About this site

This blog relates my experiences while attempting to climb the highest points within all the counties and local authorities of Great Britain (and some surrounding islands). This page explains how the list was compiled and summarises the information you will see on each of the posts as they are made.

All text and photographs on this site are © Andrew Whitworth 2022 and cannot be reused in other publications without permission.

Helvellyn, county top of Westmorland
Helvellyn, the county top of Westmorland

The historic and modern lists

You’d think that compiling a list of counties — the principal layer of local government — in a fairly small and developed country like the United Kingdom would be simple, right? Well, you’d be wrong. As administrative divisions of the state, counties have varied greatly over time. The two key reforms of local government were the Local Government Act 1972, which covered England and Wales, and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. While these Acts were not the only ones before, or since, to alter the boundaries of existing counties or create new entities, between them they represent the point in time at which the greatest number of historic counties basically ceased to exist.

Therefore, this blog is organised around not one list of counties, but two: one of historic Tops (of which I count 98), and one of modern Tops (of which there are, presently, 175). 28 historic Tops are not modern ones, so the full list of summits contains 203. (The number of ’91’ that graces the title and URL of the blog is now just an arbitrary thing, thanks to extra research.) Between them, I reckon these two lists include the highest point of every entity that has ever functioned as an independent layer of local government in the UK. Even if some, like the short-lived county of Humberside for example (created 1974, abolished 1996), have existed at points, they do not throw up new Tops, so there’s no point worrying about it. (There is one possible exception, discussed below.)

Walker on the Cow and Calf rocks, near Ilkley (walk 29)

The only area of the country where I have not gone down as far as all local authorities is in Greater London: I see no need to spend months tramping around places like Southwark looking for streets that might be a few inches higher than one nearby. I think that London is adequately covered by four Tops: the City of London (historic and modern), Middlesex (historic), the County of London (historic), and Greater London (modern).

For logistical, rather than political reasons, I’m not going to include Northern Ireland. Including Cromartyshire, a county that was merged into Ross and Cromarty in the 19th century, is tempting due to its Top being the significant peak of Ben Wyvis, which at 3,432ft/1,046m would make the top 10 by altitude, but I’ve left it off for now. Perhaps it will be done as a bonus walk towards the end.

Some of the Tops, on both lists, are located exactly on the border between two counties and are the highest point in both simultaneously. And if you really want to bicker about the selection, please don’t… ultimately, though based on published sources, it is also my personal choice.

The list is presented on three menus:

If you’re an insomniac in need of a soporific, you might also want to check out the Records, Lists and Oddities page.

The walks

Sculpture near Wessenden Head
Sculpture above Wessenden Head reservoir, near the start of the walk to Black Hill, county top of Cheshire

As I bag each summit I will post further information about it, and hopefully some nice photos, in a blog post. All completed walks are listed here. A few walks may bag more than one Top at a time.

These posts relate my subjective experience of a walk and should not be taken as an authoritative guide, though information is provided in good faith. Walk times and distances are what I happened to do — other walkers may find different routes or walk at a different pace. Info on public transport links should always be checked as these things are prone to change.

“Star ratings” are given for aspects of the walk and can be interpreted as follows:

Difficulty: ★: Just a stroll, with hiking boots not required.  ★★:  Be prepared to put in a bit of effort, and wear decent footwear.  ★★★: You’ll know you’ll have done some decent exercise.  ★★★★:  A full day’s work, with some difficult sections.  ★★★★★: A really tough expedition for superheroes only.

Ease of access: ★: A logistical nightmare to reach even with a car.  ★★: Awkward, especially by public transport.  ★★★: Not bad, but advance planning is required.  ★★★★: Easy to reach, with flexibility and different routes available. ★★★★★: Right by, or in, a major urban centre and/or public transport hub.

The view along the River Mersey, from walk 25 (to the Top of Liverpool)

A note on this one: Your own judgment of the accessibility of a given top will, of course, depend also on where you live or are staying. But I have tried to make these judgments in an average way. I live in West Yorkshire, which in all-British terms is in pretty much the centre of the island. I do try to travel to walks by public transport, but this is not always possible.

Scenic qualities: ★: Boring.  ★★: Fairly standard landscapes but no excitement.  ★★★: Pleasant countryside with good views — or in urban areas, plenty of things to see.  ★★★★: Very fine landscapes; definitely bring the camera.   ★★★★★: Drama and awesomeness, birds of prey soaring over the rocky crags etc.

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