More Details More Details

Our list of the UK’s very best hills, from the obscure to the well-known and dramatic: here is our list of Britain’s 40 Finest Mountains

Welcome to our special 40th birthday supplement, first published in the Spring 2018 issue of The Great Outdoors, celebrating our choice of the Finest 40 mountains in Britain. Ranging from Pen-y-Fan to Liathach and from Sgurr nan Gillean to Kinder Scout, these superb hills are all worthy of the accolade of ‘Finest 40’.

Of course any such list is highly subjective and we could easily produce another supplement next month with ’40 hills that didn’t quite make it’. So how did we make our choice? We consulted widely, getting the views of distinguished mountain cognoscenti, outdoor centres and a range of TGO contributors and eventually reached a consensus.

To avoid controversy over which is the ‘best’ mountain in Britain we have grouped our Finest 40 by countries, starting with England, moving on to Wales and ending in Scotland. We have separate coverage of the hills of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and of mountain groups. And we’ve recognised the merits of our many beautiful smaller mountains by giving them a page of their own.

We don’t expect you to agree with all of our choices and that of course is part of the fun. Please get in touch with us to point out (in your view!) unforgivable omissions and also those you deem not worthy of inclusion.

Roger Smith, Guest Editor

Header image: Ben Nevis, © Dougie Cunninham, leadinglines.net

The judging panel

The following experts were all involved in compiling our list of the Finest 40.

  • Roger Butler, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Vivienne Crow, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Carey Davies, outdoor writer and Hillwalking Officer at the BMC
  • Carlo Forte, Chief Instructor, Plas y Brenin
  • John Gillham, outdoor writer and photographer
  • David Lintern, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Ali Ogden, coordinator of The Great Outdoors Challenge
  • Sue Oxley, coordinator of The Great Outdoors Challenge
  • Jim Perrin, outdoor writer and The Great Outdoorscolumnist
  • Alex Roddie, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Emily Rodway, Editor of The Great Outdoors
  • Alan Rowan, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Roger Smith, outdoor writer and The Great Outdoorsfounding editor
  • Chris Townsend, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Ronald Turnbull, outdoor writer and photographer
  • Will Renwick, outdoor writer and photographer

The lists

England

  • Blencathra – “It makes you smile whatever the season; to me it has somehow always seemed among the friendliest of Lakeland fells.” – Roger Smith
  • Helvellyn – “Hiking the apex of the range, from Dollywaggon Pike up to Clough Head, is one of the best and longest stretches of sustained high-level walking in the Lakes.” – Vivienne Crow
  • Great Gable – “Never mind Nevis. Don’t be bothered with Bidean. The 899m summit above Wasdale Head is the mountain that matters.” – Ronald Turnbull
  • Bow Fell – “To regular fellwalkers, the pyramid-like top of Bow Fell is a familiar feature on the Lakeland skyline, a central beacon enabling orientation.” – Vivienne Crow

Bow Fell © Vivienne Crow, viviennecrow.co.uk

  • Pillar – “It’s that mighty north face that makes Pillar into one of the must-have mountains.” – Ronald Turnbull
  • Sca Fell – “So what if Scafell Pike is slightly higher up? Let’s ignore feet and metres.” – Ronald Turnbull
  • Ingleborough– “This is England’s north at its most captivating, and like water flowing under the surface of a limestone landscape, it will get under your skin.” – Carey Davies
  • Kinder Scout  – “Kinder Scout holds a place in the popular imagination for the mass trespass held here in 1932, a near-mythological event in the fight for access.” – Ed Douglas

Wales

  • Pen y Fan – “Winter is a fantastic time to climb Pen y Fan, especially when snow has fallen, but it’s just as remarkable in summer when the moorland grasses have turned a luscious green.” – Will Renwick
  • Cadair Idris – “Here’s a hill that makes an impression out of all proportion to its height.” – Jim Perrin
  • Cnicht – “Cnicht is as shapely a hill as you’ll find, like a child’s drawing of a mountain.” – Jim Perrin
  • Snowdon – “The beauty of Snowdon is that it’s a complex mountain massif that, even at the busiest times, always has something quiet to offer.” – Jim Perrin

Snowdon © Dan Struthers, danstruthersphotography.co.uk

  • Glyder Fach – “Lower by a handful of metres than its pedestrian neighbour Glyder Fawr, but in character and historical interest it towers over the latter.” – Jim Perrin
  • Moel Siabod – “From here at sunset the Snowdonia hills are a sumptuous, glowing panorama. Unmissable!” – Jim Perrin
  • Tryfan – “This is one of the prime hills of Britain, wonderfully characterful, rising in the space of half a mile from the shores of Llyn Ogwen to its 3,010ft (917m) summit.” – Jim Perrin

Tryfan © Dan Struthers, danstruthersphotography.co.uk

Scotland

  • Goatfell – “Arran is often described as Scotland in miniature, and Goatfell is its crowning glory.” – Alan Rowan
  • Ben More – “Ben More dominates the landscape on Mull. On a clear day the views from the summit sweep over Staffa, Ulva and Iona but this is a mountain which is equally spectacular in darker weather.” – Alan Rowan
  • The Cobbler – “One of the most enjoyable hills in the whole of Scotland.” – Ronald Turnbull
  • Ben Lui – “Its shapely form, with the superb north-eastern corrie, Coire Gaothaich, flanked by steep ribs of rock, would stir the heart of anyone with a feeling for great landscapes.” – Roger Smith
  • Ben Cruachan – “Without a doubt one of the Southern Highlands’ finest, most rugged Munros.” – David Lintern
  • Buachaille Etive Mor – “Though it’s probably the most photographed mountain in Scotland, the Buachaille nevertheless retains its power to impress.” – Emily Rodway
  • Bidean nam Bian – “There’s plenty of adventure to be found among the buttresses, corries and lochans of this giant of Argyll.” – Emily Rodway
  • Ben Nevis – “For many people who struggle up the path from Achintee, it’s enough to say they’ve done it, but there is much more to ‘the Ben’ than that.” – Roger Smith
  • Sgurr na Ciche – “The long rollercoaster ridge along Garbh Chioch Mhor provides repeated teasing glimpses of this peak across Coire nan Gall, one of the roughest corries on the mainland.” – Alan Rowan
  • Ladhar Bheinn – “One of the most graceful of Scotland’s mountains, Ladhar Bheinn also has the distinction of being the furthest west on the mainland.” – Roger Smith
  • Bla Bheinn – Every route taken brings its own delights.” – Alan Rowan
  • Sgurr nan Gillean – It’s a mountaineer’s mountain and for most a hard-fought summit to reach. Those who manage to conquer their anxieties will revel in their surroundings and their achievement.” – Alan Rowan
  • Liathach – “Under snow Liathach looks truly alpine, a tremendous white mountain soaring into the sky. There is no walking in these conditions, just mountaineering.” – Chris Townsend
  • Beinn Eighe – “A visit to this magnificent mountain cannot fail to inspire and uplift your soul.” – Roger Smith

Beinn Eighe © Dougie Cunningham, leadinglines.net

  • An Teallach – “The view from Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill is a waking dream of ocean, islands and mountains; not just Scotland at its best, but the whole blue world.” – Carey Davies
  • Stac Pollaidh – “Weird, weathered and wonderful, Stac Pollaidh is a genuine one-off.” – Alan Rowan
  • Quinag – “The distinctive outline of Quinag, with its three tops, is well seen from the A894 road between Loch Assynt and Kylesku.” – Roger Smith
  • Suilven – “Suilven provokes language, but effortlessly defeats it. The wise know words are nowhere near enough.” – Carey Davies

Suilven © Dougie Cunningham, leadinglines.net

  • Foinaven – “Foinaven feels as though it belongs to a different time and place – a place more fitting for the machinations of wizards, witches and dragons, a lost world.” – Alan Rowan
  • Ben Loyal – “More a mountain range in miniature, a series of peaks linked to form the shapeliest of profiles.” – Alan Rowan
  • Braeriach – “At 1,296m with long, long walk-ins from all directions, Braeriach is indeed a ‘gruelling’ sort of hill.” – Ronald Turnbull
  • Lochnagar – “Lochnagar has a fine hill lochan called (surprise!) Loch Nagar, serious climbing on its cliffs, and a great scrambly route, the Stuic, first climbed by Byron himself.” – Ronald Turnbull
  • Ben Macdui – “The views from Ben Macdui are spectacular and wide-ranging.” – Chris Townsend
  • Creag Meagaidh – “The lower corrie is full of trees, a regenerating forest that is wonderful to see, part of a long-term project run by Scottish Natural Heritage which started over 20 years ago.” – Chris Townsend
  • Schiehallion – “Schiehallion is another mountain that fits comfortably in the box labelled ‘iconic’, not least because of its distinctive conical profile and the fact that it is visible from such a wide area.” – Roger Smith

Ireland

  • Carrauntoohil – “This iconic summit can be approached via several gully and ridge routes.”
  • Brandon Mountain – “Brandon Mountain forms part of a spectacular ridge in the Dingle Mountains of County Kerry.”

Brandon Mountain © Karsten_1 / Shutterstock

  • Galtymore Mountain – “The summit is marked by a stone cairn and offers extensive views over Ireland’s southern counties.”
  • Slieve Donard – “The highest peak in Northern Ireland and in the province of Ulster, Slieve Donard stands tall above the seaside town of Newcastle in County Down.”
  • Mweelrea – “Most approach routes to the summit are only suitable for experienced hillwalkers.”
  • Knockmealdown – “The summit offers extensive views over Ireland’s southern counties and towards the Celtic Sea.”
  • Croagh Patrick – “If you happen to visit Croagh Patrick on ‘Reek Sunday’ in July, expect to encounter thousands of pilgrims paying homage to Ireland’s patron saint.”
  • Errigal Mountain – “One of Ireland’s most recognisable peaks, Errigal Mountain dominates the landscape of northern County Donegal.”
  • Benbaun – “Benbaun offers one of the best upland viewpoints in Ireland.”
  • Slieve League – “One of the most dramatic sights to see along the Wild Atlantic Way.”

Smaller hills

Scotland:

  • Ben A’an
  • Bennachie
  • Ben Hiant
  • Beinn Lora
  • Creag Dubh
  • Beinn Mhor (South Uist)

England:

  • Haystacks
  • Catbells

Catbells © Daniel_Kay / Shutterstock

  • Yewbarrow
  • Roseberry Topping

Wales:

  • Yr Eifl
  • Sugar Loaf

Isle of Man:

  • Snaefell