The best scrambles in the UK
Our guide to some of the best spots for views and a touch of climbing in the UK.
From walks where you need a head for heights to serious undertakings where you really should be roped up, the mountains of the UK offer a wide range of stunning scrambles. There are loads of hidden gems and relative obscurities, but if you’re looking for hints, the big name classics are classic for a reason!
In no particular order, here are some major highlights:
Tryfan North Ridge, Snowdonia
Tryfan, a glorious looking, ridge-backed dinosaur of a mountain rises - absurdly conveniently – almost directly out of a layby at the side of the A5. It’s apparently impossible to avoid scrambling on Tryfan: it’s said to be the only mountain in Wales whose summit cannot be reached without putting hand to rock.
Once you’re past the iconic Cannon Rock (you’ll see why it’s called that when you inevitably stop to clamber on it), you’ll soon be on your way up to the boulder-strewn upper reaches of the North Ridge, with a massive smile on your face as you scramble for the summit. More iconic rocks greet you: Adam & Eve, two monoliths which crown the peak, stand about four feet apart. The tradition is to leap between them to be awarded the “Freedom of Tryfan". We’ll leave that up to you.
Snowdon Horseshoe, Snowdonia
Snowdon sometimes gets a bit of a bad press. It’s the tallest mountain in Wales, it’s popular with tourists (it’s the one with a train that runs up it), so people like to say it’s boring and should be avoided. Well, maybe some of the easier walking routes aren’t overly interesting, but this is not an easier walking route.
Probably the most famous part of the route is the stunningly exposed knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch, sometimes tackled by walking along the top, often by picking along the side of it with the crest grasped in the right hand like a sharp banister, occasionally by dropping to all fours and crawling. The rest of the route - over Crib y Ddysgl, Snowdon itself and Lliwedd – may be less famous, but it still offers some good quality scrambling. It may be a lower graded scramble, but don’t underestimate how exposed it can feel up there, especially when the wind picks up!
Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Lake District
Famously beloved of the poet Wordsworth, Helvellyn is one of the highest mountains in England (2nd or 3rd highest, depending on whose numbers you use) and the commanding, exposed knife-edge of Striding Edge is an extremely popular way up it.
The huge numbers of people who you may encounter up there in the height of summer shouldn’t lull you into thinking it’s a soft touch: following the ridgeline needs a head for heights. That said, there are various easier paths which avoid many of the more serious sections. So, you can get a good taste of scrambling but if you feel you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you’re not necessarily hopelessly committed.
Cuillin Ridge Traverse, Isle of Skye
Also known as the Black Cuillins (to distinguish them from the lower, less rocky Red Cuillins), the imposing, jagged skyline of the Cuillins is found on the Isle of Skye.
It’s a range of mountains, each a decent day out in its own right, but the 7 mile ridge which they form is one of THE classic UK scrambles. Like the rocky ridgelines of the Alps but boiled down into an intense concentrate, this is unlike pretty much anything else in the country, and needs treating with respect! Although not necessarily the most technical of climbing challenges, the sheer sustained effort and exposure means only the fit and the experienced need apply.
An Teallach Traverse, The Great Wilderness, Northwest Highlands of Scotland
If you start asking people who know An Teallach about it, you’ll start to hear the same things repeated again and again. Once you get beyond the hand gestures and rapturous noises, and pin them down to actual words, they’ll say things like “magnificent", “most impressive mountain in the country" and “if you just bag the northern Munros and miss out scrambling over the pinnacles, I’ll slap you."
So, how do you resist that? Way up in the wilds of North West Scotland, An Teallach boasts a variety of individual tops, two of which are Munros which can be bagged, as mentioned, without doing the main traverse. That traverse, however, is one of the most glorious ridge scrambles you will find anywhere, and should not be missed out on. The direct route over the Corrag Bhuide pinnacles is a serious and technical one, but one which rewards the intrepid with some magnificent scrambling. A path offers less technical ground to bypass this route, but if you take it, watch your footing.