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.



suitable 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


anywhere in the UK!


walks 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 See

Must See

the 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.
13 Sep 2011
21.0 x 14.8 x 1.4cm
  • Overview

    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.

  • Contents

    Overview map   


    The historic counties    
    Defining a county top    
    Using this guide    
    Getting there    
    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

  • Maps

    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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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews

    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

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