Britain’s best mountain ridges

Helvellyn via Striding Edge

by Trail magazine |

There's no more exciting way to reach the top of a mountain than by scrambling across a narrow ridge, but which are the best ones for hillwalkers?

The Trail 100 is a hand-picked collection of the 100 peaks every hillwalker should climb – and the full bucket list covers some of the best mountain ridges in Britain. From simple hillwalks to exposed scrambles, below is a list of our favourites.

CLICK HEREto view the full collection of Britain's best mountain ridges in Komoot, or scroll down for full descriptions, photos and routes for each peak.

Ben Nevis via CMS Arete, Scottish Highlands

The CMD Arete
The twisting backbone of the CMD Arete, with Ben Nevis's summit and the mountain's famous north face to the right.

Every hillwalker will be drawn to Britain's highest mountain eventually, and there's no better route to the top of Ben Nevis than via the CMD Arete. Like everything in this area of the Highlands it's big, spectacular and located in an absolutely awesome setting. Officially a Grade 1 scramble but more of an exposed and exciting walk, the big bonus of the CMD Arete is great views of The Ben's north face for much of the day.

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Snowdon south ridge, Snowdonia

Route 1: Snowdon’s South Ridge, Snowdonia
Looking down Snowdon's south ridge towards Yr Aran.

Attracting far fewer visitors than near neighbour Crib Goch and with far less exposure and scrambling too, Snowdon's south ridge is a hidden gem of a hillwalk. You're unlikely to get it all to yourself, but you'll keep away from most of the tourist masses as you tiptoe your way through rocky outcrops and magical views to the highest point in Wales.

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Helvellyn via Striding Edge, Lake District

Britain's greatest scrambles: Striding Edge, Helvellyn
Heading for Helvellyn on the crest of Striding Edge, with Red Tarn below.

When you think of Britain's best mountain ridges, Striding Edge is possibly the first name that pops into your head. This is a spectacular and narrow arete that leads you to the summit of England's third highest peak. For the most part it's an exposed and rocky walk, but there are sections where using your hands is unavoidable which is why it's classed as a Grade 1. In wet and windy conditions it's not a great place to be, but catch the weather right and you'll have the time of your life.

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Crib Goch, Snowdonia

The fantastic Crib Goch ridge - the ride is every bit as wild as it looks!
The fantastic Crib Goch ridge - the ride is every bit as wild as it looks! ©Tom Bailey, Trail magazine

Perhaps the ultimate nerve-jangling mountain ridge that's just about within the capabilities of most hillwalkers, Crib Goch is a test of scrambling skill and nerve. The difficulty level never officially gets above Grade 1, but the drops are big and so are the consequences of a slip. Best avoided in bad weather or on very busy days, when crowds heading for Snowdon could keep you queuing on tricky sections.

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An Teallach, NW Highlands

Scrambling below Lord Berkeley’s Seat on one of the most spectacular and exposed sections of the  An Teallach traverse.
Scrambling below Lord Berkeley’s Seat on one of the most spectacular and exposed sections of the An Teallach traverse. ©Tom Bailey, Trail magazine

The An Teallach traverse is the stuff of hillwalking legend. With a mountain translating as either the 'anvil' or 'forge' in Gaelic, you know you're in for something special before you even land eyes on this awesome massif. You'll bag two Munros with a full traverse of its high points, on a ridge that swerves violently between exposed walking and full-on climbing if you don't know where you're going. Make sure you read up on the complexities of the ridge and take a detailed guidebook!

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Sgurr nan Gillean south-east ridge, Isle of Skye

sgurr nan gillean
The stunning, pyrmaidal outline of Sgurr nan Gillean from near the start of the route.

Like most mountains in Skye's Black Cuillin peaks, Sgurr nan Gillean has a sense of hostility that makes you feel very unwanted. Its dark gabbro slopes, sheer walls and towering pinnacles make it seem an almost impossible objective for walkers. But approach from the south-east and there is a ridge that delivers you to its tiny, rocky summit; via a Grade 2 scramble that will have your heart in your mouth on more than one occasion. What a route though, and what a view from the top.

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Liathach, Torridon

Britain's greatest scrambles: Liathach, Torridon

An exposed scrambling traverse of Liathtach's rocky, twisting ridgeline is the best way to discover why this is a big contender for Scotland’s finest mountain. You'll bag two Munro summits along the way, with some of the hardest moves taking the difficulty up to Grade 2. This is a long route with some very tricky sections – not one for the inexperienced but an absolute cracker if you know what you're doing.

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Tryfan north ridge, Snowdonia

Britain's greatest scrambles: Tryfan's North Ridge
The protruding barrel of the Cannon Stone on Tryfan's North Ridge ©Tom Bailey, trail magazine

Tryfan's north ridge routinely wins Trail magazine polls for the best route on what is also often also voted Britain's favourite mountain, and there are good reasons why. It's an absolute masterpiece of a scramble, starting low down in the Ogwen Valley and ending when it spits you out at Tryfan's famous summit. There are a few tricky spots if your route-finding lets you down, but mostly it sticks to Grade 1 without too much exposure. And if you have enough energy left at the top of the ridge, follow the rest of this route on a circuit that also takes in Glyder Fach.

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The Forcan ridge, Glen Shiel

Tackling The Forcan Ridge to The Saddle in Glen Shiel
High on the Forcan Ridge with Glen Shiel below. ©Tom Bailey

The Forcan ridge is a mountain route with a bit of everything – a wild and remote location, mindblowing views, excellent scrambling and a finish that lands you on top of a Munro. There are narrow edges, towers and a sense of scale that only Scotland can give you. If you take the crest the whole way and tackle it head-on you're looking at a Grade 2 epic, but you can lower much of that back down to Grade 1 with a bypass path.

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Skiddaw via Longside Edge, Lake District

Skiddaw best lake district mountains
On Longside Edge, with the summit of Skiddaw out of the picture to the left.

If you aren't a scrambler and just fancy a cracking walk up an interesting mountain ridge, Skiddaw's Longside Edge could be the route for you. Despite being England's fourth highest peak Skiddaw is renowned for being a fairly dull trudge, but Longside Edge is its interesting angle. It's more of a broad spur than a full-on ridge, with cracking views across Bassenthwaite lake and over to the north-western fells. A true Lakeland classic.

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The Horns of Alligin, Torridon

At the start of The Horns of Alligin after summiting Sgurr Mor.
At the start of The Horns of Alligin after summiting Sgurr Mor.

In terms of mountain routes that have it all, nothing much beats a full traverse of Beinn Alligin in the ancient Torridon region of northwest Scotland. If you tackle the two Munros clockwise, you end by descening towards the Horns of Alligin and some of stunning scenery you see in the photo above. Tackling the crest of the pinnacles isn't for beginners, but if you just want a memorable walk tske the lower bypass path that sneaks beneath all the serious stuff.

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CLICK HEREto view the full collection of Britain's best mountain ridges in Komoot.

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