Reach Your Peak: 10 Of The Best UK Hill And Mountain Walks
Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill, Peak District
Peak aficionados favour Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, but for something quieter, these two mini-mountains offer an equally pleasing climb. Set in the lush pastures of the White Peak and formed from the calcified remains of enormous coral reefs, they are home to varied flora and fauna including hoverflies, butterflies and rare lichen. Loop between Chrome Hill’s spiny summit – known as the “Dragon’s Back of the Peak District” – over to scrambly Parkhouse Hill, or simply settle for the shorter Chrome Hill climb: either way, you’ll enjoy fantastic Peak District panoramas.
The route is five miles long and is moderate to easy, with a summit of 1,500ft (peakdistrictwalks.net). Stay at the historic Palace Hotel Buxton & Spa, which has comfortable rooms and an indoor pool; doubles from £45 B&B, britanniahotels.com
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
You don’t always have to venture far into the countryside to find a decent hill walk. Right in the heart of Edinburgh is the 640-acre Holyrood Park, which is home to Arthur’s Seat: a relatively easy trek with the reward of an ancient hill fort at its summit. Starting life as a volcano, Arthur’s Seat is now home to many varieties of rare flora and fauna, and as a ritual escape-from-the-city trek has remained hugely popular with both locals and tourists. Allow two hours for ascent and descent, enjoy the occasional bagpiper at the summit, then soak up unparalleled views of the city and along the Forth.
The route suits most fitness levels with some scrambling near the summit (walkhighlands.co.uk). Stay at the homely Ben Doran Guesthouse for easy access to Arthur’s Seat; doubles from £68 B&B, bendoran.co.uk
Clifftop walk, Cheddar Gorge
While the north offers bragging rights for mountaineers, you can find rewarding trails farther south. Cheddar Gorge is Britain’s miniature Grand Canyon. Perfect for families, this three-mile trek loops from the National Trust information centre down into the gorge, then up on to the UK’s highest inland cliff – a jumble of crags and slopes formed thousands of years ago from glacier meltwater. Enjoy fabulous views over the Mendips and Somerset Levels.
The route is three miles long and moderate to easy (nationaltrust.org.uk). Stay at the Bath Arms hotel for reviving dinners and stylish bedrooms; doubles from £99 B&B, batharms.com
Beddingham Hill, East Sussex
Contrary to belief, the South Downs are not always gentle on the muscles. This 10-mile walk sees you puffing up wind-buffeted Firle Beacon and Beddingham Hill – both great for dazzling sea views – then along chalky bridleways down towards pretty Alciston village. Expect woodlands, meadows, chalk pits and fabulous cultural detours. The Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston Farmhouse lies en route, as does 15th-century Firle Place, alongside Firle Church housing John Piper’s stained-glass window.
The route is challenging in parts, allow six hours (southdowns.gov.uk). Stay at Firle’s idyllic Ram Inn for stylish bedrooms, local beers and decent pub grub; doubles from £130 B&B, raminn.co.uk
Of the six routes to the summit of Wales’s highest mountain, the most popular is the Miners’ Track. But to avoid a traffic jam of climbers opt for the Snowdon Ranger: an easy-to-follow trail that meanders gently upwards before the final steep ascent. You’ll get excellent views en route and a sense of achievement at the top. Prefer a challenge? Join the guided Snowdon by Night trek in May, June and August, and enjoy cresting the top by moonlight.
The route is a challenging hike of six to eight hours (discoveradventure.com; visitsnowdonia.info). Stay at the cosy Tal-y-Cafn hotel, which offers locally sourced food; doubles from £128 B&B, talycafn.wales
Beacon Hill, Leicestershire
At just 813ft, Beacon Hill is a great family option. Yet smaller hills aren’t just about training up little feet for bigger summits: you’ll get more consistent weather, and time to appreciate the wildlife en route. This one is every inch the miniature mountain: craggy, spiny and displaying igneous rock formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruption, it offers a network of trails alongside forest, heath and grassland. Spot Longhorn cattle, Hebridean sheep and alpacas – and on a clear day, walkers can enjoy distant views of Lincoln Cathedral. Part of Beacon Hill National Park, it has picnic spots and a café.
The route is easy and takes no more than two hours (leicscountryparks.org.uk). Stay at the family-friendly Cedar’s Hotel just three miles away, for good value and a welcoming atmosphere, doubles from £65 B&B, thecedarshotel.com
Striding Edge and Helvellyn, Lake District
Voted the UK’s most popular hill walk in a survey of thousands of hikers, Helvellyn is best approached from Striding Edge – a dramatically skinny ridge that offers stunning panoramic views. This ascent is an absolute Lakeland classic, with all the ingredients for a satisfying hill climb: great views, some challenges and a few genuinely exciting scrambles. It’s doable for most levels of walker, but it’s important to study the forecasts carefully. With those steep drops either side, the route can turn scary in bad weather. For a perfect horseshoe walk, descend down the manageable Swirral Edge.
The route suits moderate-level hikers and takes about four hours (ukscrambles.com). Stay at the Inn on the Lake for elegant rooms and gorgeous grounds leading down to Ullswater; doubles from £180 B&B, lakedistricthotels.net
Slieve Donard, Morne Mountains, County Down
With its trail starting from Newcastle Beach, here’s the chance to combine both sea and mountain on an ascent up Northern Ireland’s highest peak, Slieve Donard. Some 2,800ft high, this mountain has cracking views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man, then Wales, Scotland and beyond. Follow the well-defined track to its steepest point and afterwards return the same way to avoid the super-steep Eagle Rocks cliffs on Donard’s north side.
The moderate to challenging route takes around six hours (walkni.com). Unwind on Newcastle Beach’s golden sands, then splash out with a stay at Slieve Donard hotel, a sprawling Victorian pile with spa and stunning sea views; doubles from £175 B&B, slievedonard.com
Ben Nevis, western Highlands
This is Britain’s loftiest, most precarious ascent, and one of the most iconic when it comes to summits. In summer, swap the crowds along the popular Mountain Route for the narrow, horseshoe-shaped Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête. Yes, it’s challenging, and you’ll need the right gear – but on a clear day the views towards Ben Nevis’s rocky North Face are spectacular. Alternatively, brave souls who want to plan ahead can try out the summit race held here each September.
The route is 10 miles long (allow a full day) and challenging (visitscotland.com). Stay at the Ben Nevis Guesthouse for easy access and bolstering Scottish breakfasts; doubles from £92 B&B, bennevisguesthouse.co.uk
Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons
At 2,900ft, this is the south’s highest mountain, so the weather may be severe at the summit. Not that this deters keen climbers. Pen y Fan is a tick-list climb notable, in kindly weather, for big skies and fantastic panoramas over wild moorland. Adrenaline junkies favour the nine-mile yomp embracing the National Park’s other peaks: Corn Du, Cribyn, Fan Y Big – or, suitable for families, try the gentle four-mile circular from the Storey Arms. Look out for Bronze Age burial chambers at the summit.
The route suits all levels depending on chosen trail (visitwales.com; nationaltrust.org.uk). Stay at the Georgian Brecon Castle hotel for mountain views and upscale accommodation; doubles from £87 B&B, breconcastlehotel.co.uk.