Day 1: Drive to the North of Wales. We will meet you at Manchester Airport. From here we drive approximately 2 hours to the heart of Snowdonia in North Wales. We stay in the picturesque village of Beddgelert situated at the confluence of the Gwynant and Colwyn valleys and at the foot of the long south ridge which of Y Wyddfa also known as Snowdon. Beddgelert is essentially a small mountain village and its many charms attract visitors from all over the country, with the consequence that it boasts several excellent restaurants and pubs serving meals and snacks. After checking in at our hotel we stretch our legs with a stroll along the river Glaslyn and pay a visit to the grave of Gelert, the faithful hound of Prince Llewellyn which legend says is buried here and which gives the village its name. This evening we can choose to dine in the hotel restaurant or one of the local pubs.
Day 2: The Snowdon Horseshoe. There are a number of routes for climbing Snowdon, or "Y" Wyddfa in the local language, and the one which we have chosen for this hikers’ Challenge tour is considered the very best. The "Snowdon Horseshoe" is a complete traverse of the ridges which enclose the high mountain lakes of Lynn Glas and Llyn Llydaw. This classic route begins from the Pen-y-Pass at the head of the Gwynant Valley and first climbs the imposing red rock pyramid of Crib Goch. From its tiny rocky summit we then follow the knife edge ridges of Crib Goch and Crib-y-Ddysgl (pronounced crib-ee-thisgul), an airy traverse of a fine arête which runs for 3/4 of a mile to Snowdon’s nearest neighbour, Garnedd Ugain.
A short descent to Bwlch Glas (the silver saddle) brings us to the final 285 feet of Snowdon’s north ridge, where we are joined by the tourist route from Llanberis and also the tracks of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The steam powered trains of the railway have been bringing the less energetic to Snowdon’s top since 1896. After a picnic lunch and some celebration on the summit, we complete the horseshoe, traversing the whale back ridge of YLliwedd to reach the ‘Miners Track’, constructed in the early 19th century to give easy access to the isolated dwellings of the copper miners. Today’s walk will take around 7 - 8 hours. On our way home we will certainly want to pay a visit to the Pen-y-Gwrdd hotel. This pub which was used as a training base by the 1953 Everest team is part of British climbing history, and after the day’s efforts it provides some welcome refreshment.
Day 3: The English Connection. After a hearty breakfast we get on the road again, heading for England and our next challenge. It will take approximately 3 hours to drive the 190 miles to the old market town of Keswick in the Northern Lake District. Nestling between the Skiddaw Mountains and Derwentwater Lake, the old market town of Keswick has an idyllic location and is one of the country’s major centers for outdoor recreation and adventure. After checking in to our hotel and some lunch, there is the option to hike to the top of Catbells. The most famous of Lakeland guidebook authors, Alfred Wainwright, wrote of this shapely fell, “Words cannot adequately describe the rare charm of Catbells, nor its ravishing view” and he concluded, “No Keswick holiday is consummated without a visit to its summit”. For those who wish to sample Catbells’ rare charm, this will be a walk of around 3 – 4 hours.
Day 4: Ascent of Scafell Pike. Today we climb England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike. Again we have chosen as our route, arguably the finest of the many possible routes to the summit. From our hotel we start with a short drive along the shores of Derwentwater through the valley of Borrowdale. This beautiful wooded valley was the inspiration for many poems penned by the Lake District’s most celebrated poet William Wordsworth, who was of the opinion that Borrowdale was “unique - having sublimity on all sides”. Today’s hike begins from the tiny community of Seathwaite a little way beyond the head of the lake, and the first of today’s objectives is Glaramara (2560 ft).
This is a typical Lakeland Fell surrounded by woods and rising from the well ordered fields and drystone walls of a ‘U’ shaped glacial valley. After around 3 hours and with 2,300 feet of ascent under our belts we reach the rocky summit where weather permitting we have an extensive 360 degree panorama of the mountains of the Lake District. Setting off once more we have a delightful walk of 1¾ miles along a broad grassy ridge connecting Glaramara to our next objective, Allen Crags (2572ft).
We now descend a short way to Esk Hause. "House" is the Cumbrian word for a pass and this one was a major trading route for the peoples of Borrowdale and Eskdale before the advent of modern roads provided a much longer but far easier way of moving goods around the mountains. Rising above the hause is Esk Pike (2903ft). Though not strictly part of our route today, anyone with energy enough to spare on the extra 400 feet of ascent will be richly rewarded by a short detour to its summit. From Esk Hause we must first cross the flanks of Ill Crag and Broad Crag, the latter across a field of glacial boulders, before we are able climb the final 300 feet of Scafell Pike itself.
After a "two down" celebration we will make our descent along the "Corridor" route above the head of Wasdale. Passing the quintessential mountain tarn of Sty Head, we follow its stream down to Stockley Bridge and thence along the Derwent River back to Seathwaite. Total walking time 8 – 9 hours.
Day 5: Loch Lomand and the Highlighds. The morning is free to explore the many charms of Keswick. Once a place where sheep and cattle were traded, Keswick is today a Mecca for outdoor recreation. Hikers, bikers and paddlers are well provided for here and the town’s cobbled main street boasts a wide selection of cafes, pubs, restaurants, and shops. There is also a park and gardens with a "pitch and put" course, a theater, a cinema, and a variety of boats for hire to get out onto the lake. After lunch we drive along the northern boundary of the Lake District to join the M6 motorway to Glasgow, where we cross the Clyde River on the Erskine suspension bridge. Not far beyond this major Scottish city our road takes us along the shores of Loch Lomond which at 23 miles in length, is the largest area of fresh water in the British Isles.
As we leave the bonny bonny banks we enter the "Heelands". Crossing the wild reaches of Rannoch Moor we pass Buchaile Etive Mor, the ‘Great shepherd of Etive’, and the ‘Three Sisters’ of Glencoe. This beautiful Glen was the site of an infamous massacre perpetrated on the Jacobite sympathizers Clan MacDonalds by the Clan Campbell who were loyal to King William. The story of duplicity and butchery of host by guest in the winter of 1692, created such a stir among the clans that the offense still burns in the minds of many a highlander to this very day. Tonight we stay at the superbly located Clachaig Inn in Glencoe, an establishment steeped in mountaineering legend. Driving time approximately 4 hours.
Day 6: Ascent of Ben Nevis. Today it’s the big one. We begin with a half hour drive along the shores of Loch Linnhe to the town of Fort William. A short distance beyond the town is the entrance to Glen Nevis where Mel Gibson came to film "Braveheart", the story of William Wallace. The Nevis Inn above the glen is our starting point for our final hike and the climax of the trip. Again we have chosen to climb ‘The Ben’ by its most interesting and spectacular hiking route, which involves a tour of the "Nevis Horseshoe", taking in the peaks of Carn Dearg Meadhonach, and Carn Dearg and reaching the summit via the spectacular Carn Mor Dearg Arête. This is a classic ridge walk and, apart from the start which is shared with the normal or ‘Tourist’ path, is wonderfully secluded.
This route also allows for magnificent views of the impressive north face of the mountain, a facet that is not seen from the ordinary route. On reaching the summit of Britain’s highest peak after a final rocky scramble, we will no doubt have a grand celebration. From the summit cairn and emergency shelter we make our way across the rocks of the summit plateau before descending the normal route on a long series of switch backs down into Glen Nevis. This is a day of 8 – 10 hours of wonderful hiking. The trail ends at the Nevis Inn, the perfect place to celebrate the completion of our Three Peaks Challenge. We return to Glencoe for a celebratory dinner and an evening of conviviality recounting our Three Peaks Odyssey.
Day 7: Transfer to Glasgow. After breakfast we take you to Glasgow Airport or mainline station if you have a connection, or to another pre arranged drop point if you wish to extend your visit to Scotland (approximately 2 hours drive).
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