Ten hill-climbing adventures

Climbing a hill is not just about the view from the top. 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.

A view of a Yew tree on Burford Spur on a bright summer's day, part of the Box Hill estate, Surrey

Box Hill, Surrey 

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.

A cyclist on Cage Hill at Lyme Park, Cheshire

Cage Hill, Lyme Park, Cheshire 

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.

View of the East elevation of Chirk Castle, with topiary

Chirk Castle, Wrexham, Wales 

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.

A young girl holding a kite at the 2014 Dunstable Kite Festival, on the Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire 

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.' - 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 often mean that this is an ideal spot for ticking off number seven on your 50 things list.

Visitor walking to the Tower at Leith Hill, Surrey

Leith Hill, Surrey 

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?

May Hill, local landmark, Herefordshire

May Hill, Gloucestershire 

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?

Visitors at the Penshaw Monument, Sunderland

Penshaw Hill, Tyne and Wear 

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.

Visitors looking over the River Skell from the Surprise View in Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire

Surprise View, Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire 

Climbing up to Surprise View (also known as Anne Boleyn’s Seat) is a challenge for little legs, but 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.’

A view of the Wrekin and the Cheshire Vale from Wenlock Edge in Shropshire

The Wrekin, Staffordshire 

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.

A family exploring Rowallane Garden, County Down, in October

Trio Hill, Rowallane Garden, Northern Ireland 

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