

The main route covers rocky ground and is very slippery during bad weather – it’s advised not to climb Tryfan in the rain as the route can become perilous. On a sunny day begin from Llyn Ogwen until you reach Llyn Bochlwyd Lake, where you’ll be able to follow a path to the peak. 

 

Ben Nevis, Lochaber  

Height: 1,345 m

Difficulty: Challenging

Total Climbing Time: 7-9 Hours 

At an impressive 1,345m, Ben Nevis is one of the most instantly recognisable mountains in the UK. Set in the Scottish Highlands, near the town of Fort William, the famous peak attracts around 125,000 visitors a year. An active volcano centuries ago, it’s now home to several walking routes to suit a range of abilities, but for the best views you’ll need good climbing experience to get to the top. 

Experienced hillwalkers should take the Carn Mor Dearg Arête route, a challenging climb that starts at Torlundy, past spectacular views of the Carn Mor Dearg, before reaching the summit. To take on this challenge, you’ll need a good head for heights and full climbing equipment, as well as ample provisions and navigation equipment. If you’re after a less strenuous option, climb part way before hopping on the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola to enjoy the scenic views. 

Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia

Height: 1,085 m

Difficulty: Challenging

Total Climbing Time: 5-7 Hours

Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales. Located in Snowdonia National Park, it’s the busiest peak in the UK, too, attracting the most visitors per year. The wild landscapes, soaring peaks and vast valleys are ideal for those looking for their next adventure. To get to the top, you’ll need to carefully plan your route and be prepared whatever the weather – the changeable conditions can become dangerous for even the most seasoned climber.

There are six main climbing routes to take, but a good one to consider is the Watkin Path. From the base to the summit, it’s a physically demanding walk that’ll take you past the southern slopes of Y Lliwedd and Glaslyn, before heading to the final push. An easier and just as scenic route is the Snowdon Ranger Path which is fairly straightforward, but don’t be fooled – you’ll need stamina to complete it in a day. 

Scafell Pike, The Lake District

Height: 978m

Difficulty: Challenging

Total Climbing Time: 5 Hours

Climbing enthusiasts will relish the beautiful vistas at the top of Scafell Pike, though those with less experience should undertake it with some trepidation. At 978m, it’s the highest mountain in England, and a steep hike to the top involves scrambling over rocky terrain, so preparation is key. On a clear day, you’ll be able to spot parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the top, as well as some breath-taking nature spots.  

If you’re up to the challenge, take the Corridor Route from Borrowdale Valley which goes up Styhead Gill and Styhead Tarn, before joining the tricky flanks of Scafell Pike. Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice – climbers can enjoy panoramic views of the mountainous area, before heading back down to Seathwaite on the descent. If you want a more leisurely approach, there are several other routes to consider, all of which can be completed in a day.

INSPIRATION CREDITS: Nick Cozier
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