If you’ve not already noticed, we love getting out into the outdoors, we thrive when we’re out exploring in nature whether that’s scrambling, climbing, kayaking or any number of crazy adventures. But the purest form of outdoor enjoyment is hiking of course and there is nothing better than the mountains in England and the UK. What we love about it is that it’s accessible for all levels of ability with challenging treks to gentle strolls and all get you right into the heart of the countryside. We usually write about our outdoor adventures around the world but the place that sparked our love for hiking is in our own backyard. The UK is one of the best places for hiking in the world with rolling hillsides and incredible peaks that are all well within reach of most people. Here our list of some of our most memorable and favourite hikes and scrambles across Great Britain including our best walks in the Lake District.
Firstly, The best walks in England outside of the Lake District:
The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way is a little different than the others on this list so far being a multi day walk rather than simply a hike up a mountain. It is one of Britain’s Great Walks and is often referred to as the “Backbone of England” as it runs down the central part of the country passing through three National Parks along the way. Along the route you will find several pagan worship sites, Roman ruins and Victorian Era graffiti! What makes it even more special for us is that part of the Pennine Way runs right above the village in which we grew up in meaning we would make several trips up there as kids.It was also where we had our first experiences of hiking as well as being an area we return to regularly for the climbing just off the route on the gritstone outcrops and abandoned quarries.
The entire length is 267 miles (429 km), it runs from Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District and ends just inside of the Scottish border. It can take up to three weeks to walk the entire route, which unsurprisingly we haven’t done just yet! It’s a gruelling and difficult walk passing through some of the countries most remote and wild terrain with steep hills and unpredictable weather! Walking miles a day for three weeks, staying in hostel dorms or camping in the wilderness is a real challenge and one we would love to complete on day. However most people tend to tackle the walk in sections and this is what we’ve done. It offers sections ranging from challenging hikes to gentle walking and has 535 access points along the route as well as passing by sections close to public transport and villages making day hikes very easy to organise.
The Cleveland Way
Another great multi day walk in the North of England the Cleveland Way offers a different hiking experience with it traversing some of the countries most wild and overlooked coastline as well as the North York Moors. This 110 mile (177 km) trail takes around 9 days to walk the entire length making it more accessible time wise than the Pennine Way and as well as boasting a much more varied terrain. The highlights along the route include Roman Ruins, an abandoned 12th century monastery and the famous Victorian era white horse carved into the hillside at Kilburn.
The route is challenging but much less demanding and sustained than other multi-day hikes in England and with it stopping at many small seaside towns a Cleveland way walking holiday is the perfect way to tackle it. With many quaint fishing villages and picturesque beaches along the route it is easy to combine a hiking trip with relaxation and coastal culture which makes the Cleveland Way pretty extraordinary.
Our best walks in the Lake District and the amazing mountains in England:
Old Man of Coniston: One of the best walks in the Lake District for beginners
The Old Man of Coniston is situated in the heart of the Lake District and is a typically English mountain experience and was in fact the first mountain we ever climbed. Sitting nearby to the picturesque village of Coniston and Coniston water the surrounds could not be any more beautiful. Depending on the route taken to the starting point of the walk you can take the short car ferry across Coniston water too which just completes the Lake District experience.
The hiking itself isn’t particularly challenging for those of good fitness and who have done long, sustained hikes before. At 2,634ft / 803m it is still a good hike and will take at least 3 hours for most people which makes it one of the best mountain walks in the Lake District for beginners. The hike is a perfect family day out or an introduction into the mountains and even holds a lot of interest for more experienced walkers with its many unique features. The Old Man offers seems to offer the complete Lake District package which is what makes it one of the most popular mountains in England. Crossing through rolling sheep filled fields, stopping at the turquoise Goats Water Tarn that sits in the higher valleys of the range and of course the remaining relics of the mining era that still remain like ghostly relics!
Scafell Pike: Tallest of the mountains in England making it one of best walks in the Lake District
The big one when it comes to the mountains in England, Scafell Pike is the highest peak in the country at 3,209ft/ 978m and great for bragging rights! We actually completed it as part of the “Three Peaks Challenge” where you climbing the highest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland in 24hrs. Needless to say as our second mountain of the day, started in the early hours of the morning, it wasn’t at the time our most enjoyable experience in the British mountains when we set off! Experiencing the sunrise from the highest point in England and then heading back down the trail in the morning sun however was such a rewarding feeling and conquering the highest of the mountains in England has to make it one of best walks in the Lake District!
The hike up Scafell is know to be pretty tough going so some experience and good fitness is required to bag the tallest of the mountains in England and complete one of the best walks in the Lake District. The walk passes by Wast Water, the deepest lake in England and is in fact a Glacial lake formed thousands of years ago in the last Ice age. This makes the area incredibly scenic with impressive valleys and cliffs formed by the long since vanished glaciers and extinct volcanoes, of which Scafell pike is one. This makes up for the fact that the hike is mostly a gruelling set of never ended steps and at the summit its mostly slippery and steep scree, the hike should take around 4 hours. There is however some great scrambling short cuts to be taken if you know the routes well and are experienced enough to tackle them, its these fun alternative route that made it one of our best walks in the Lake District!
Hellvelyn: One of the best walks in the Lake District!
Hellvelyn is one of the best hikes in the UK and for us top of the best walks in the Lake District. The mountain is more famous for it’s twin ridges, Striding edge and Swirall edge, both of which have claimed the lives of many inexperienced trekkers over the years. These well known scrambles across two exposed knife edges attract many daring hikers each year and in the winter the snow and ice make these even more of a serious but alluring proposition. The name itself, ancient English for “Pale Yellow Moorland” conjures up an air of mystery and eeriness.
What really makes Hellvelyn special is the element of danger and the heightened challenge that comes with the Striding Edge reputation alongside the sheer beauty of the terrain you’re passing though. From the high aretes the view down into the caldera of an ancient volcano and the beautiful Red Tarn make this one of the most stunning views in the entire Lake District and well worth the challenging scramble to bag one of the best walks in the Lake District. At 3,117 ft/ 950 m it is the third highest of the mountains in England but by far the best Lake District Hiking and a real adventure in the mountains.
The best hiking in Wales
Tryfan in Snowdonia National Park is one of Wales most recognisable peaks having a distinctive fin shaped and pointed peak made up of several rocky crags. The mountain is also one of the most challenging and even the easiest route to the summit is considered a scrambling trail. We tackled the mountain via a multi pitch rock climb directly up the sheer and exposed face which has to be one of our single most amazing and extreme days in the British mountains. The climbing itself wasn’t the most technically challenging we’ve ever completed but the height of the climb, the dramatic conditions and the complexity of organising your gear and ropes made it a steep learning curve but an unforgettable experience.
Taking on Tryfan is something for the most experienced mountaineers and climbers and is something to build up to for those who are getting into hiking and wanting to push themselves. After finally reaching the top one of the most famous things to do it to jump between the twin monoliths, Adam and Eve, that sit at the top 1.2m apart, this leap of faith requires a steady nerve with a long drop on one side!
Staying in Wales one of the most unforgettable experiences in Britain can be found on Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales at 3,560 ft / 1,085 m. Snowdon itself is such an accessible mountain for all being close to the town of Llanberis and boasting several varied routes to the summit. The easiest walking route, the Miner track is a rambling but relatively flat walk until the final section and is perfect for novices or those who struggle with more sustained routes. The best hiking route follows the Pyg track, a much steeper trail it takes you high above the valleys for some stunning views of the area and allows a much faster accent, we used this during our “National Three Peaks” challenge hike up Mt Snowdon.
However, Snowdon is a mountain of extremes. On the one hand what makes it do special is that everyone can make it to the summit one way or another. Snowdon is unique in that it has a train line running from Llanberis to the summit station which has been in operation since 1896!
On the other hand it is also home to one of the most fearsome and challenging arete scrambles in Great Britain, Crib Gogh. Not a route for the faint hearted this knife edge has an exposure of over 1000ft and has been the sight of many fatalities. On our second ascent of Snowdon we took Crib Goch, a peak in its own right, to the summit. Another unforgettable day in some of the wildest scenery Great Britain has to offer!
Our best hiking in Scotland
Ben Nevis has to conclude this list for being the highest in Great Britain at 4,413 ft/ 1,345 m and one of those as a hiking enthusiast you just have to tick off! Being located in the wild Scottish Highlands it is one that takes much more effort to reach let alone climb! Scotland is home to some of the most spectacular and untamed landscape in the UK once the home to giant glaciers and impressive volcanos the remnants of which form this incredible terrain. Ben Nevis is also home to some of the UK’s most exposed rock climbing, some of the best ice climbing and even skiing in the winter!
Hiking Ben Nevis, especially in the extreme conditions of winter is not something to be taken light heartedly as many have found out over the years. The mountains and peaks of Great Britain might pale into insignificance in terms of numbers compared places like the Alps but often that leads to dangerous complacency. The trek up to Britain’s highest peak is a long 6 hour slog up a continuous series of long and steep zig zags. But along the way the views of the magnificent highlands, countless waterfalls and unique animals such as red deer and highland cows make it a wonderful adventure.
We have plans when we return to the UK to travel back to Scotland to tackle some of the other amazing mountains and hikes up there!
Have you been hiking in Great Britain, what was your favourite trek in best walks in the Lake District or the UK?
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That was Our best walks in the Lake District and best mountains in England. What are yours?
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