Every year thousands of our readers vote for the people, places, products and businesses that made their outdoor lives better. Here are the winners in 2019.
A memorable night out at a classic hill country pub; a book that you just couldn’t put down; a person who motivated you to get out there; a campaigner who blindsided you with their selflessness or inspired you with their vision.
What makes The Great Outdoors Reader Awards different – and gives extra kudos to the winners – is that it’s you, our readers, who decide the results. This year we received hundreds of nominations and thousands of votes across 13 categories. From tireless environmental campaigners and talented authors to stellar small businesses and gear brands, the nominees represented some of the most inspirational personalities, organisations and businesses in the outdoors world.
This year’s winners have all seen off stiff competition to triumph in their categories, but each nominee is an outdoor success story. Congratulations to everybody who received an award – and thank you for taking the time to vote for them.
There are two parts to The Great Outdoors Awards. This article celebrates the Reader Awards, which are nominated and voted by our readers and the outdoor public at large across 13 categories.
The corresponding part, the Gear of the Year Awards, reward the best and most innovative items of outdoor gear released that year in seven categories and are selected by expert judges. Discover the winners of the 2019 Gear of the Year Awards here.
GOLD: The Clachaig, Glen Coe
It’s no surprise that the Clachaig’s famous Glen Coe location featured prominently in voters’ comments, but the friendly atmosphere also came in for praise. “Accommodates stag dos, serious mountaineers and families – and everyone has a great time.”
SILVER: The Bear, Crickhowell
“Warm and friendly, a perfect mix of locals and visitors,” said one approving reader. “A great place to stay if you are in need of accommodation and also the most wonderful place to eat.”
BRONZE: Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale, Great Langdale
Hailed by our readers as “a real walkers’ pub”, this Lakeland institution combines its unbeatable location with great grub and a warm welcome for even the muddiest of returning adventurers.
Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater
Sticklebarn, Great Langdale
Tan Hill Inn, North Yorkshire
The Malvern Hills Hotel, Malvern
The Wainwright, Keswick
The Warren House Inn, Dartmoor
Wasdale Head Inn, Wasdale
GOLD: Moel Siabod Café, Capel Curig
Located within a stone’s throw of the Snowdon massif, the Glyderau and the Carneddau, ‘the Siabod’ is part eatery and part general outdoorsy hub. The hill-savvy staff are as happy to advise on route planning as they are on which cake to pick. “Scones the size of babies heads,” said one descriptively.
SILVER: The Mountain Café, Aviemore
“Best food on the planet” raved one voter about the Mountain Café, which has grown a stellar reputation on head chef Kirsten Gilmour’s amazing home cooking. Our readers loved the cakes, the atmosphere, the coffee, and the “original” menu.
BRONZE: Real Food Café, Tyndrum
A roadside diner with a difference next to the A82 between Glasgow and Fort William. “The staff are first class, the hot food is superb and you have a great choice,” said one of our readers.
Apple Pie, Ambleside
Chesters by the River, Ambleside
Dragonfly Café, Tavistock
Grindleford Station Café, Peak District
Helvellyn Country Kitchen, Glenridding
Little Chamonix Café, Keswick
GOLD: YHA Pen y Pass, Snowdonia
Perched right below the Snowdonia massif with instant access to the Pyg and Miners tracks and Crib Goch, this hostel’s location is hard to beat. “Gorgeous hostel, always super clean and wonderful location” said one reader.
SILVER: Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel, North West Highlands
The location of this pint-sized but perfect hostel couldn’t be more stunning, overlooking what one reader described “the best beach this side of Heaven” with the iconic hills of Assynt nearby.
BRONZE: Skiddaw House, Lake District
One of Britain's most remote accommodation providers, with no car access, no other building in site and the nearest road 3.5 miles away. One reader praised the friendly team who “can’t do enough for us when we visit.”
Elterwater Hostel, Lake District
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, Central Highlands
Saddle Mountain Hostel, Invergarry
YHA Borrowdale Hostel, Lake District
YHA Coniston Holly How, Lake District
YHA Kettlewell Hostel, Yorkshire Dales
Yr Hen Felin, Pwllheli
GOLD: Great Langdale Campsite, Lake District
Sitting in the shadow Langdale’s iconic peaks, this National Trust campsite manages to marry its spectacular location with creature comforts. “Brilliant staff, flat camping spots and a short walk to some of the best crags and hills in Britain,” said one of our readers.
SILVER: Glenbrittle Campsite and Café, Skye
Sandwiched between the Cuillin mountains and the vast, sandy expanse of Loch Brittle beach, Glenbrittle’s famous campsite is a great base for exploring Skye.
BRONZE: Shieldaig Camping and Cabins, North West Highlands
This newly-established campsite overlooking Shieldaig Island is already making a grand impression in the outdoor community. “Great campsite, stunning views in a friendly community run by cracking folk,” said a reader.
Castlerigg Hall Campsite, Keswick
Garth Farm, Capel Curig
North Lees Campsite, Derbyshire
Outdoor Alternative, Anglesey
Pine Trees Caravan and Camping, Tyndrum
Squirrel Wood Campsite and Lodges, Ickornshaw, Yorkshire Dales
The Quiet Site, Watermillock, Ullswater
GOLD: OS Maps
The longstanding popularity of Ordnance Survey maps has endured into the digital age, with the OS Maps app winning glowing praise from our readers. “I am not good with technology,” admitted one voter, “but I can use this and it’s great if I need to check my exact location.”
A favourite of TGO’s gear reviewers, the ViewRanger app netted its second silver in a row this year. “I use it every day,” said one reader. “It does just what I need with no fuss.”
This simple-to-use activity tracker allows you to measure your performance, pit yourself against other app users and share photos from your adventures with friends. It’s mainly geared towards runners and cyclists, although it can be also used to track walks.
Mountain Weather UK
Campaigner of the Year
GOLD: Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg has done more to inspire climate protest than any other campaigner in history, and her cause has clearly resonated with many hikers, hill walkers and outdoor enthusiasts. “The climate does not need any more awards,” she has said of other plaudits. “What we need is for our politicians and the people in power to start listening to the current, best available science.”
SILVER: Chris Packham
Winner of last year’s Campaigner award, Chris Packham has continued to champion environmental causes throughout 2019. He’s braved death threats and constant online trolling to speak out against driven grouse shooting, the depletion of wildlife in the UK and the controversial HS2 project.
BRONZE: Kate Ashbrook
Described by one voter as “inspirational in her constant drive to keep footpaths open,” Kate is one of the outdoor world’s most dedicated campaigners.
BMC Mend Our Mountains
Friends of the Lake District
John Muir Trust
Save Glen Etive
Personality of the Year
GOLD: Sarah Jane Douglas
In 2017, Munroist and mother-of-two Sarah Jane Douglas received a breast cancer diagnosis. The story of how she turned to the mountains to cope with both tragedies, shared through her blog Smashing Cancer in the Face and debut novel Just Another Mountain, has inspired many outdoor enthusiasts.
SILVER: Jasmin Paris
Smashing the 268-mile Spine Race time record is a mega achievement in itself. Doing it while pausing to express breast milk at the checkpoints is almost beyond belief. “A phenomenal athlete who keeps me as a runner incredibly inspired and motivated,” said one of our readers.
BRONZE: Chris Townsend
Long-time contributor to The Great Outdoors, long-distance walker, prolific author and gear reviewer extraordinaire, Chris was praised by our readers for his writing, campaigning and being, quite simply, “a legend”.
Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja
Book of the Year
GOLD: Mountain Man by James Forrest
Not content with completing the Nuttalls in record-breaking time, walking over 1,000 miles and ascending five times the height of Everest in the process, James Forrest has written an award-winning book about his experiences. One reader commented that it ”helps you not only with setting yourself outdoor challenges but with everyday life.”
SILVER: Just Another Mountain by Sarah Jane Douglas
Just Another Mountain is an account of how Sarah turned to walking to cope with the loss of her mother and, later, her own breast cancer diagnosis. “Inspirational” was how many readers described Sarah Jane Douglas’s emotional roller coaster of a memoir, which describes her forays into the mountains so vividly that “you can almost feel the cold air on your face.”
BRONZE : Underland by Robert MacFarlane
He explored the history and scenic richness of Britain’s countryside in The Old Ways – now Robert MacFarlane is applying his lyrical, perception-shifting style to the world beneath our feet. His exploration of subterranean landscapes in Underland was described by our readers as “brilliant”, “ahead of the game” and “poetic”.
Along the Divide, Chris Townsend
Another Peak, Alex Staniforth
Bird Therapy, Joe Harkness
Extreme Scotland, Nadir Khan
Father, Son and Return to the Pennine Way, Mark Richards
Fifty Years of Adventure, Kev Reynolds and others
My Midsummer Morning, Alastair Humphreys
Best Independent Retailer
GOLD: Taunton Leisure
Started by the Clark family over 40 years ago, Taunton Leisure now has three stores dotted across the South West. It aims to supply the widest possible range of outdoor gear at bargain prices. A reader praised the “excellent product range combined with great service at a good price.”
SILVER: Outside, Hathersage
This friendly Peak District store is currently being run by the second generation of the same family. One of our readers said: “Steeped in outdoor history with plenty of knowledgeable staff and a great range of gear – plus a café too!”
BRONZE: Crickhowell Adventure, Crickhowell
Praised by one voter for their “great customer service and knowledgeable staff who always give excellent advice,” this Brecon Beacons-based outdoor store has been catering for walkers, cyclists and runners since 1977.
Braemar Mountain Sports
Cunningham’s Outdoors, Ambleside
Keswick Boot Company, Lake District
Needle Sports, Keswick
The Brokedown Palace, Shoreditch, London
The Outdoor Depot, Church Stretton
Whalley Warm and Dry, Clitheroe
Best Chain Retailer
GOLD: Cotswold Outdoor
With over 70 stores across the UK, an impressive range of stock and consistent discounts on offer, it’s no surprise that Cotswold Outdoor tops this category yet again. The highest praise, however, was reserved for Cotswold’s staff: “Really good staff who are ready to advise when stuck for the ideal product,” was one typical comment.
SILVER: Go Outdoors
It’s the second silver in a row for Go Outdoors in our Chain Retailer of the Year Award, with readers once again praising the outlet for its reasonable prices and large range. One reader said: “Just park up and in you go to see an impressive range of gear which includes budget lines to high-end stuff. Amazing.”
BRONZE: Tiso/ George Fisher
A consistently popular choice in The Great Outdoor Awards, Tiso – along with its sister store George Fisher – won praise this year for its top customer service, wide range of well-priced products and events schedule. “All the staff are very friendly and helpful and have a lot of knowledge about the products they sell,” said one reader.
Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports
Best Online Retailer
Alpkit’s philosophy of providing quality, functional outdoor gear at decent prices has netted the retailer yet another gold in this category. Accolades from readers focused on the bargains available at Alpkit.com, but it wasn’t just the price that was right. “They develop products rather than wait for them to arrive. The customer service is faultless.”
It was a stellar year for Ordnance Survey, which won awards for both its mapping app and online store. Selling everything from head torches and binoculars to GPS devices and, of course, maps, the OS Shop is an invaluable resource for many of our readers.
This Cornwall-based online map superstore uses bulk purchasing power to offer outdoor products at discounted prices. It’s proved popular with our readers this year, with praise focusing on its “excellent customer service”, “great prices” and “straightforward ordering.”
Winner of this category now for several years in a row, Rab is a consistent favourite among readers of The Great Outdoors. One reader praised Rab equipment for being “extremely high quality, extremely well designed and made, with a wide range of products to suit all needs."
SILVER: Mountain Equipment
It was the reliability of Mountain Equipment’s “tough” kit that catapulted the brand into silver position this year. Voters also mentioned the fit and quality of Mountain Equipment’s women’s range, with the “brilliant women’s trousers” attracting particular praise.
Rarely out of the ribbons in The Great Outdoors Awards, Berghaus once again made it into the top three this year. “Berghaus equipment always seems to be well designed and lasts the course,” said one voter.
The Extra Mile Award
GOLD: Edale Mountain Rescue Team
Sacrificing their time – and often compromising their own safety – to help walkers and hill goers in dire straits, mountain rescue teams are the outdoor community’s backbone. Edale Mountain Rescue is one of the busiest teams in the country, attending over 120 incidents in 2018 alone. “You never know when you might need these guys,” said a reader. “They attend at the drop of a hat, in all weathers and to all situations.”
SILVER: Sarah Jane Douglas
Scooping three awards across three different categories is a huge achievement, but Sarah Jane Douglas has proved herself to be an inspirational figure for many readers of The Great Outdoors. She netted silver in the Extra Mile category for raising thousands of pounds in aid of Marie Curie.
BRONZE: Nirmal Purja
He recently summited the world’s 14 tallest mountains in a record six months and six days – but it was Nirmal’s compassion that netted him a bronze in the Extra Mile Award; he and his team at Project Possible halted their record-breaking attempts to make multiple life-saving rescue attempts.
Alexander ‘Sandy’ Maxwell, John Muir Trust
Corwen Walking Festival Team
Greg and Helen Barclay, Saddle Mountain Hostel
Liz Redmayne of Crag Farm, Ennerdale