Why do we decide to walk where we do?
It’s an interesting question. The UK has many areas of outstanding natural beauty but why choose one above another? What makes some walkers prefer Scotland whereas others like the Lake District, or the gentler pleasures to be found from coastal walks in the South of England?
For a lot of people I think it is down – at least in part – to geography. If you live in Manchester then going to the Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales – or even the Lakes – is likely to appeal more than going to the Brecon Beacons simply because of ease of access. Similarly someone who lives in Glasgow is an hour’s drive from the Arrochar Alps and therefore probably unlikely to head south of the border too often. Sometimes it’s down to what you grew up doing – my parents went to Pembrokeshire twice a year and the Yorkshire Dales twice a year, so my walking as a kid was coastal stuff on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path mixed with waterfall walks. But there wasn’t much in the way of hill walking, though we did do the odd small hill from time to time – I probably managed to go to Yorkshire upwards of 20 times before actually climbing any of the Three Peaks.
Personal preference also comes in to it. Living in London, as we do, means you aren’t all that near any areas with significant hills; the Brecon Beacons are probably the nearest but still a 5 hour drive so not really doable as a day trip. My hill walking started in Scotland, thanks to Stuart’s new years resolution to climb ‘a’ Munro, and Scotland still probably wins for sheer drama of scenery, not to mention variety – the sub-arctic plateau of the Cairngorms, contrasting with the jaggedness of the Cuillin Ridge or the wildness of Torridon. But many of the hills are tough, and some can be pretty intimidating, particularly to anyone with a dislike of exposure.
Outside of Scotland, we’ve visited most of the obvious mountainous areas of England and Wales. Snowdonia, for some unknown reason, hasn’t really grabbed, though I’ve now been there a couple of times with my walking club and got an amazing cloud inversion on my most recent visit. Snowdon itself was the busiest mountain I’ve ever climbed, with queues to get to the summit trig, which may well have been a bit off putting; I’m sure I’ll go back at some point as it’s clear there are some really good walks to be done. Similarly, the Brecon Beacons hasn’t grabbed either, though probably this was down to the appalling conditions I climbed Pen y Fan in, trashing two iPhones in the process! I suspect on a crisp winter’s day I’d probably feel very different about it.
For us, outside of Scotland the Lake District wins hands down. It’s not as wild as Scotland, or as Snowdonia for that matter, but the combination of views, interesting smaller hills and accessibility works very well indeed. We can be there in 3 hours from London on a fast train, making weekend trips doable without the need for a knackering long drive; there are plenty of decent smaller hills for marginal weather days or days when you aren’t feeling 100%; and lots of options for a bigger day out too, such as the Fairfield horseshoe, the Langdale Pikes or Helvellyn via the Edges.
Good footpaths don’t hurt either, although there are still plenty of hills where the bog factor is as bad as anything in Scotland! And of course, plenty of great pubs for the inevitable post walk drinks..