The Lake District National Park in Cumbria is home to England’s ten highest mountains.
These lofty peaks combine with stunning lakes, pretty Lakeland villages and great hospitality to make our area a wonderful base for walking and climbing holidays. Whether you are an experienced climber or a hill-walker looking for a challenge, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice in this special corner of the Lake District.
How many fells are there in the Lake District?
Alfred Wainwright described 214 fells (hills and mountains) in his seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells and many walkers aim to tackle them all! While it would be impossible to take on this challenge during your holiday, the illustrated guides still provide inspiration to walkers from around the world.
What are the highest mountains in the Lake District?
The ten highest mountains are not only the tallest in the Lake District, but the highest mountains in England too, which is what makes them so impressive. If you fancy a challenge, here are the top five to climb in 2020:
1. Scafell Pike
Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England. There are many well-trodden routes, some include grade 1 and 2 scrambles, others are just fine mountain walks which can be enjoyed at your own pace. Surrounded by peaks, the views on the climb are incredible, and you can include several summits in one outing. Start at Wasdale Head and you can visit the birthplace of British climbing at The Wasdale Head Inn – might be worth a stop after the climb!
- Start point: Wasdale Head, Southern Lake District
- Difficulty: Hard. This walk should not be underestimated, being tough and steep in some places.
- Ascent: 978m (3210ft)
- Estimated climb time: 5 hours
This is Scafell Pike's smaller neighbour or ‘child summit’ (with Mickledore in between) and is the second-highest mountain in England. It stands between Wasdale in the west and Upper Eskdale to the east, both of which can act as good starting points for this challenging climb. The top can be identified by a cairn, and the far-stretching views will make the steeper (and more difficult) sections feel worth it.
- Start point: Wastwater, Southern Lake District
- Difficulty: Moderate/hard
- Ascent: 964m (3162ft)
- Estimated climb time: 5 hours
This grade 1 scramble is enough to demand respect but is wide enough to be a manageable challenge for most. It is said to be the most famous of all the Lake District scrambles, being the third-highest mountain in England. The views at the top will simply take your breath away. The 7.5-mile route reaches the top of Helvellyn at 950m and descends by Swirral Edge, your second ridge of the day. Expect outstanding views and rugged landscape.
- Start point: Central to the Lake District National Park
- Difficulty: Moderate/hard
- Ascent: 950m (3114ft)
- Estimated climb time: 4 to 5 hours via Striding Edge
Visually the perfect mountain, with slopes covered in bracken, grass, heather and scree, Skiddaw has unrestricted views from its summit which are definitely worth the climb. There are a few different routes up to the summit of Skiddaw, but the most popular is by taking the Jenkin Hill Path. This path was established as a pony route for Victorian tourists and today still attracts thousands of people year on year to walk it!
- Start point: Keswick, Northern Lake District
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Ascent: 931m (3053ft)
- Estimated climb time: 6 to 7 hours
5. Great End
Great End is the most northerly mountain in the Scafell chain. From the south, it can simply look like a lump continuing this chain, but looking from the north, it appears as an immense mountain with an imposing north face. It is a really popular mountain for climbers and hill-walkers alike and is an adventurous climb even for the most experienced. If you want the extra challenge, you could include the ascent of Napes Needle!
- Start point: Seathwaite, Southern Lake District
- Difficulty: Hard
- Ascent: 910m (2986ft)
- Estimated climb time: Around 3 hours
If you are planning to take on these mountains, be prepared for everything!
No matter how experienced you are, you should always be cautious and prepared as, after all, nature’s weather is out with our control and no one likes to be caught off-guard. As well as comfortable walking boots, walking sticks and the obvious waterproof jacket, here are a few items to tick off the kit list…
- Map and compass / GPS
- Waterproof clothing
- Hats, gloves & Buffs
- First aid kit
- A hearty lunch and plenty of snacks – keep the protein levels high
- Plenty of water – a camel pack can be a great alternative to carrying a water bottle
- Sunglasses and sun cream
- Spare insulating layer
- Torch and whistle
- Mobile phone
Size isn’t everything…
There are hundreds of mountains to explore in the Lakes so we have listed a few more fell ranges here which can be filler days between your bigger climbs. Unless you are really hardcore, you might want a couple of slower ambles followed by a tasty lunch!
The Coniston Fells
On the lower slopes of this range, you will see evidence of the industrial past of the area - with quarries and old mine workings - but as you get higher, there are a wonderful selection of climbs taking from 2 hours to a more challenging 7 hours. Hills include Swirl How, Dow Crag, Grey Friar, Wetherlam, Black Sails and Great Intake.
The Langdale Pikes
This range dominates the skyline of the South Lakes and offers walkers easy access to some truly amazing scenery. The walk to Harrison Sickle via Dungeon Gill is a very popular route as you make your way up following the line of cascading waterfalls that lead up to Stickle Tarn – the perfect place for a picnic. The other side of the valley offers access to Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.
The Fairfield Group
The Lake District excels in ‘horseshoe’ walks where walkers can scale one of a series of peaks and traverse around the top of a valley. The Fairfield group of fells is one example of this and offer a great day’s walking above the village of Ambleside, taking 5 to 6 hours. There are also many shorter routes offering stunning views of Lake Windermere and the surrounding fells.
Our highlight hill – Catbells, Western Fells
No trip to the Lakes is complete without a quick blast up Catbells. This small peak, overlooking Derwent Water, provides stunning views of the northern Lakes and is a great introductory hill for beginners to sample their first small steps into mountain walking. Even for seasoned hillwalkers, it is a great little hill, oozing with character and with easy access from the A66 for when time is short.
- Start point: Hawes End
- Difficulty: Easy
- Ascent: 451m (0.45km)
- Estimated climb time: 30 to 40 minutes to the top!
Our short walks to great views also offer some brilliant easier walks with equally as rewarding views!
From all of these ranges, you will get the most amazing views and there is really no better way to check out an area than getting up high! After the walk up, you can enjoy the decline with the vision of a warming meal to re-fuel and a comfy sofa to relax on.
Where to stay?
Take a look at these Lake District cottages which are great bases for exploring these mountains during a holiday to the area.
- Chanctonbury, Outgate and Tarn Hows. Sleeps 2.
- Brae Cottage, Ambleside. Sleeps 2.
- North Cottage, Ambleside. Sleeps 2.
- Bobtail Cottage, Grizedale. Sleeps 4.
- Ben Fold, Outgate and Tarn Hows. Sleeps 6. 2 dogs welcome.
- Honeysuckle, Hawkshead. Sleeps 7. 3 dogs welcome.
- Greenbank, Hawkshead. Sleeps 12.
Further walking inspiration
The Lake District is the perfect destination not only for mountain climbers, but for anyone who enjoys walking and scenic landscapes. Check out our complete guide to walking in the Lake District for low-level walks and accessible walks alongside a few more challenging treks.
For more ideas on how to adventure in the Lakes, check out our guide on getting outdoors and active in the Lake District.