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Could you take on one of the highest mountains?
Within the UK and Ireland, there are 5 peaks that are iconic, simply because they are the highest in their respective region, or country. To climb one is an adventure that will live with you as a fantastic day in the hills, where for just a few moments you’ll be the highest person in the land.
To climb several is often a goal for many walkers, from those who take part in challenges such as the ‘three peaks’, to those who do them over many years. A few more people go on to summit all 5! If you want to make this your goal then what do you need to know? Well, this is a start, a brief description of each peak; and if this gets you excited, then why not do them with us!
Being on a guided walk means you won’t have to worry about the navigation, you’ll meet a great group of people, and you’ll learn a lot about the local area from your leader!
Standing in the south-west of the Lake District, in Cumbria, Scafell Pike is just one summit of the great massif of the Scafells, a rugged mass of shattered rock. These ancient volcanic peaks are a hulk of crags, blunt ridges and grassy rolling slopes. Venturing up into this area, especially the infamous summit plateau, is to have a true insight into the ancient rocks that make up many of the British Hills. From the summit the whole of Lakeland is visible, with the Scottish hills poking up over the Solway Firth.
The most popular walking routes are from Wasdale, to the south-west of the summit, or from Seathwaite in the north, down Borrowdale. Wasdale is often chosen because it is the shortest, whereas Seathwaite gives the excellent option of traversing the corridor route, a great way up the mountain. It is also possible to walk from Eskdale and even Langdale, if you want a slightly longer day!
Probably the most popular mountain in Britain, with a quarter of a million people climbing it each year, Snowdon is famous even if you’ve never heard of any other peaks! Shaped like a great pyramid with ridges sweeping off on all sides, it has more route options than any other mountain on this list for the average walker. Standing in North Wales, and giving the name to the Snowdonia National Park, the Irish sea can be seen on both sides, and past the other giant peaks of Wales, the rolling hills of the south are all visible on a good day, stretching away to Cardigan Bay.
There are seven paths to the summit (eight if you include the scramble of Crib Goch) so we often choose which one looks best considering where the weather is coming from. They all offer inspiring journeys to the summit, past old mines and serene mountain lakes. You’ll also be able to wave at the people going past in the summit train!
The highest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis is no push-over. There’s only one path up unless you fancy the airy but brilliant scramble over the Carn Mor Dearg arete, and it starts from near sea-level. This ‘whale-backed’ peak is vast, with plunging slopes on all sides, and the highest mountain crags in the UK form the famous north face. The summit hosts the old ruins of the Victorian weather observatory, and the modern ‘pony path’ to the top is named after the animals they used to get themselves and their equipment up there.
As it lies in the western Highlands, near Fort William, views from the summit reveal the extent of Scotland’s mountains, with peaks as far as the eye can see, and to the west the shining waters of Loch Linnhe and the Atlantic. Despite the huge ascent and descent involved in a journey up and down Ben Nevis, there’s a lot to see, and the constant maintenance of the path makes many sections very easy walking.
The highest peak in Northern Ireland may be the lowest of the 5 summits but as it stands right next to the sea, it has a fantastic prominence and looks a lot higher than it is. From the summit you can see the waves crashing on the beach at Newcastle far below, and cast your eyes over rolling hills and fields. Standing in the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Donard has two ancient cairns on its summit, dating back thousands of years, as well as part of the 22 mile long Mourne Wall.
The main paths up the mountain, if you’re not approaching from another peak, are from the west, right above sea cliffs, or from the north. Both trails are relatively steady, with steep summit sections. There’s no exposure, and no big drops, meaning this is an excellent peak for those of us who don’t like edges. Simply seeing the difference between the remote Mourne Mountains on one side and the Irish Sea on the other is more than worth the journey.
The highest point of a long ridge of peaks in the south-west corner of Ireland, known as Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Carrauntoohil is a pyramidal peak gazing out over the Atlantic. This region of Ireland, the land around Kerry and the Iveragh Peninsula, is known for it’s rough and beautiful coastline, and even rougher mountains! Islands are dotted off the coast, and lakes sparkle between the slopes. Around the town of Killarney, where many walkers base themselves before tackling Carrauntoohil, is the Killarney National Park with its picturesque lake and castle.
There are a few routes up Carrauntoohil, but the famous ‘Devil’s Ladder’ route is quite steep and eroded. For a far more enjoyable experience walkers should put in some extra effort and head up via the summit of Caher, the neighboring peak. This brilliant ridge walk is wide and grassy, and gives incredible views of the main summit as you approach, giving it the look of an ancient volcano. The top of the peak has a large cross on the top, making it feel more like an Alpine peak. The view spans everything from coastal bays, to rough hills that slowly fade into the lowlands of the centre of the country.
If you want to visit any of these beautiful areas but don’t want to summit the highest peaks, we offer all sorts of sociable walking weekends for all abilities! Check out our events page to see what’s coming up!
Our Upcoming events - Lake District
Sunrise Experience – Scafell Pike, Lake District
Learn Navigation Weekend – Independent Mountain Walker
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