|Hiking and Walking
in the British Isles (Britain and Ireland) for newcomers, both British
and other nationalities.
English Lake District
Scottish Highlands and Islands
|Although many areas in Britain are suitable for walking with a universal and extensive system of public footpaths (including long distance footpaths) and areas of open access land including much of the coastline there are three areas of mountains that stand out from the rest in interest to the hill walker. Other areas to look at include the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Peak District, Brecon Beacons, Exmoor and Dartmoor. For coastal walking consider the South West Peninsula and the Pembrokeshire coastal path. For an easy lowland walk the Thames path|
Lake District (Cumbria, England)
Characterised by easy to moderate ridge walking on usually well cairned (US ducks) paths. The most popular areas will be very busy in summer. The hills in the south of the area are rockier in nature particularly around Wasdale. Here you will find England's highest peak Scafell Pike, which with Helvellyn and Skiddaw, forms the three most popular summits. Striding Edge on Helvellyn attracts thousands of visitors each year to its narrow ridge scramble. All summits can be tackled as day walks and many circular walks can be devised. Accommodation is plentiful and roads penetrate into all areas.
The Lake district in photos
Wainwright's Guides the long established authoritative books for lakeland walkers
Somewhere special to eat out in the ELD: L'Enclume
Welsh speaking (bilingual with English) Snowdonia has at its centre Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa). Although a steam driven cog railway runs to the top in summer there are many fine routes to its summit. The finest of all being the Snowdon Horseshoe, ascending the mountain along a knife edge ridge of some difficulty for the average walker. Other Snowdon routes are without special difficulty. Other popular ranges are the Glyders (especially Tryfan) to the East of Snowdon, and further still to the East the Carneddeau.. Other hills are quiet and relatively unfrequented. The hills of Snowdonia are generally rockier and rougher than the Lake District, slightly higher, and as a consequence a little more difficult in the ascent.
Wilder landscape with sometimes long walk-ins to remoter mountains.Do not be deceived by low altitudes compared with mainland Europe. Less habitations than elsewhere. Wild camping often appropriate. Many hills are pathless and the excessive use of cairns (US ducks) to mark paths is discouraged. Be ready to navigate by map and compass alone on all but the more popular mountains.
By far the largest area of mountains in Britain, the highlands can be very roughly divided into four areas.
Mountainous right down to the deeply indented coast. Hill ranges divided by both fresh and salt water lochs.
High plateaux, most notably the Cairngorm range.
Wet low moorland with isolated, often impressive mountains.
Isle of Skye, Hebrides and Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland)
The Black Cuillin on Skye are probably in a class of their own in the British mountains requiring moderate rock climbing skills in many places. Being further North, summer days are very long. Winter days are of course correspondingly short, night falling as early as 16.00. In July-August biting midges can be a problem in calm, warm conditions near water at low altitude. Skye also offers opportunities for easier walks such as the Trotternish ridge and the Scottish islands are in general fascinating to explore.
Scottish highlands photos.
Scottish Islands photos
Guide books - Highlands
Guide books - Islands
Aonach Eagach the easy way
Terminology to get right. (some obvious, some not - even to Brits!)
Scots and scotch. The Scots or Scottish people inhabit part of "(Great) Britain" and the "United Kingdom (UK)", in a union with England, Wales & Northern Ireland.
"Scotch" refers only to whisky, beef, smoked salmon and mist.
Orkney and Shetland have "mainlands" and named islands, they are never referred to as "the Shetlands". That would be the same as saying "the Britains". You can say "the Shetland Isles" as you can say "the British Isles".
does not include Scotland or Wales.
Ireland is the east part of Ulster in the north of Ireland, its inclusion
in the UK is a vexed matter in Ireland, although power sharing arrangements
are currently in place and there is now (2004) no serious violence in Northern
Ireland. If the subject comes up in an Irish pub my advice is to listen
politely, or maybe ask questions, rather than voicing opinions which may
not reflect the full facts (or the local perception of them) until the
Keep to indicated footpaths through enclosed fields. Access to mountain ridges generally unrestricted in England and Wales. Sheep farming is usual economy in England and Wales but is replaced, in the Highlands, by deer and game birds kept for paying guests to hunt , along with forestry. This results in access restrictions during the hunting season. Some hills are however in the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland and can be accessed at any time.
stalking 1st July- 20th October. (often starts later)
information on stalking for walkers 1st August - 31st October
The Irish hills do not follow the general pattern of Britain, where higher peaks are found as you go north. By contrast Ireland's highest hill is in the far south in Kerry, Carrauntuohill, part of MacGillycuddys Reeks, along with the second highest Brandon Mountain.
All British weather is very changeable, the mountain areas more so (parts of Scandanavia and southern South America such as Iceland and Patagonia are the only places in the world where the weather can compete with the UK for unpredictability).The UK does not however suffer from any extreme weather. Walkers must always be equipped for rain (60 inches precipitation per annum or more) and wind. South and West winds bring mild maritime conditions with rain. North and east winds bring colder drier conditions.
Snow is most likely between October and May, when ice axe and crampons may be needed, but cannot be relied on to be present at any time. Equally on the highest summits small amounts may fall in any month of the year. Eastern hills always hold more snow than Westerly, this being particularly noticeable in Scotland where coastal hills such as the Cuillin are unreliable for snow. Altitude obviously also plays its part, the higher hills holding more snow. Winter storms on the Cairngorm plateau are notorious for their ferocity, complicated by the topography and short days.
Ordnance Survey and other maps (Harveys) are easily available at booksellers and specialist shops and are of good quality.
Most walkers use 1:25000 ("2 inches to mile", yellow cover) in the Lake District and Snowdonia and 1:50000 ("1 inch to mile", red cover) in Scotland.
Note that on the 1:25000 series legal "rights of way" are marked by green dashes, while actual paths on the ground are marked by small black dashes.
Harvey's are specialist walkers maps and substitute detail more useful to walkers for some general information.