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Mountaineering & Expeditions

Highest Mountain in UK | Top 10

All of the highest mountains in the UK are in, you guessed it, Scotland

There’s no doubt about it, Scotland is the most mountainous country in the UK. Just take the nearest map sitting next to you and have a long hard look at Scotland. You’ve got the densely populated central belt of Glasgow, Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh, and above that things get remote and mountainous pretty quickly. For those who aren’t aware, this is what’s known as the Scottish Highlands – home to all of the highest mountains in the UK.

With a tiny population of 5.425 million (2.711 million less than that of London) and a staggering size of 30,918 square miles (London is a measly 607 square miles), you can soon tell that the majority of Scotland is going to be pretty wild.

“Ben Macdui is said to be haunted by the ‘Grey Man of Macdui’ – Am Fear Liath Mòr”

If we were to include any of the peaks from Scotland’s neighbouring countries in this article, then we’d have to go all the way down to number 76, where you’ll find Snowdon (1,085m – Wales), number 133 for Carrauntoohil (1,039m – Republic of Ireland) and number 247 for Scafell Pike (978m – England).

All of the mountains on this list are the tallest mountains in Scotland and of course, the highest Munros too. If you’re unaware, a Munro is a mountain in Scotland that’s at least 3,000ft, or 914m – there’s 277 of them in all.

Although Scotland is such a mountainous country, nine of the top peaks within this article are concentrated within two regions – Fort William and the Cairngorm National Park. The tenth highest peak, Ben Lawers, falls just south of the Cairngorm National Park and is therefore the highest mountain in the southern part of the Highlands.

As ever, the prominence of a mountain is a pretty contentious issue in these tallest mountain articles. This list is inclusive of peaks with a prominence of 100m and higher (just the same as in our ‘Highest Mountains in Ireland’ article). This has meant that peaks such as Carn na Criche (1.265m), Carn Derag (1,221m) and Cairn Lochain (1,216m) have all missed out.

1) Ben Nevis

Height: 1,345m
Location: Fort William
Scottish Gaelic name: Beinn Nibheis
Gaelic meaning: “Venomous mountain” or “mountain with its head in the clouds”

The highest mountain in the UK and probably the most famous mountain in the UK, for that  very reason. Ben Nevis has an estimated 160,000 ascents per year. This popularity however is largely concentrated on the tourist path, with around three quarters of summiteers choosing this route to the top of the UK.

Although the tourist path is the most popular, Ben Nevis holds some of the best climbing and mountaineering routes in the country on its steep and craggy north face. If you’ve got the right experience and skill level, then you’ll be able to find a route up that’s 100 times more exciting and dramatic than that of the ‘Punter’s Path’.

Once you’re at the summit of the Ben, you may be surprised to find ruins at the top. These are the remains of an old weather observatory, which was manned from the years 1883 to 1904. Interestingly, this summit is the highest ground for over 640 km before the Norwegian mountains are reached.

2) Ben Macdui

Height: 1,309m
Location: Cairngorms
Scottish Gaelic name: Beinn Mac Duibh
Gaelic meaning: Mountain of the son of Duff/MacDuff or Hill of the Black Pig (a reference to its shape)

Before proper mapping had been invented, it wasn’t clear for quite some time as to whether Ben Nevis or Ben Macdui was the highest mountain in the UK (much of the local Aviemore community believed that ‘their’ mountain was higher than neighbouring Ben Nevis). It’s of course undisputed now though, with Macdui long since confirmed as the second highest peak in the UK and highest peak in the Cairngorm National Park.

In old Scottish folklore, Ben Macdui is said to be haunted by the ‘Grey Man of Macdui’ – Am Fear Liath Mòr. The Grey Man of Macdui is said to be of ‘extremely tall stature, covered with short hair, or as an unseen presence that causes uneasy feelings in people’.

3) Braeriach


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Height: 1,296m
Location: Cairngorms
Scottish Gaelic name: Am Bràigh Riabhach
Gaelic meaning: Brindled greyish upper

Braeroach comes in at third on this list, but is still the highest point of the western side of the Cairngorms. Braeriach is known for hiding some of Britain’s only year-round snow patches, on one of its northern corries – Garbh Choire Mor. This snowpatch, named ‘The Sphinx’, has only melted six times in the last century – happening in the years 1933, 1959, 1996, 2003, 2006 and most notably when it ended an eleven year life in 2017.

4) Cairn Toul


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Height: 1,291m
Location: Cairngorms
Scottish Gaelic name: Càrn an t-Sabhail
Gaelic meaning: Hill of the barn

Just beyond from Braeriach within the Cairngorm National park, sits Cairn Toul. Although it technically shares the same ridge line as Braeriach, Cairn Toul is certainly a mountain in its own right, with a prominence just over 160m.

Because of the Cairngorm giants that sit in its way, Cairn Toul is a difficult peak to ascend in a day – frequently requiring either an overnight wild camp, or a fast and light ascent from the Cairngorm ski centre car park. When you do decide to go for Cairn Toul, you’ll be in a good position to take on many of the other Cairngorm 4000+ ft peaks that include; Cairn Gorm (1245m), Ben Macdui  (1309m), Cairn Toul (1291m), Sgor an Lochan Uaine (1258m) and Braeriach (1296m).

5) Sgòr an Lochain Uaine

Height: 1,258m
Location: Cairngorms
Scottish Gaelic name: Sgòr an Lochain Uaine
Gaelic meaning: Peak of the green lochan

Sister peak to Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (pronounced skorn lochan OOan) is another Munro in the Cairngorm National Park. When you take a look at an OS map of the Cairngorm National Park, you may see Sgòr an Lochain Uaine labeled as ‘The Angel’s Peak’. This isn’t, despite what you think, because the peak is so hard to pronounce. Angel’s Peak was the name given to Sgòr an Lochain Uaine in the 19th century, by the Cairngorm Mountaineering Club’s founding member Andrew Copland. He did it to oppose nearby Devil’s Point (1006m) located southwest of Sgòr an Lochain Uaine.

6) Cairn Gorm

Height: 1,245m
Location: Cairngorms
Scottish Gaelic name: An Càrn Gorm
Gaelic meaning: Blue or Green cairn

Although the hills round these parts were originally known as Am Monadh Ruadh (the Red Hills), they soon adopted the name of the sixth highest mountain in the UK – Cairn Gorm – to become the Cairngorm National Park. Cairn Gorm isn’t just the name given to the park it lies in though, it’s also home to one of Scotland’s five ski resorts.

Whilst it’s no Chamonix or Verbier, Cairngorm Mountain is a ski resort with 11 lifts; one funicular, nine button tows and a drag tow. During good snow years (becoming increasingly rare in Scotland these days unfortunately), Cairngorm Mountain can offer 32km of pistes for skiers and snowboarders, with much more off-piste available for those who are looking to escape the resort boundaries.

Aside from the ski resort, Cairn Gorm is a relatively uninteresting mountain compared to that of the peaks that surround it in the Cairngorm National Park. With a summit that is situated just 150m above the funicular station of the ski resort, you never feel too far from the loud and touristy feel that a railway up a mountain side will inevitably bring.

7) Aonach Beag

Height: 1,234m
Location: Fort William
Scottish Gaelic name: Aonach Beag
Gaelic meaning: Small ridge

Linked with number eight on the list of the UK’s highest mountains is Aonach Beag. A ridge joins together both Aonach Beag and Aonach Mòr. With the names ‘Beag’ meaning small and ‘Mòr’ meaning big, it’s a little confusing that Aonach Beag is the largest of the Aonachs (the names are in relation to the overall bulk of the mountains, not the height).

Whilst it’s possible to ascend Aonach Beag from different angles, many will find an approach from Aonach Mòr to be the easiest. Using the gondola gives you access high on Aonach Mòr, allowing you to tick off both Munros in a single trip with the aid of a lift. The mountain gondola found on Aonach Mòr inevitably means that Aonach Beag is the much less visited one.

Just like with Braeriach, Aonach Beag hides one of the UK’s only almost-permanent snow patches; one that only melts during the hottest of summers.

8) Aonach Mòr

Height: 1,221m
Location: Fort William
Scottish Gaelic name: Aonach Mòr
Gaelic meaning: Big ridge

The smaller of the Aonachs, Anonach Mòr lies 3km north east of Ben Nevis and is most notable for holding Nevis Range mountain resort with the UK’s only mountain gondola.

Skiing had been going on around Aonach Mòr years before the ski resort came to be, with locals hiking up and making use of the natural top bowls (perfect for collecting large amounts of snow) that the mountain hides. Nevis Range was first opened to the public in 1989 and has grown from strength to strength ever since – becoming known for having some of the most easily accessible freeride skiing anywhere in Scotland.

Nevis Range has also become a world renowned downhill mountain biking stop on the UHI Mountain Bike World Cup, with thousands of fans flocking up to Fort William to watch bikers hurtle themselves as fast as possible down the technical 2.6km long downhill track.

9) Càrn Mòr Dearg

Height: 1,220m
Location: Fort William
Scottish Gaelic name: Càrn Mòr Dearg
Gaelic meaning: Great red peak

Sandwiched in between Ben Nevis and the Aonachs is Càrn Mòr Dearg, meaning ‘great red peak’ in Scottish Gaelic. This name is due to the distinctively reddish hint to the granite that’s found towards the summit.

Linked up to Ben Nevis via a ridge named the Càrn Mòr Dearg arete, it’s this approach that offers one of the most stunning ways to reach the summit of the UK’s highest point both in summer and winter. A scramble in summer, where a good head for heights is required, and a more serious winter walk during the colder months mean that the ‘CMD arete’ is something to only have a go at once you’ve got some decent hillwalking experience under your belt.

10) Ben Lawers

Height: 1,214m
Location: Perth and Kinross
Scottish Gaelic name: Beinn Labhair
Gaelic meaning: Hill of the loud stream or hoof or claw mountain

The only mountain in this list of the highest mountains in the UK that isn’t located in either Fort William, or the Cairngorm National Park, Ben Lawers sits inside its very own Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve.

It had long been thought that Ben Lawers rose above 4000ft. However, once more accurate measurements had been developed in the late 19th century, they showed Ben Lawers was in fact 17 feet short of the magic 4000ft mark. To make up for this shortfall, in 1878 a group of twenty men spent a day building a cairn large enough to bring the mountain up to the 4000ft mark. However, the cairn was only six metres high and cartographers deemed it a man-made structure that couldn’t be deemed part of the hill.

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