MOUNTAIN HIGHLIGHTS

The Top 500 Summits are the highest 500 mountains in Britain and Ireland with a 500 foot drop on all sides. Despite numerous other lists, notably Munros, Corbetts, Marilyns and Wainwrights, the Top 500 mountains in Britain and Ireland have never been formally listed. Ben Nevis tops the list at 4,411ft. The 500th highest mountain and last on the list is Knockanaffrin in Ireland at 2,477 feet.

The two summits which are furthest apart are Ben Loyal in the far north of Scotland and Coomacarrea in south west Ireland. Just under 500 miles separate these two mountains (496 miles calculated in GRS80/WGS84 ellipsidal geodesic distance). It would be considerably further to drive and take the ferry between these two mountains. Shalloch on Minnoch, near the Merrick in south west Scotland, is the most central summit (information provided by Thomas Murray)

I completed the 500 summits in June 2016, finishing on Monamenach, a Corbett in the eastern highlands of Scotland. My two sons, Alex and James, joined me for the day. I attach below ten ’award winning mountains’.

1 MOST NORTHERLY SUMMIT
(BEINN SPIONNAIDH, SCOTLAND, 2534ft)

Beinn Spionnaidh is a beautiful Corbett overlooking Durness on the north coast of Scotland. On a clear day the Orkney Islands can be seen over the North Sea but, further west lies the Atlantic Ocean and the Outer Hebrides. Beinn Spionnaidh is climbed with its ‘mate’, Cranstackie. It is worth waiting for a clear day to appreciate the magnificent views.

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Beinn Spionnaidh from Cranstackie

2 MOST SOUTHERLY SUMMIT (WAUN RYDD, WALES, 2,523ft)

Waun Rydd lies in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales and narrowly wins the title of most southerly Top 500 Summit in the British Isles, ahead of Pen y Fan. Waun Rydd and Pen y Fan can be combined in a fine ridge walk across the Brecon Beacons starting at the Storey Arms on the A470 and finishing at Llanfrynach.

Brandon Mountain

Looking west from Brandon Peak

3 MOST WESTERLY SUMMIT
(BRANDON MOUNTAIN, IRELAND, 3,127ft)

Brandon Mountain is not only the most westerly mountain on the list but is also one of the truly great summits in the list. It lies on the west tip of the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. It is a superb mountain, not only narrow ridges and cliff edges, but also steeped in history. The famous Saints route gives a benign route to the summit from the west side but there are many alternatives. Naturally the views are superb, to the east lie McGillycuddy Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland, and to the west lie the Atlantic Ocean and the Blasket Islands.

4 MOST EASTERLY SUMMIT (THE CHEVIOT, ENGLAND, 2,674ft)

The Cheviot stands north of Newcastle and close to the English Scottish border. It is the highest point for miles around and has clear views of the east coast of England. It is marginally further east than Mickle Fell.  Mickle Fell sits in a scenic area of England, close to High Force near Middleton in Teasdale, and the Yorkshire Dales.

5 EASIEST SUMMIT TO REACH (KIPPURE, IRELAND, 2,484ft)

I have excluded taking the train up Snowdon or taking chairlifts to summits at Scottish ski resorts since we concluded that this was unethical. Kippure, therefore, wins the award as it is only a short walk (under two miles) along a road to reach this summit. Indeed, ten years ago, when I ‘climbed’ Kippure, it was possible to drive all the way to the summit. Kippure lies close to Dublin.

6 HARDEST SUMMIT TO REACH (INACCESSIBLE PINNACLE, ISLE OF SKYE, 3,234ft)

The Inaccessible Pinnacle lies on the black Cuillin ridge in the Isle of Skye. It rises as a vertical rock pillar nearly 100 feet above the ridge and is best climbed by its east ridge. This is the only summit out of the Top 500 which requires ropes. Therefore, unless you are a rock climber, it is necessary to hire a guide. It is one of only three Munros that Sir Hugh Munro did not climb.

7 MOST REMOTE SUMMIT
(A’ MHAIGHDEAN, SCOTLAND, 3,173ft)

There is some fierce competition for the prize of the most remote summit in the British Isles including Carn an Fhidhleir, a Munro in the Grampians, Carn Ban, a Corbett in the northern highlands and Lurg Mhor, another Munro in the north west of Scotland. In my view A’ Mhaighdean wins the award because it is virtually impossible to climb this mountain without spending a night out, either camping or in a bothy.

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A’ Mhaighdean seen over Dubh Loch

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Pen y Pass, the start point for climbing Snowdon.

8 MOST POPULAR SUMMIT
(SNOWDON, WALES, 3,560ft)

No official records are kept of the number of people climbing individual summits around the British Isles. Remote Corbetts in Scotland see few visitors, maybe less than fifty per year. Other mountains see hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The most popular summits are Snowdon, Pen y Fan in South Wales, Scafell Pike and Helvellyn in the Lake District, and Ben Nevis. I think Snowdon has to be the most visited summit and is certainly the only one with a train up it and a Cafe at the summit.

9 BEST MOUNTAIN
(AN TEALLACH, SCOTLAND, 3,484ft)

A survey in 2014 gave this award to Tryfan in Wales and it is certainly a deserving recipient. Tryfan is a fabulous rock peak which looks magnificent and is climbed directly from the road. Sgurr an Gillean on the Isle of Skye is deserving of special mention as well. However, I would give the award to An Teallach. It has fabulous ridges, cliffs, and plunging lochans and the approach, along Desolation Road, is simply out of this world.

An Teallach

Pen y Pass, the start point for climbing Snowdon.

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Beinn an Oir from Beinn Shiantaidh in the Paps of Jura

10 HARDEST TO REACH THE BASE
(PAPS OF JURA, SCOTLAND, 2,576ft)

It can take two ferries and a drive across Islay to reach the fabulous Island of Jura but it is well worth the trip. The Paps of Jura are stunning mountains with two of the mountains qualifying as Top 500 Summits.