A summit doesn’t have to reach mountain height to be magnificent. Here are some of our favourite hills that fail to make the 2000ft mark but remain utterly unforgettable
Hallin Fell, Lake District (388m)
Perfectly situated above Howtown bay at the crook of Ullswater, with the beautiful Hallinhag oakwood at its foot, Hallin Fell expects you to work for its summit, marked by a well-built tower, but it rewards you with one of the finest panoramas in England. The view north sweeps from the Scottish border to the Vale of Eden and the Pennine mountains, with the long ridge of the High Street range rising to the east. Shapely Place Fell rises above Boredale to the south, with Helvellyn peeking over its shoulder, and, 10 miles north-west, Blencathra’s distinctive profile looms. Most folk take the wide grassy track from the church at the hause, but if you’re feeling adventurous, the steep scrambly ridge above Waternook offers a longer ascent that feels more aptly mountainous for this fine fell.
Image by Vivienne Crow
Yr Eifl, Llyn Peninsula (564m)
The triplet peaks of Yr Eifl or ‘the Rivals’ – which hang over the Irish Sea on the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula – have plenty to offer. On peak no.3 there’s Tre’r Ceiri, meaning ‘Town of the Giants’, where stone ramparts encircle the remains of around 150 Iron Age huts. Follow one of the nooks between the peaks downhill and you’ll find the once long-abandoned village of Nant Gwrtheyrn, on which a curse was supposedly once placed making it destined for decay and ruin – but it’s now occupied by a heritage centre! As well as these discoveries, the Rivals offer sweeping views stretching south along Cardigan Bay and north to Anglesey and its Holyhead Mountain.
Worcestershire Beacon ,Malvern Hills (425m)
Seen from the motorway on long drives to bigger hills, Worcestershire Beacon and its sisters tempt the driver to ditch the satnav and take off through Great Malvern’s winding streets before heading steeply up on foot to crest the ridge. Parts of 19 historic counties of England and Wales can be seen from the summit, while paragliders and hungry crows provide entertainment while you eat your sandwiches. The snaking ridgeline of the Malvern Hills really should belong to a mountain range 10 times higher, but here in this corner of England, on a sunny day, a little piece of hillgoing paradise can be found for the price of half an hour’s effort.
Lomond Hills, Fife (522m/424m)
Visible from what seems like half the major summits in Scotland, these not-quite-twin lumps of volcanic dolerite joined by a long flat sedimentary escarpment are unmistakeable from a distance and even more so up close,
rearing up from the Howe of Fife like two great sphinxes. Wait for a bright calm winter’s day and choose short, steep East Lomond above Falkland with the secretive Den of Maspie hiding its treasures below, or take the long gentle stroll along the sphinx’s back to West Lomond, Fife’s highest point. Sit down and count the snow-capped summits, from Ben Ime to Lochnagar, Schiehallion to Broad Law, Beinn a’ Ghlo to Tinto.
Shutlingsloe, Peak District (506m)
Shutlingsloe, when viewed on an Ordnance Survey map, looks appealingly steep, with the tightly packed orangey-brown contours drawn around the trig point like Munch’s Scream. Approaching the 506m mount from the common starting point of Wildboarclough, you can understand its somewhat tongue-incheek description as the ‘Matterhorn of Cheshire’ – a spiky summit protruding out of otherwise rolling moors. The views from the summit are huge, with the county’s highest peak, Shining Tor, clearly visible, and on a clear day – apparently – the Clwydian hills of Wales and the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank. But perhaps it’s the Cat and Fiddle pub across the valley, the second highest pub in England, that offers a more achievable destination.
Roseberry Topping, North York Moors (320m)
Another ‘Matterhorn’, this one Yorkshire’s! Roseberry Topping rises as a shapely little cone from the surrounding moors, which are glorious in spring. A National Trust walk starts at Roseberry-under- Topping and makes a clockwise circuit taking in the 320m summit, which commands a 360º panorama of the moors. A stone path on the south side of the hill leads to the little building known as the folly before returning to the start through Newton Wood. Small but stunning
Sugar Loaf, Brecon Beacons (596m)
The Black Mountains area of the Brecon Beacons is mostly occupied by long, bog-topped and somewhat featureless blunt ridges – pinpointing the exact summit on the majority of them can be a challenging task. But then there’s the maverick Sugar Loaf. It couldn’t be more distinctive; an almost perfectly conical shape with a pointed peak that could take your eye out. From its summit you have a choice of landscapes to marvel at, with the lowland greenery to the southeast or the sandstone curves of the central Beacons in the west.
Pendle Hill, Lancashire (557m)
Pendle Hill is one of those great hulking lumps of rock that is imbued with much more character even than its dramatic topography suggests. It rises from the south-west, alone and proud out of the Forest of Bowland AONB, reaching the sharp eastern summit at 557m, before plummeting back through the glacial sediment and disappearing without trace in the Lancashire landscape. Yet it is the human history that defines this hill. The 1612 witch trials accused a dozen people living around Pendle Hill of murder by witchcraft . Ten were hanged. It’s also where George Fox, founder of the Quakers, had a vision. For most, it’s the vast visions over the Pennines that are the earthly reason for a visit.
Pared y Cefn-Hir, Snowdonia (383m)
This pocket rocket of a hill near Barmouth looks remarkably like a dorsal fin when viewed from the far side of the waters of Llynnau Cregennen. Its rocky slopes make for some easy and fun scrambling and it will take no time at all to reach its summit to take in the views over to Cadair Idris and the Rhinogydd mountains. The area makes up a Site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to the unique geology found here and there are remains of an Iron Age hillfort to seek out as well.
Mam Tor, Peak District (517m)
Of all the hills in the High Peak of Derbyshire, it’s Mam Tor that has the biggest gravitational pull. It forms part of a popular – rightly so – ridge walk that rises at Lose Hill in the east, and teeters across Hollins Cross to the high point of Mam Tor and onto Lord’s Seat, before the mass of gritstone curves north towards Kinder Scout. The rock Mam Tor is built from dates back 320 million years, but it is far from stable. The ‘Shivering Mountain’ has been beset by landslides for hundreds of years, destroying the road below its steep southern flanks again and again. But it’s the instability of Mam Tor, those landslides, that define its striking appearance.
Hay Stacks, Lake District (597m)
Hay Stacks is renowned as the fell where Alfred Wainwright said he wanted his ashes scattered (in the beautiful Innominate Tarn, near the 597m summit). The usual approach is from the foot of Buttermere, taking the rising path below High Crag to Scarth Gap and on to the top, with its superb views into the heart of the National Park. A pleasant circuit can be enjoyed by returning past Blackbeck Tarn and down to Warnscale Bottom.
Cat Bells, Lake District (451m)
We could blame Mrs Tiggywinkle or proximity to the fleshpots of Keswick for the enduring popularity of this much-loved (some say over-loved) fell, but could it be that the masses actually have some taste? The penultimate lump on the Newlands ridge, Cat Bells’ distinctive camel’s back profile cannot be ignored, and the ascent along the ridge is just rugged enough to be satisfying while short enough for a quick afternoon jaunt. The view’s not bad either: on a very clear and cold day, White Coomb is reputably just visible some 60 miles away to the north in the Southern Uplands, while the nearer neighbours of Lakeland’s Northern and Western fells make a fine backdrop for Derwent Water’s perfect prettiness.