Winning tip: South Uist, Outer Hebrides
For anyone wishing to experience truly wild, but not too remote or challenging, mountain landscapes, the hills on the east side of Uist in the Outer Hebrides provide plenty of opportunity. On South Uist, Beinn Mhor (620 metres), Beinn Corradale (527 metres) and Hecla (606 metres) give great 360-degree views from Skye to St Kilda, and together form an excellent 16-mile ridge walk along which you will be unlikely to meet anyone. They also appear larger than they are, with their bases being at sea level. Staying overnight at the Uisinis bothy will just add to the feeling of adventure. Further north, the lower hills of Eaval and North and South Lee on the east coast of North Uist have equal views and feel similarly remote, and North Lee has a waymarked footpath for the more cautious.
• Walks on South Uist at visitouterhebrides.co.uk
Ben Lawers, Highlands
At 1,214 metres, Ben Lawers is the 10th-highest on the list of 282 Munros (peaks of over 3,000 feet). While many Munros have a formidable reputation Ben Lawers benefits from an excellent path for the most part and starts at the National Trust car park, already at 700 feet. The views from the summit itself are majestic but the base of this route is a real treat, passing through a national nature reserve abundant in alpine plants and native wildlife. Like all Munro walks, planning and preparation are paramount to enjoying the hills of Scotland.
Hare’s Gap, County Down
Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains will always be a special place for me and my friends from university in Belfast: it’s just unparalleled in being so close to the city and so rugged and beautiful. The best thing is how accessible the Mournes are to the everyday walker: most people head for the highest peaks in the range, Slieve Donard (853 metres) and Slieve Commedagh (765 metres), but the real gem is to park at the Ott or Trassey car parks and climb Hare’s Gap for stunning views of both the reservoirs inland and back towards the coast. This route also takes you up to follow the famous Mourne Wall, which spans 15 summits, and makes for an iconic picture even if you don’t. From Newcastle there’s a shuttle bus into the Mournes.
Dollywagon Pike and Helvellyn, Lake District
Grasmere, Fairfield and Helvellyn form a cornerstone of Lake District hiking but the route north-east out of Grasmere, round the back of Stone Arthur and up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Tarn takes walkers through landscape that goes from prehistoric jungle to lakes in a lunar-like landscape in no time at all. From Grisedale Tarn, walkers can head up to Dollywagon Pike (858 metres) and from there take Helvellyn (950 metres) by a ridge walk very different from the usual approach, or enjoy a scramble up to Fairfield Horseshoe and then down to the The Badger Inn at Rydal, for much-deserved refreshment.
Irton Fell, Lake District
The views around Wasdale in the Lake District are some of the finest in England but the popularity of the nearby hills (Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Pillar) means you have to get creative to avoid the crowds. Irton Fell (395 metres), at the south-eastern end of Wast Water, is less than half the height of the more famous peaks but provides a strenuous and rewarding day out, with a circular walk that takes you from wooded fields to blustery fell top to tranquil lakeside in a few hours. From Gosforth village on the A595, follow the signs to Nether Wasdale and the free walkers’ car park near the bridge over the River Irt. Refuel at the Strands Inn in Nether Wasdale (microbrewery attached), or stop for dinner at the Wild Olive Italian restaurant in Gosforth.
• See walklakes.co.uk
Carneddau range, Snowdonia
Avoid the queues up Snowdon by enjoying the views across to it from the nearby Carneddau range – that’s what we did on a sunny Easter Sunday. Catch the Snowdon Sherpa bus to Capel Curig or park in the signposted free car park by the A5/A4086 junction. Then take the bridleway by the chapel, passing the head of the Llyn Crafnant reservoir before ascending through the trees to the ridge above Llyn Cowlyd and the peak of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (799 metres). You’ll hardly see a soul as you follow this rocky ridge via Craig Wen (540 metres) and back down to Capel Curig.
• Version of this walk at mudandroutes.com
Picws Du, Brecon Beacons
On a pleasant day, southern Britain’s highest mountain, Pen-y-Fan, can be extremely busy, with queues for summit selfies. To avoid the crowds, and for an even more dramatic walk, head west (around 20 miles from Pen-y-Fan) to Picws Du (749 metres) and Fan Foel (781 metres). This majestic ridge arcs around two inky-blue lakes and offers stunning views in all directions, particularly east, back towards the heart of the Brecon Beacons. A route over the two main summits and back will take around six strenuous hours. The YHA Llanddeusant hostel is a half-hour walk away, and there is parking at the foot of the ascent.
• Similar walks at walkingclub.org.uk and mudandroutes.com
Yr Eifl, Llŷn peninsula, Gwynedd
About an hour’s drive from Snowdon, a much less well-known (and far less challenging) walk awaits you in Yr Eifl (446 metres), a hill on the north coast of the Llŷn peninsula. On your walk to the top, you will come across one of the most spectacular ancient monuments in Wales, Tre’r Ceiri, an iron-age hillfort with largely intact stone walls. Carry on up to the peak and you will witness absolutely stunning 360-degree views of coast and country. Take a picnic and a camera and spend the rest of the day taking in the historic surroundings with the most beautiful views.
Yeavering Bell, Cheviot Hills
When I was much younger I went one evening, with local relatives, up the twin-peaked hill of Yeavering Bell. At 361 metres it has one of the largest and highest iron-age forts in Britain. As we skipped past mountain goats on the way up, who either ignored us or whinnied in our direction, the summit seemed to move further away the more we climbed. But the view, every time I got up the courage to turn round, was glorious: hills and land and farms and fields, and buildings like doll’s house models as far as I could see. And I was the happiest girl alive when, as a family, with my uncle leading the way, we made it to the top, past the sacred stones, to stand, 1,185 feet up, surveying a little kingdom.
Shutlingsloe, Peak District
In Wildboarclough, just south of Macclesfield, Shutlingsloe hill (506 metres) is part of the Gritstone Trail, with enticing old stone-flagged footpaths and great views of the Cheshire plain and Peak District. The walk can be extended to include Gradbach (a beautiful valley), Lud’s Church (a small hidden gorge used as a secret place of worship), the Roaches (a long rocky escarpment), the Dane Valley Way (a stunning river walk), Three Shires Head (lovely paddling) and Wincle (with beautiful wooded valley). There are several pubs in the area, an ice-cream farm with cafe at Wildboarclough and Buxton (a charming spa town with famous spring water) is nearby. The peat moors are windswept, often boggy, and covered in cotton-grass.
For all of these routes, walkers should take supplies and equipment including compass, maps, food and suitable clothing in case of severe weather. They should also notify others of their plans
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