The UK isn’t best known for its mountains. However, they can be deceptively difficult and are impressive enough to challenge you. They also offer a great viewpoint for the rolling hills and moors that form so much of the countryside. Even for those who aren’t particularly fit the scenery is picturesque enough to make you forget that you’re hiking and just soak up the beauty. I’ve found five of the best hikes (in no particular order) for all types of walkers.
Dartmoor Tors, Dartmoor
The tors are usually used by the Army as a challenge for young people, teams of six have to travel to ten of Dartmoor’s tors. The length of the routes vary depending on which of the granite outcrops you decide to visit and it’s entirely possible to walk any of the routes without officially doing the Army challenge. If you want to attempt the challenge for yourself just pick ten tors from a map of Dartmoor and try to do it in one or two days. Any one of them make for a leisurely hike that’s not particularly challenging, but doing ten in one day might prove a bit harder. It’s a good hike for anyone especially if you want to set your own difficulty.
Okehampton makes for one of the best places to start your hike as it’s near the highest tor so if you want to get the best views as soon as you can it’s a good basecamp. You’ll also find the beautiful Okehampton castle nearby if you want to stroll through there for a quick visit.
Cairngorms 4000s, Cairngorms National Park
Scotland’s Cairngorms provides the UK with its greatest concentration of mountains over 4000 feet. It’s possible to walk all five summits in one intense hike as they’re arranged in a slightly circular route. Although, don’t be afraid to spend two days hiking the entire route if you want to take your time. 21 miles of hiking lets you ascend and descend Lairig Ghru, the valley carved by glaciers that denotes the Cairngorms north and south divide, you can take in the wild arctic plateau that was used by travellers between Deeside and Strathspey.
Aviemore is a nearby town that makes a great entrance to the Cairngorms 4000s thanks to easy road access from the north and south.
Welsh 3000s, Wales
A more difficult trail than most hikes, a 24 hour challenge usually attempted in June, is well-known as one of the hardest walking challenges. Welsh 3000s comprises summiting the 15 mountain peaks over 3000 feet in Wales in 24 hours. The whole challenge has to be done on foot, so there’s no driving between mountains. Depending on the route you use the trip is approximately 35 miles long including ascending and descending each peak. The challenge takes you across three mountain ranges, including the opportunity to summit Snowdon. If you want to challenge the highest mountain in Wales first then head to Llanberis which lies just at the foot of Snowdon. Most challengers find themselves finishing in Bethesda.
Despite sounding impossibly difficult the challenge is doable, the fastest recorded time is an astonishing 4 hours 20 minutes. No-one’s asking you to do it that quickly but it should inspire some confidence.
Helvellyn, Lake District
For multi-day hikes it’s hard to beat the Lake District. Striding Edge is the most well-known trail, but be prepared for a difficult but evocative scramble between the ridge of Birkhouse Moor and the summit of Helvellyn. Romanticism perfectly captures Helvellyn with its history of being beloved by some of the UK’s greatest Romantic poets, Wordsworth, Wainwright, and Scott. It’s not hard to see why they were so moved by Helvellyn. The popular and challenging horseshoe route has a few easier paths along the way for anyone who’s finding it a little tougher than expected. So you won’t have to lose any time backtracking.
Some people love the route so much they’ll challenge it time and again, making the area a great place to stay and with plenty of cottages available locally you won’t have to look too far.
Stanage Edge, Peak District
Four miles of gritstone cliff form the Stanage Edge escarpment, dotted with historic buildings and moors that formed a great part of the UK’s literary history. Stanage Edge has many routes that all offer breathtaking views with haunting remnants of historical culture from century-abandoned millstones to faded drystone dykes. However, the most conveniently located route starts just outside Hathersage village.
Surprise View just above Hathersage is aptly named and known to be one of the best viewpoints in the entire Peak District to sit back and soak in the sunset. A useful spot to go to if you finish hiking the trail before it gets dark.