The UK's County Tops
Reaching the top of 91 historic counties
By Jonny Muir
Inspiring guide to 82 walking routes reaching the tops of the UK's 91 historic counties in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, from Inverness-shire's Ben Nevis (1344m) to Huntingdonshire's Boring Field (80m) visiting 10 national parks and the full range of UK countryside. OS maps, colour photography, many county facts.
Seasonssuitable for all seasons; experience of winter conditions is vital for the highest mountains in the Highlands, Pennines and Lake District during the December-April period; spring and autumn are ideal times to climb Ben Nevis, Helvellyn, Pen y Fan, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, which can be very busy in summer
Centresanywhere in the UK!
Difficultywalks to suit all abilities, from 30min strolls over easy ground to day-long expeditions across high land and wild country; difficulty ratings 0-5, distances and time estimates given for each walk; no specialist equipment required for any of the routes outside winter months
Must Seethe Cairngorms, Dartmoor, the Lake District and Northumberland; following Offa’s Dyke, the Pennine Way and the Ridgeway; visiting Leith Hill Tower, Cairnpapple Hill prehistoric site and Snowdon mountain railway; crossing the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and Striding Edge ridges.
Wherever you find yourself in the UK – among the Munros of Scotland, the fens of East Anglia, the rolling moors of the west-country or the suburban sprawl of of a big city, there‘s a county top on your doorstep waiting to be discovered.
Ranging from 80m Boring Field in Huntingdonshire to 1344m Ben Nevis in Inverness-shire, the 91 tops of the historic counties of the UK are a sundry collection of hills and mountains spanning the length and breadth of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some rank among the finest summits in the UK: Ben Lomond, Helvellyn, Pen y Fan, The Cheviot, Scafell Pike, Slieve Donard and Worcestershire Beacon. Others are less known, appearing in strange and wonderful places: A military firing zone in Yorkshire, the tundra plateau of the Cairngorms and a back garden in south-east London. Every county top has its own story, whether it is the mystery of the Grey Man of Macdui on Ben Macdui, the Mass Trespass of 1932 on Kinder Scout or the devastating wartime death toll on Shropshire’s Brown Clee Hill.
Author Jonny Muir was the first person to visit them all in one 5000-mile cycling and walking adventure, over a three-month period, and he shares his preferred routes, gradings and lots of incidental facts and figures for each one here.
The historic counties
Defining a county top
Using this guide
Safety in the hills
1 Cornwall – Brown Willy 420m
2 Devon – High Willhays 621m
3 Somerset – Dunkery Beacon 519m
4 Dorset – Lewesdon Hill 279m
5 Sussex – Black Down 280m
6 Surrey – Leith Hill 294m
7 Kent – Betsom’s Hill 251m
8 Middlesex – Bushey Heath 153m
9 Bedfordshire – Dunstable Downs 243m
10 Buckinghamshire – Haddington Hill 267m / Hertfordshire – Pavis Wood 244m
11 Berkshire – Walbury Hill 297m / Hampshire – Pilot Hill 286m
12 Oxfordshire – Bald Hill 257m
13 Wiltshire – Milk Hill 295m
14 Gloucestershire – Cleeve Common 330m
15 Herefordshire – Black Mountain 703m
16 Worcestershire – Worcestershire Beacon 425m
17 Warwickshire – Ebrington Hill 261m
18 Northamptonshire – Arbury Hill 225m
19 Shropshire – Brown Clee Hill 540m
20 Staffordshire – Cheeks Hill 520m
21 Leicestershire – Bardon Hill 278m
22 Derbyshire – Kinder Scout 636m
23 Nottinghamshire – Silverhill 205m
24 Rutland – Cold Overton Park 197m
25 Huntingdonshire – Boring Field 80m
26 Cambridgeshire – Great Chishill 146m / Essex – Chrishall Common 147m
27 Suffolk – Great Wood 128m
28 Norfolk – Beacon Hill 105m
29 Lincolnshire – Normanby Top 168m
30 Cheshire – Black Hill 582m
31 Lancashire – The Old Man of Coniston 803m
32 Durham – Burnhope Seat 746m
33 Yorkshire – Mickle Fell 788m
34 Cumberland – Scafell Pike 978m
35 Westmorland – Helvellyn 950m
36 Northumberland – The Cheviot 815m
37 Flintshire – Moel Famau 562m
38 Anglesey – Holyhead Mountain 220m
39 Caernarvonshire – Snowdon 1085m
40 Denbighshire – Cadair Berwyn 830m / Montgomeryshire – Moel Sych 827m
41 Merionethshire – Aran Fawddwy 907m
42 Cardiganshire – Plynlimon 752m
43 Pembrokeshire – Foel Cwmcerwyn 536m
44 Carmarthenshire – Fan Foel 781m
45 Glamorgan – Craig y Llyn 600m
46 Brecknockshire – Pen y Fan 886m
47 Monmouthshire – Chwarel y Fan 679m
48 Radnorshire – Great Rhos 660m
49 Roxburghshire – Hangingstone Hill 743m
50 East Lothian – Meikle Says Law 535m / Berwickshire – Meikle Says Law south shoulder 532m
51 West Lothian – Cairnpapple Hill 312m
52 Midlothian – Blackhope Scar 651m
53 Lanarkshire – Culter Fell 748m
54 Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire – Broad Law 840m
55 Dumfriesshire – White Coomb 821m
56 Ayrshire – Kirriereoch Hill shoulder 781m / Kirkcudbrightshire – Merrick 843m
57 Wigtownshire – Craigairie Fell 321m
58 Buteshire – Goatfell 874m
59 Renfrewshire – Hill of Stake 522m
60 Stirlingshire – Ben Lomond 974m
61 Dunbartonshire – Ben Vorlich 943m
62 Perthshire – Ben Lawers 1214m
63 Clackmannanshire – Ben Cleuch 721m
64 Kinross – Innerdouny Hill 497m
65 Fife – West Lomond 522m
66 Kincardineshire – Mount Battock 778m
67 Angus – Glas Maol 1068m
68 Aberdeenshire and Banffshire – Ben Macdui 1309m
69 Morayshire – Carn a’ Ghille Chearr 710m
70 Nairnshire – Carn Glas-choire 659m
71 Argyll – Bidean Nam Bian 1150m
72 Inverness-shire – Ben Nevis 1344m
73 Ross and Cromarty – Carn Eige 1183m
74 Sutherland – Ben More Assynt 998m
75 Caithness – Morven 706m
76 Orkney – Ward Hill 479m
77 Shetland – Ronas Hill 450m
78 County Down – Slieve Donard 853m
79 County Armagh – Slieve Gullion 576m
80 County Fermanagh – Cuilcagh 666m
81 County Londonderry and County Tyrone – Sawel Mountain 678m
82 County Antrim – Trostan 550m
Appendix 1 The UK’s historic county tops by height
Appendix 2 The present-day county tops of England, Wales and Scotland by height
At the beginning of each of the 82 route descriptions the following information is provided: height of the top (or tops) (in metres), location, where to start, map or maps required, difficulty and enjoyment ratings, distance (in kilometres and miles), ascent (in metres) and time required for the entire walk (see ‘Timing’ below). These information boxes are followed by a route description and a map indicating the start/finish point (except in the case of the longest routes which begin with a long walk in where the start/finish is off the map), the advised direction of travel and the location of the county top.
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You’ve bagged all the Wainwrights, completed all the Corbetts and marched up and down all the Scottish Munros.
What other walking challenge is there? How about visiting the UK’s 91 historic county tops. This book by Jonny Muir, who did it in a continuous 5000-mile cycling and walking adventure, is truly inspiring. It is packed with colourful photos, amps, route descriptions and interesting facts about people and places.
It is a book that will fuel your enthusiasm to broaden your walking horizons.
Westmorland Gazette, November 2011
An engrossing book to delight hill-baggers and list-tickers everywhere. Jonny Muir’s round-up of 91 county tops ranges from Ben Nevis in Inverness-shire to the lowly Boring Field in Huntingdonshire.
A there-and-back walking route to each ‘summit’ is described in words, photos and maps, charting the author’s three-month walking and cycling expedition to tackle them all.
Walk magazine, Winter 2011
The UK's County Tops, by Jonny Muir, describes 82 walks to reach the top of 91 historic counties. Pictures and useful maps show what's what, while ratings for enjoyment and difficulty might help you decide which to try. There's also information on where to park.
It's a bit quirky, with odd "Did you know?" information and a preference for metric distances, despite using the traditional pre- 1974 county boundaries. Overall a fun book that could give you ideas for days out, assuming you like climbing hills.
Teme Valley Times, December 2011
If you like a tick-list of challenges, here's one that will provide plenty of fun but is completely do-able (unlike most of the 'world's one million must-see sights' type books that usually emerge at Christmas). This guide features walks up to the highest point of each of the UK's historic counties. So it ranges from biggies like Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Helvellyn to the lowest, which is delightfully called Boring Field and stands at 80m above sea level in Huntingdonshire (part of modern-day Cambridgeshire). I'd have preferred the walks to be more than the quick up and down that most of these are, but you could take your own map and do longer versions of course.
A fun book that will provide plenty of Boxing Day trivia if you get it for someone as a present.
Adventure Travel, November 2011
This is one for the collector of hill tops, perhaps those who prefer a slightly easier challenge than the Munro’s, Corbett’s, Grahams, etc, though once you start visiting the county tops in Scotland you will find yourself confronted with a Munro or two.
Each walk starts at a convenient parking point. Information includes the OS map required, a difficulty rating, and distance, ascent and time figures. There is also information about the top, a route description and a ‘Did you Know?’ box with information about a famous native of the area and an interesting fact.
I was fascinated by the fact that the highest point in Huntingdonshire is called ‘Boring Field’. If collecting county tops is your forte then this book will certainly help you on your way.
Strider magazine, December 2011
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Jonny Muir first visited the UK's 91 historic county tops in a continuous 5000-mile cycling and walking adventure over a three-month period in 2006. His first book, Heights of Madness, published in 2009, is an account of that journey. A journalist for six years at newspapers in Cheltenham, Peterborough and Inverness, he now works as an English teacher in London.View Guidebooks by Jonny Muir