When it comes to sheer size, the United Kingdom is on the smaller side of average as far as nations go. For context, eleven US states are larger than the UK, the nearest in size being Michigan. And yet, this small nation punches well above its own weight in geological and topographical diversity. In terms of mountains, it’s home to an impressive variety. Sure, there aren’t any 8,000ers to summit, but the UK’s highest mountains are marvels in their own right.
First, let’s introduce our host, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, better known as the UK. As the name suggests, it comprises Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And, for completeness, Great Britain – or just ‘Britain’ – is made up of England, Scotland and Wales. To confuse matters, there is also the British Isles, which includes Ireland.
There are many classification systems for mountains in Britain and the British Isles, but there does not seem to be one for the UK’s highest mountains as a whole. They are, however, all listed as part of the Marilyns, a list of mountains and hills in the British Isles with a prominence of 490 feet and over. We’ll be looking at the highest mountains in Britain and the UK by country, including the highest mountain in the UK.
The UK's Highest Mountains
When it comes to the highest peaks in the UK, Scotland is king. Not only is it home to the highest mountain in the UK, but also to the ten top highest mountains in Britain. Indeed, it’s the only country in the UK with mountains exceeding 4000 feet, of which it has nine. And which is the highest of them all? Why, Ben Nevis of course. Here they are listed by height:
- Ben Nevis – 4,411.1 feet
- Ben Macdui – 4,295 feet
- Braeriach – 4,252 feet
- Cairn Toul – 4,236 feet
- Sgòr an Lochain Uaine – 4,127 feet
- Cairn Gorm – 4,084 feet
- Aonach Beag – 4,049 feet
- Aonach Mòr – 4,004 feet
- Càrn Mòr Dearg – 4,003 feet
- Ben Lawers – 3,983 feet
Ben Nevis: The Tallest Mountain in the United Kingdom
Standing at 4,411 feet high, Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom. Home to a variety of wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, and ptarmigans, the area around the mountain also includes numerous archaeological sites, including cairns, stone circles, and Iron Age hillforts. It’s located in the Grampian Mountains in the Scottish Highlands and has been climbed by many notable figures including Sir Edmund Hillary and David Grey.
Despite its height, Ben Nevis is widely considered an easier mountain to climb than other high peaks in the region, with many routes leading to the summit. However, the weather on Ben Nevis can be very unpredictable, so climbers need to be prepared for all conditions.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and the highest peak in the UK outside the Scottish Highlands. Located in the Snowdonia National Park in the northwest of the country, it rises to 3,560 feet above sea level
Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, is the most popular mountain in the United Kingdom for hillwalkers, and the busiest mountain in Wales. It’s estimated that around half a million people walk to the summit each year. The 21-mile-long Snowdon Horseshoe path skirts the edges of 11 peaks including Snowdon itself. Other notable summits on this route include Garnedd Ugain (3,494 ft) and Crib Goch (3,028 ft).
Scafell Pike, England
All of England’s tallest mountains are located in the Lake District, including its tallest, Scafell Pike. Standing at 3,209 feet, Scafell Pike is the 137th tallest mountain in the United Kingdom and has a long and rich history. It’s been climbed by everyone from royalty to literary figures, and has been the scene of a number of famous events. The mountain is also steeped in legend, with stories of ghosts, giants, and buried treasure.
Scafell Pike is part of the Scafell massif, which also includes the peaks of Sca Fell and Ill Crag.
A popular destination for walkers and climbers, there are several routes to the summit, most of which are challenging. The mountain is also home to a number of wildlife species, including red deer, mountain hares, and peregrine falcons.
Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland
At an elevation of 2,796 feet, Slieve Donard is the tallest mountain in Northern Ireland. It’s also the 314th highest peak in the UK. Slieve Donard is part of the Mourne Mountains, which are a range of granite mountains located in County Down in the southeast of Northern Ireland. The mountain is named after Saint Donard, who was an early Christian missionary to Ireland.
The mountain is popular with hikers and climbers, and there are a number of routes to the summit. The most popular route is the Glen River Route, which follows the Glen River up to the base of the mountain.
Exploring the UK’s Highest Mountains
And so comes to an end our tour of the highest mountains in Britain and the UK. We’ve discovered the identity of the highest mountain in the UK as well as those of Wales, England and Northern Ireland.