The best crowd-free hikes in the UK

Bannau Sir Gaer, Carmarthenshire, South Wales

When it comes to Wales’ south, there’s a whole cluster of areas within the Brecon Beacons, replete with peaks, yet the majority of visitors will make a beeline for Pen-y-Fan so that they can lay claim to being the highest person south of Birmingham. 

Far more exciting however, is not to be the highest but, rather, the only person on a summit. This is usually the case on the shapely ridge of Bannau Sir Gaer, which stretches along the edges of the Black Mountain range (not to be confused with the almost identically named Black Mountains to the east). Scoured by glaciers (though local lore will tell you its lines and scratches came from a cart made by the mysterious Lady of the Lake who lives in the waters beneath its slopes) it’s a dramatic climb to the top. Once there, buzzards, kestrels and kites can be spied riding the thermals, while beneath your feet is a Bronze Age burial cairn.

Where to stay: Meaning ‘the wild moor’ in Welsh, The Waun Wyllt is the perfect overnight pairing with such a rugged and remote mountain, having just five bedrooms and a traditional ‘cwtch’ cubbyhole in the bar from where to toast a successful crowd-free summit. See our pick of the best hotels in Carmarthenshire.

Schiehallion, Perthshire, Scotland

Home to the highest mountain in the whole of Britain – Ben Nevis – which draws crowds of walkers every single year, it’s a tough sell to persuade people that there is a worthy alternative hill to climb in Scotland – yet Schiehallion may just be it. Standing at a 1,083 metres (as oppose to The Ben’s 1,345m) it may not have the metres but it does have the magnitude in terms of importance. For it was this conical shaped mass that was used in a ground-breaking scientific experiment to measure the earth’s mass in 1774. While doing so, the mathematician Charles Hutton invented contour lines, now used on all maps to denote height and steepness.

Climb its flanks today and you can still make out the remains of the old observatory on the north side where he and his colleague Nevil Maskelyne lived for months while undertaking their research.

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