Photo credit: © Andrew Tryon. The Ridge of Suilven, Sutherland

Are these the best hills in Great Britain?

The results from our survey of members' favourite Marilyns

We all have our personal favourite hills that we think are 'the best' depending on where our wanderings have taken us and our memories of the walks. A survey of all walkers asking about their picks for the best hills would naturally feature the hills that they have climbed. It's likely that the list would feature the usual suspects such as the high points of England, Wales and Scotland near the top - those that are most popular by bootfall. But what about a survey of dare-I-say-it, more discerning walkers with a lot of hills under their belts? Hopefully, it would feature a more varied list and also highlight some of the best hills to climb that are less well known.

This was the thinking behind our recent survey of members asking about their favourite  Marilyn hills of Great Britain. To cast the net wide we asked our members and the members of the Relative Hills Facebook Group to pick their top 5 Marilyns from the list of 1556 Marilyns in Britain (i.e. England, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man).

We were delighted to see that around 100 got involved. We've shared the Top 20 with members via our Relative Mutters e-newsletter, but I thought it would be interesting to do a rundown on our new blog also to share the most popular by votes with a picture for each.

Here's the countdown, plus some of my personal memories of climbing these. I hope these spark some memories amongst readers or prompt a visit before too long. You'll notice that since 'great minds think alike', there were some with the same number of votes; we start with three hills tied for sixth...

Joint 6. A' Mhaighdean

North from A' Mhaighdean. Photo credit: © Ian Stewart.

Source: Creative Commons:

Memories of this view from an April 1980 ascent from Kinlochewe with my Dad. The view all the more impactful after trudging up in the snow. Climbed a couple of times since including from Carnmore bothy, just visible in a green patch by Dubh loch.

Joint 6. Beinn Dearg Mor

Photo credit: Summit cliffs of Beinn Dearg Mor : © Jonathan Venn

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Memories of staying in the Shenavall bothy and a freezing March river crossing. Corbetts (and other Relative Hills from relevant lists) often have the best views.

Joint 6.  Spidean a' Choire Leith

Photo credit: © Rude Health. Liathach - East from Spidean a' Choire Leith.

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I was fortunate to get a clear May view like this on my second ascent with my Mum and Dad. Painful memories of a misty first ascent at Christmas when plastic boots had just been invented. So painful walking out from the Ling Hut to Achnashellach station - never used those Koflachs again.

5. Tryfan

Photo credit: © Peter S. A patch of sunlight on Tryfan

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I've chosen this view from the south rather than the more standard Ogwen and Adam and Eve views for a happy memory of climbing up Grooved Arete.

4. Sgurr nan Gillean

Photo credit: © Jim Barton - A pioneering route, Sgurr nan Gillean.

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Four memories in one with this shot. I climbed my first Munro, Bruach na Frithe, with my Dad in the summer of 1978 (just off shot to L), with later trips up via the W ridge (Left) when completing the Cuillin traverse, Pinnacle Ridge (to the right) and with Sal up the SE ridge (nearest ridge) when she was finishing the Cuillin peaks.

3. Stac Pollaidh

Multiple Marilyn completions: Stac Pollaidh 'bad step' May 2016. Photo: Dave Chaffey

My first trip with the Relative Hills folks when Richard  Mclellan and others were completing one May 2016. I don't remember much about my first trip in 1970, when 7, where we just made it up the ridge.

2. An Teallach - Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill

An Teallach - from the cover of The 1033 High Hills of Britain by Alan Dawson

This memorable hill view graces the cover of the book introducing the new list from Alan Dawson, The 1033 High Hills of Britain,  which I'm currently reading and I love the concept of.  It does omit two of this list though since they're not high enough.

My memories again turn back to a first ascent with my Dad in the early 80s, who had an eye for the best hills; I'm fortunate. A later trip in the 80s at Christmas in conditions like the photo involved bypassing a descent of the bad step by fortuitously linking random ledges.

1. Suilven

Photo credit: © Andrew Tryon. The Ridge of Suilven, Sutherland

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Number one in our vote by a clear margin and deservedly so, given that it's 'iconic' from multiple angles. Only memories from a distance for me since working through higher hills has prevented a return trip to climb it - I did walk to the base once with the family though.

So that's our top 10 or so. No hills from England it seems. Of my 5 picks I got four of these, but the fifth was Pillar which didn't even make the top 30.

It's good to see Marilyns that aren't Corbetts or Munros at number 1 and 3 and looking down the list into the Top 30 shows many more Marilyns like An Sgurr, Ben Tianavaig and Conachair which warrant their own post. I'm looking forward to creating some memories on those.

Dave Chaffey

Dave is the webmaster for RHSoc, so if you have any ideas for articles or corrections, do feedback via the Contact Us. I'm relatively new to the Relative Hills, although joined the Marilyn Hall of Fame in 2022. I completed the Munros in '94, am around 200 Corbetts and working on the Marilyns of England and Wales by public transport and bike to add to the challenge!

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