Ten hill-climbing adventures
Climbing a hill is not just about the view from the top. That’s grown-up stuff. It’s about the adventures you have on the way. It’s about slaying monsters, spotting rare butterflies and distant landmarks, peering through telescopes, and raiding castles.
It’s also about ticking off number 28 from your list of 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾. So if you haven’t found a suitable hill-climbing adventure yet, have a read of our visitors' favourites.
‘This iconic landmark is extremely popular. Everyone in the surrounding area has to climb it, at least once.’
- Gareth Wilson, ranger at Penshaw Hill
On top of Penshaw Hill sits the Earl of Durham's Monument. This 70 foot high folly is a replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens and can be seen for miles around.
Young hill climbers have long been enthralled by the tale of the Lambton Worm. Gareth Wilson, Penshaw Hill ranger, knows a thing or two about this local monster. He says that ‘this giant beast started life as a tiny worm. The fisherman who found it threw it down a well, where it grew into a man-eating monster. It has been said that the Lambton Worm was so big that it could wrap itself around Penshaw Hill ten times.’
Children might have trouble spotting this monster today, but they won’t have any problem finding a variety of wild flowers, birds and insects.
You can also climb to the very top of Penshaw Monument. From Good Friday to the end of September, we open the spiral staircase hidden inside one of the monument’s pillars, letting groups of visitors up to the roof top to enjoy the view.
For a more challenging climb in Yorkshire, Gareth recommends Roseberry Topping. This enormous hill has a very distinctive shape, which some visitors say reminds them of the Matterhorn in Switzerland.
This hill is perfect for little nature enthusiasts. As you climb up through the grasslands of Box Hill, you can meet all manner of interesting creatures. In summer, keep your eyes pealed for the Adonis blue butterflies and 37 other species of butterfly that have been spotted around the hill. Find out how to spot some of the different species with our short guide.
You can also meet black Welsh Mountain Sheep and Belted Galloway cattle. If you start your walk down by the river banks you might even see the brilliant blue flash of a kingfisher.
'This hill is hugely popular with local families. On a clear day you can see eight counties from the top and it’s awesome for cycling back down. We also celebrate Eid, the last day of Ramadan, at the top of the hill. It’s a really fun event with workshops, children’s activities and henna artists.’
- Rose Roberts, ranger at Dunstable Downs
The East of England is not known for hills, but Dunstable Downs are an amazing 243m above sea level. This is the highest point in Bedfordshire, part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and full of exciting wildlife. How many butterflies can you count as you walk? Can you see any paragliders taking off? There are also plenty of great coppiced trees for children to explore.
Don’t forget to take your kite, as windy conditions mean that this is an ideal spot for ticking off number seven on your 50 things list. There is even a kite festival in summer. Or if the weather’s a bit calmer, you can reward hungry walkers with a picnic at the top.
Children will be able to spot May Hill from a great distance, because of the isolated clump of pine trees on top. These were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee.
The walk to the top of May Hill takes you through the common, with areas of bracken and grassland, where ponies, pigs and sheep graze. Follow our free walking route for the best views. See if you can spy the following landmarks on your walk: the Malvern Hills, the River Severn, the Forest of Dean and the Brecon Beacons. It has also been said that up to 12 counties can be seen from the top of May Hill. How many did you see?
Enter Middle-earth, by climbing up Ridge Path to the highest point in Downs Banks. Here intrepid hobbits will discover a rock pillar that tells them which landmarks they can see in the distance.
‘One hill, visible from the top of Ridge Path is the Wrekin. Visitors have re-named the Wrekin ‘Mount Doom’, because it looks like the volcano from Lord of the Rings. Many years ago the Wrekin really was a volcano, although now of course it’s extinct.’
‘Tolkien did live in Staffordshire so it is possible that he was inspired by this view. Summit the hill just before sunset to get your very own photo of ‘Mount Doom’, with a fiery red backdrop.’
- Rod Whiteman, ranger at Downs Banks.
For very young children Rod suggests trying Cuckoo Hill instead. This is also in Downs Banks and offers a gentler climb.
*Many thanks to David Booth for posting this photo on Twitter.
Which part will you play; a poacher on his way to be imprisoned, a lady going to watch the gentlemen hunt, or maybe the weary park keeper on his way home? Take your pick as you ascend the hill that leads to The Cage in Lyme Park.
Overlooking the moors and 1,300 acres of park, The Cage has been used as a hunting lodge, a lookout for the Home Guard, a prison for poachers and finally a home for the park keeper. One part children won’t be fighting to play is that of the water carrier. The building has never had water access so it used be transported all the way up the hill.
‘Whilst you’re at the top of Cage Hill you can tick off another item on your 50 things list. Because the hill is exposed it’s often very windy, making it perfect for flying your kite.’
- Amy Green, staff member at Lyme Park
If children have any energy left after climbing Cage Hill they can visit Crow Wood Playscape with its giant slide, badger den and rope walks. According to visitor, Sheila Bayliss, it makes for a perfect Sunday: ‘@NTLymePark Family picnic, stunning scenery & adventure playground #perfectsunday’.
Imagine you’re a foot soldier, brandishing your sword, as you run up the hill to Chirk Castle. This fortress is well worth raiding. It boasts a medieval tower, dungeon and Long Gallery.
‘The walk from the car park, through the meadow and up to the castle is very popular. The meadow is beautiful during summer and it’s also a terrific hill for rolling back down (number two of your 50 things). People with push chairs might find this hill a bit tricky, but if you’re feeling strong you’ll be fine.’
- Joanna Thompson, member of staff at Chirk Castle.
Chirk Castle is surrounded by award-winning gardens and is home to rare invertebrates, wild flowers and beautiful trees. So once you’ve conquered the castle, there is plenty more to explore.
Climbing Trio Hill is just one way to lose yourself at Rowallane Garden. Children love exploring the mini worlds within this spectacular 52 acre estate. Every corner is stuffed full of exotic plants from around the world.
‘To get to the top of Trio Hill you need to go over a wooden stile, into the farmland of Rowallane Garden. After a short steep climb you arrive at a viewpoint overlooking the breathtaking Mourne Mountains.
Can you find the rath whilst you’re up there? This ancient construction would have provided protection for families and their animals.’
- Averil Milligan, head gardener at Rowallane Garden
‘This photo is taken from Anne Boleyn’s seat, looking back down to the waterway. All the family had a fab time here including the dog. Good memories.’
- Kimberley S, reflects on her trip to Fountains Abbey
Climbing up to Surprise View (also known as Anne Boleyn’s Seat) is a challenge for little legs, but as Kimberley says, it’s well worth it for the reward at the top. The hill is in the gardens of Fountains Abbey. All you need to do is follow the signs for High Ride.
‘It’s called Surprise View because in the eighteenth century visitors used to be taken there in a horse-drawn carriage. They would be led to the ‘gothic seat’, where the view would be unveiled from behind a curtain. The curtain is now gone, but kids can enjoy gasping in mock surprise as they see the abbey, just as visitors would have done all those years ago.'
- Cassandra White, staff member at Fountains Abbey
Surprise View is also informally called Anne Boleyn’s seat, because of the headless statue at the top of the hill. Cassandra says that ‘children love discovering this gruesome figure and seeing the abbey from such a great height.’
Children will get a real sense of achievement climbing Leith Hill. Not only is it the highest point in South East England, it’s also crowned by a gothic tower which rises high above the surrounding hills.
Brave explorers can climb the spiral staircases up the tower to spot famous landmarks and peer through the telescope. Can you spot the English Channel from the top? Or how about the Wembley Stadium arch?
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