Scafell Pike - The complete guide to the highest mountain in England

Scafell Pike - The complete guide to the highest mountain in England

If you are considering climbing Scafell Pike, this is the best place to start.

Towering at 3209 feet high, the summit of Scafell Pike in the heart of the Lake District is England’s tallest mountain, making it a magnet for climbers and sightseers alike.


A Circular Hike From Wasdale…

A ‘Bank Holiday’ weekend in England is usually synonymous with rain. Remarkably however, this Bank Holiday weekend was our first successful camping trip of 2016! Intent on sticking to our New Year’s resolution of embarking on a mini-adventure each month, we headed for Wasdale, a remote valley on the far western side of the Lake District.

Long delays and huge tailbacks due to the increased volume of traffic, as is typical on a national holiday, did not deter us. Sitting in a car for around six and a half hours after a full day at work just made it all the more important for us to get outside. Our gamble with the weather had paid off! Against all odds, and in complete contrast to the eastern half of the UK where it was cold and wet, we had our own little ray of sunshine radiating over Cumbria, urging us to get out onto the fells.

Our goal for this weekend was to summit Scafell Pike – England’s highest mountain at 978 metres (3,209 ft). It may sound small compared with the eight-thousanders located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia, but hiking up almost a thousand metres from sea level is still a good day’s challenge! And we were ready for it!


Looking onto the Scafell Massif from Yewbarrow, with Kirk Fell and Great Gable on the left hand side. (This panorama shot was taken during our 2nd day hike.)

It’s hard to work out from the panorama which is England’s tallest mountain. Peeking in the distance, Scafell Pike is the highest point for over 90 miles. But it is just 14 metres taller than its counterpart, Scafell – England’s second tallest peak at 964 metres. Depending on your perspective and viewpoint it can actually be hard to tell which is the higher of the two.

This route map is situated in the National Trust car park. If you look from the middle to the right hand side of the panorama photograph it is possible to work out the peaks of Great End, Ill Crag, Scafell Pike, Symonds Knott and Scafell respectively.

There are four main Scafell Pike routes which cater for all levels of expertise. They are from Wasdale Head, Great Langdale, Borrowdale and Eskdale; each route following the valleys that carry these names. We wanted to take the shortest and most direct route up to the summit. This is the Wasdale Head route, which takes around 2-3 hours. Therefore we camped in the hiker’s field for £5 per person, per night, next to the Wasdale Head Inn, which is nestled at the bottom of the pike. Camping here is on a first-come first-served basis, with no booking facility. Despite our late arrival on the Friday evening, we still managed to find a spot to pitch our small backpacking tent and stayed for three nights. (This is the only other camping option in the Wasdale valley as the National Trust campsite at Wasdale Head was fully booked.)



Scafell Pike has something for everyone.

To the intrepid walker, the challenge of climbing England’s highest peak creates an irresistible lure, drawing people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe.

For the more recreational rambler and sightseer, the mountain provides a spectacular backdrop to leisurely walks or picnics around the valleys of Wasdale and Borrowdale. Even for those who prefer not to stray from the car, it is still possible to get close enough to feel the mighty presence of Scafell Pike and the many surrounding Lake District mountains.

For those who undertake the climb (learn more about Scafell Pike's routes) and reach the summit, the sense of achievement is well deserved, and the effort is rewarded with magnificent views encompassing all four nations of The British Isles.

For those seeking a less challenging experience, including families, couples, and even the solo traveller, there is an excellent variety of things to see and do around Scafell Pike. From quiet romantic walks, family picnics beside meandering rivers, natural attractions including cascading waterfalls and imposing rock formations, or quaint traditional market towns to explore at leisure.

The valleys below

The remote and scenic valley of Wasdale lies immediately to the west of Scafell Pike, and many people start the climb from here. At the heart of the Wasdale Valley lies Wast Water, England’s deepest lake at 258 feet deep. See Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head.

To the north of Scafell Pike, the Borrowdale Valley runs from the market town of Keswick along the shores of Derwentwater, one of the prettiest of all the lakes, toward the small farming community of Seathwaite, another popular start point for ascending Scafell Pike (see: Scafell Pike from Borrowdale) but also with much easier low-level walks along the valley.

Year-round destination

Each season brings its own distinct feel to Scafell Pike. In summer, the area bustles with holidaymakers engaging in all manner of activities on the mountains and lakes while others take in the scenery at a more leisurely pace. Spring and autumn are quieter, and the autumn colours can be especially fine indeed. In winter, crisp, clear days can be breathtakingly beautiful, but a word of warning – this is not a time of year to be climbing Scafell Pike unless you are fully trained in the specialist skills of winter mountaineering.

Enjoy it however you choose

The popularity of Scafell Pike is reflected in the great variety of holiday accommodation options on offer nearby, from campsites to guesthouses, forest lodges to luxury hotels and spa resorts; so whatever your preference and budget, it’s easy to organise a visit to Scafell Pike.

And with so much to see and do in the local area, it’s sure to be a destination which will appeal to everyone.


  • Scafell Pike is the tallest mountain in England measuring 978 m (3,209 ft) high.
  • Scafell Pike is home to the highest standing water in England, known as Broad Crag Tarn. It lies at about 820 m (2,700 ft), a quarter of a mile south of the summit.
  • Scafell Pike’s original name was ‘The Pikes of Sca Fell’, and this term was used to describe Broad Crag and Ill Crag, as well as Scafell Pike itself. The change was caused by an error on an Ordnance Survey map and stuck. The Scafell Pike OS Map sold today is, however, completely accurate.
  • Scafell Pike was donated to the National Trust in 1919 by Lord Leconfield. This gesture was made to honour the men of the Lake District who lost their lives fighting for their country in the First World War.
  • The deepest lake in England lies at the foot of Scafell Pike and is called Wastwater. It measures three miles long, just over half a mile wide, and a staggering 258 feet deep.