10 great mini mountains to climb with kids – from Devon to the Highlands

From short and easy strolls to bigger days out, our experts Jen and Sim share their favourite smaller peaks for memorable family days out in the hills

child hiking in the mountains

by Jen and Sim Benson |
Updated on

There are few better ways to make family memories than by spending a day climbing a 'mountain' with your children, but rather than head straight for the highest peaks our advice is to start small and keep things simple. To help you plan that first trip, our experts have picked out 10 perfect mountains to climb with kids.

Hiking with children can be both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side you'll make memories that will last a lifetime, but on the downside things can unravel quickly if you don't plan properly. If you haven't climbed a hill or mountain with your kids before, there are plenty of things to consider before you do.

You can never predict the British weather but we'd advise to at least plan around it. Be sure to load your backpack with plenty of snacks and drinks, and in terms of kit make sure you have good footwear, warm layers and waterproofs for your kids.

But the key thing is location. You want to find a hill that looks and feels adventurous without being too challenging, so your children will come home full of happy memories and desperate to climb something even bigger and better on their next trip (when that moment comes, check out our guide to climbing Snowdon with kids).

So here are 10 of the best mini mountains to climb with kids, all walked and recommended by our guest experts Jen and Sim Benson.

1. Hound Tor, Devon

Heading for Hound Tor Dartmoor
©Jen and Sim Benson

Height: 414m
Perfect for family holidays, Devon has beaches for rockpooling and sandcastling, grassy hills to roll down, ancient woodlands for tree climbing and rocks for scrambling. The wilds of Dartmoor feel like another world compared with the coast, and the weather is more changeable too. Hound Tor is a great choice for ease of access – there’s a car park right at the bottom – and, for older children, a number of easy scrambles to the top of the tor for panoramic views across the moors. Carry on down through the rocks and the other side to explore the ruined medieval village of Hundatora.

2. Golden Cap, Dorset

Golden Cap Dorset
©Jen and Sim Benson

Height: 191m
Rising from the coastline that edges the grassy hills and pretty woodlands of the National Trust’s Golden Cap Estate, Golden Cap is a perfectly mountain-shaped hill, particularly when viewed from further along the coast. The Short Walk to the summit is well-signposted and begins with a winding trail through Langdon Wood, carpeted with bluebells in summer, before emerging onto open hillside with glorious views of the sea. The final section to the trig point-topped summit is a bit steeper with some stepped sections, but the feeling of reaching the top is well worth the effort.

3. Butser Hill, South Downs

Butser Hill summit South Downs
©Jen and Sim Benson

Height: 271m
Rising to a little over 270m, Butser Hill is the highest point on the South Downs WayNational Trail, networked with inviting paths to follow to its summit. Designated a National Nature Reserve, an incredible 30 different species of butterfly can be seen here, including the rare Duke of Burgundy, Chalkhill Blue and Silver-Spotted Skipper. The marks of millennia of human history remain etched into the chalk hillside and look out for a Celtish field system and a series of Bronze Age burial mounds as you go.

4. Mam Tor, Peak District

Mam Tor Peak District

Height: 517m
The airy summit of Mam Tor rises above the Vale of Edale in the Dark Peak, one of a series of tops set along a soaring ridge that extends northeast to Lose Hill. The whole ridge makes an outstanding walk for older children, but the shorter loop, starting straight up the stone-clad path from Mam Nick car park to the top and dropping off the ridge to return along the valley past Little Mam Tor, is a perfect way to get started. Either way you’ll be accompanied by some of the finest views in the Peak District and a real feeling of being high up in a wild, mountainous world.

5. Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh
©Jen and Sim Benson

Height: 251m
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, and a walk to the top is a must for anyone visiting the city. Kids love the idea of climbing an extinct volcano, and there’s a 2000-year-old hill-fort at the top to explore, which adds further to the excitement. The main path to the summit is a popular walk and can get busy on a sunny weekend, but there’s a nice feeling of being part of a sociable, shared experience. The city shrinks below as you climb, with views from the summit over Edinburgh Castle, the Pentland Hills and the Firth of Forth.

6. Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

Roseberry Topping North Yorkshire

Height: 320m
Roseberry Topping’s conical shape has made it a well-known landmark, rising from the edge of the North York Moors and visible from many miles around. Once a more symmetrical sugarloaf shape, the cliff on its western slope was carved by a landslip in 1912. The hill has a long history of human fascination and was named by the Vikings; even today there’s something about Roseberry Topping that draws people to climb it, and it’s a perfect day out for families. The loop from Newton-under-Roseberry traces fields to Cliff Ridge Wood and makes the ascent in stages, finishing with a steep climb up rocky slabs to the trig point-topped summit. The descent follows a winding trail through Newton Wood, a great place to spot deer, and ablaze with bluebells in early summer.

7. Side Pike, Lake District

Side Pike Lake District

Height: 362m
The craggy summit of Side Pike rises above the National Trust’s Great Langdale campsite on the opposite side of the valley from the Langdale Pikes. The climb is best suited to footsure children, as there are several small scrambles – not much more than a big step up for an adult but a fun series of mini climbs for kids. Don’t be fooled by the false summit at The Knoll – the true top is marked by a big pile of rocks and outstanding views of the surrounding mountains, Blea Tarn, and perhaps even your tent pitched far below. The walk from the Sticklebarn along the grassy fellsides of Great Langdale, with the exhilaratingly jagged tops of the Pikes rising ahead, is a wonderful introduction to the Lake District, with a good, family-friendly pub to finish.

8. Sugar Loaf, Brecon Beacons

©Jen and Sim Benson

Height: 596m
At 596m, Sugar Loaf is just short of official mountain status, but its long, ridge summit feels every bit like a proper top. The nearest car park is over 300m high, meaning you’re straight into the action from the moment you leave the car, and the wide, clear paths to the top mean you can always see where you’re heading – often a useful motivator for children. From the car park head north on clear paths, steepening as you near the top. Spectacular views from the trig point reach across the Severn Estuary and into South-West England.

9. Holyhead Mountain, Anglesey

Holyhead Mountain Anglesey copy

Height: 220m
Despite its name, this craggy limestone outcrop overlooking the Irish Sea isn’t really a mountain at all. It is, however, the highest point of Anglesey and its rocky cliffs are an inviting challenge. This walk starts near the RSPB centre at Ellin’s Tower and follows the Wales Coast Path along the edge of Anglesey. You’ll eventually find yourself on the shoulder between North and South Stack lighthouses, where a right turn leads directly towards the mountain.

10. Ben A'an, South Highlands

Ben A'an Trossachs South Highlands

Height: 454m
With a proper mountain feel, including some enjoyably engaging steep terrain and an easy clamber up the final rocky steps to the summit, Ben A’an is a great introduction to Scotland’s higher, wilder places. Nestled in the heart of the Trossachs, this mini mountain is a popular walk – a perfect excuse for an alpine start to make it to the top for sunrise. This route follows the obvious, well-maintained path all the way, with Ben A’an’s pyramidal peak in view to keep up the motivation. The views, once you get to the top, are glorious, stretching out across Loch Katrine to Ben Venue beyond in one direction and to Loch Achray and part of Loch Venachar in the other, with the summit of Ben Lomond just visible to the west. The return is by the same route, enjoying even more of those special views as you go.

About the authors

Jen and Sim Benson

Jen & Sim Benson are outdoor adventure writers and photographers, guidebook authors and parents to two free-range children. Their excellent book, 100 Great Walks with Kids, came out in March 2021.

This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Trail magazine. CLICK HERE to become a Trail magazine subscriber and get 50% off a whole year of digital OS Maps

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