Discover the Tallest Mountain in All of England

The ridge from Scafell Pike to Sca Fell
© Drew Rawcliffe/Shutterstock.com

Written by Isaac Peterson

Updated: October 31, 2023

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Explore Scafell Pike, England’s Highest Mountain; There IS an Octopus Involved

Route from Broad Crag to Scafell Pike

A view near the rocky summit of Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England.

©Drew Rawcliffe/Shutterstock.com

The tallest mountain in England is Scafell Pike. There’s a poignant, fascinating, and oddball history of this peak. It’s one of three in a series of ascents for Great Britain’s highest hikes.

Quick Note about Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis from Corpach Sea Port in Scotland

Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in the nation of England but Ben Nevis is the highest in the UK.

©Harry Feather/Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, the UK, Great Britain, British, and “English” are used inexactly, especially by us Yanks. Scafell Pike is the highest peak in the nation of England, whereas the highest mountain in all of the UK is Ben Nevis, a summit in Scotland.

However, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike are part of the National Three Peaks Challenge, a contest to climb all three national highest ascents. Snowdon in Wales rounds out the hat trick.

The Tallest Mountain in England is Actually a “Pike”

What is a pike? Pike is a term that comes from the Old Norse “pik” meaning “peak.” In the Northern English dialect, it still means a hill with a pointed top. The Danish influence of language lives on in the North of England, where we find Scafell Pike.

Numerous mixups led to the current name. Simply put, the Vikings of yore called it “skalli fjall,” meaning “fell with a bald summit.” Through mapmakers, surveyors, and others, it ended up as today’s “Scafell Pike.”

Life in A Northern Town with the Tallest Mountain in England

Scafell Pike is in the Lake District of England. Zooming in on a map, this makes sense. There are numerous long, skinny lakes close by. The mountain sits in Lake District National Park.

The mountain is part of the Southern Fells. A fell generally means a valley or similar topography (hence “fjall”). While there are other peaks in the nation, it’s more hilly than mountainous. But don’t let that fool you. Scafell Pike is not a spontaneous weekend jaunt.

Weather on the Pike

This particular spot in the Great Isle is, somehow, a trifecta of climates. Three subsystems collide right in the aquatic thoroughfare that holds The Isle of Man. To say it’s “unpredictable” would be quaint.

Most people, even inexperienced hikers, can handle rain and even a little snow. If a trail is heavily forested (which Scafell is not), we can take some wind. But fog is nothing to mess with. When visibility becomes a problem, that’s getting serious. It’s not just the famous London fog that can be a problem.

Numerous guidebooks, blogs, and hiking websites make a point of advising climbers to bring a map and compass if ascending the tallest mountain in England.

To add to this, it is particularly rocky. The summit is quite a view to take in, but be careful. It is strewn with boulders and cobbles, some sticking out sharply into the steep ascent.

Climbing Scafell Pike

Wastwater is the deepest lake in England. Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain, can be seen in the distance.

Wastwater (w-a-s-t-water) is the deepest lake in England and sits right near Scafell Pike.

©nikonpete/Shutterstock.com

It’s known for hiking, but if a swim sounds good, there’s Wastwater which is the deepest lake in England right nearby.

Getting to the top of Scafell Pike in the right weather looks and sounds amazing. Supposedly, if the air is clear enough, a person can see parts of Scotland, the Isle of Man and some of Wales. Three nations and one big island are in clear view from one spot.

In keeping with threes, there are three main routes to hike Scafell Pike.

Three Primary Trails for Ascending Scafell Pike

  • Borrowdale: Borrowdale is five miles one way. It’s lengthy but not extreme.
  • Wasdale: This is the express route if a hiker has the horsepower. The way is steep, but it’s only three miles.
  • Langdale: It’s the longest at six miles one way. The Scafell Pike Guidebook Says it’s 4/5 for strenuous and 3/5 for navigation.
  • There are various offshoots, accompanying trails, and various sights to see. Camping is available mainly in the valley. There are some bed and breakfasts and hotels in the region.

Arctic Holdouts

One type of wildlife preserve in the UK is the SSSI (Specific Sites of Scientific Interest). There is flora and fauna that isn’t found elsewhere, and some that is.

Vegetation on Scafell includes lichens and mosses of alpine variety. This includes the saxifrage, a fascinating and determined plant that grows in the clefts of rocks. There’s also the spiky purple meadow rue, the dwarf willow, and other wild vegetation. All of these wouldn’t be out of place when we think of a Swiss alpine meadow. Saxifrage is also used as a healing herb.

The Birds Seem to Like It

Red kites have bright yellow legs and a hooked beak of the same color. They can be found around Scafell Pike.

With conservation efforts, various species of birds call the Pike home again. The tallest mountain in England hosts peregrine falcons, the fastest bird in the world! Additionally, migratory osprey have been spotted nearby. One we may not have heard of, the ring ouzel, is a catch for the birdwatcher. Buzzards, the stately heron, and starlings are also at their peak.

One Scafell feathered friend that can’t be missed is the red kite. It’s hard to miss because not only is it fascinating to look at, it has a five-foot wingspan! This bird has also been helped by conservation.

Other Wild Ones on the Tallest Mountain in England

The red squirrel is commonly found around Cumbria.

The red kite is not the only red animal on Scafell Pike. Not just red kites, but the red squirrel is a well-known resident of the Lake District. Smaller than the others, they have wispy ears, giving them an odd appearance.

Red deer, though more common in Scotland, are also part of the Lake District National Park wildlife. A close relative is the roe deer that was pulled back from the edge of extinction. Roe are noticeable for having smaller, spikier antlers. They also don’t have tails.

Ya Herd, the Smiling Sheep

The agrarian surroundings mean there is also a variety of local livestock. One interesting specimen is the Herdwick sheep. Virtually all of them live in the Lake District. They’re known for being able to navigate back to their home pasture if moved. Herdwick are a particularly sturdy breed that can endure the rough terrain plus the harsh and unpredictable weather. They have brilliant gray wool that can shimmer with a tinge of red or even other colors.

Peter Cottontail author Beatrix Potter apparently noted how their facial structure shows them appearing to smile.

Scafell Pike and Other Large British Mountains

Scafell Pike appears to be the twelfth-highest among Britain’s peaks. Though it’s the tallest in the nation of England, Scotland, and Wales collectively hold the other eleven!

Scafell Pike and Other European Mountains

This is where it gets dicey. For the collective British Isles, Ireland, and most of continental Europe, Mont Blanc is 15,774 feet, the highest mountain in Europe. It looks like Scafell beats out Mount Titano in Italy, which measures 2,424 feet (739 meters).

Octopus’s Garden

Octopuses have three hearts: one pumps blood around the body; the other two pump blood to the gills. Somehow, an octopus wound up at the top of Scafell Pike in 2013.

In 2013, something odd was found at Scafell Pike’s summit: an octopus. Volunteers picking up trash discovered it a few yards from the very top.

Scafell Pike is less than 20 miles from the ocean, so a bird dropping items along their commute could happen. But this was an 8-inch octopus. Not a small shrew. Additionally, octopuses prefer to hide in coral and sea troughs, so when would they get that close to the surface? Unusual indeed.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down the Tallest Mountain in England

A generous patriot donated a piece of land that has become a hiking hotspot. The weather and the hike are rough, but there are a number of routes. If nothing else, hiking or visiting Scafell Pike will not be boring.


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About the Author

Isaac began writing as a paid staff reporter for his college newspaper. After getting his B.A. in Divinity, he was a daycare teacher who emphasized God's natural world, and all the creatures, into his learning activities. He worked as Staff Writer for a Midwest-based global online retailer before going full-time freelance. As a solo writer, he's covered gray wolf sightings in the Southwest U.S., smart home upgrades to backyard chicken coops, training American bulldogs and countless other topics, animal and otherwise; especially technical writing. Since his childhood in northern New England, he's been hooked on the beauty of this earth and the outdoors. Isaac loves biking, running, snowboarding, skateboarding and hiking in all of it. In his new home of the Great Lakes, he's spotted numerous herons, rabbits, squirrels, deer, a few toads and at least one turtle on his trail runs. He especially enjoys talking critters with his little sister who loves all animals big and small from giant orcas to her own pet beagle (Mister B).

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