Featured image: Hill Bagging For The Geographically Challenged (image of Brown Willy)

Hill Bagging For The Geographically Challenged

Hill bagging is popular with hikers in the UK, but the best hills aren't all in the uplands... The lowlands have a secret up their sleeve: The Marilyns! Discover a list of hills for the geographically challenged!

Hover and save me to your Pinterest boards!

Hill Bagging In The Lowlands

Hill bagging is a popular pastime amongst walkers and hikers and there are plenty of different lists to check off and complete. You can bag all of the UKs county ‘tops’, collect all the Wainright’s in Alfred Wainright’s list of fells in the Lake District, or go hill bagging for Munros and Corbetts in Scotland. It’s a great way to get out and explore the wider landscape.

The UK's highest hills and mountains are in the north of the UK of course. There's an alternative for those of us that are geographically challenged though: the Marilyns.

The list was compiled in 1992 by Alan Dawson. He supposedly dubbed them ‘Marilyns’ as a pun on Munro, but I suspect their relative prominence has something to do with it too!

Tick Off A Marilyn Hill

...a Marilyn {is} any hill that has a drop of at least 150 metres on all sides, regardless of distance, absolute height or topographical merit. At the last count there were 1542 of them {in the UK, Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man}. Alan Dawson, 1992.

Today’s list has increased to 1556 due to more accurate measuring techniques. You can search the list by country or county which makes it easy to concentrate on hill bagging nearer to home:

The Marilyns

  • 454 in Ireland (65 are in Northern Ireland)
  • 175 in England
  • 158 in Wales
  • 1218 in Scotland and
  • 5 on the Isle of Man
  • 5 in Cornwall

The beauty of Dawson’s list is that Marilyn Hills don’t have to be a minimum height above mean sea level, unlike Scotland’s Munros (3000 ft), for example, which means the hills of lowland Britain get a good look in. The only requirement is that a hill is 150m (500ft) high with a 150m drop on all sides, which makes it a prominent feature in the landscape. This means that a distinct hill that’s just 150m high with nothing else around it will count as a Marilyn, and some significant Munros won’t.

The original list was published in The Relative Hills of Britain (Cicerone Press, 1992), which is currently available on Amazon for an exorbitant price (because it’s out of print)! A better bet for any budding hill bagger is Dawson’s website which includes excerpts from the book as well as more recent information, including revisions to the list.

Hill Bagging In Cornwall

hill bagging

Hover and save me to your Pinterest boards!


Where To Tick Off a Marilyn In Great Britain’s Most Westerly County

  • Brown Willy (420m)
  • Kit Hill (334m)
  • Hensbarrow Beacon (312m)
  • Carnmenellis (252) and
  • Watch Croft (also 252m)

Cornwall boasts 5 Marilyns across the county, which is the same number to be found on the Isle of Man. Brown Willy is the best known and rises to 420m above sea level, laying claim to Cornwall’s highest point. (The images of Brown Willy featured at the top of the page and below are copyright of Kim Gentle-Boon, 2018. Follow him on Instagram @slushycat.)

Carnmenellis (252m / 827ft)

Redruth in Central Cornwall SW 695364

Hill Bagging in Cornwall: View of Carnmenellis hill near Redruth, one of Cornwall's 5 Marilyn hills. Copyright Stephanie Boon, 2018. All rights reserved.

Carnmenellis hill, near Redruth

Carnmenellis rises in the Wendron district of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. There’s a public footpath around the bottom and the hill itself is open access, but the paths to the top are barely there. If you decide to make the effort you’ll find yourself scrabbling through gorse and bracken, so make sure you wear long trousers. When you make it to the summit you’ll discover a less that beautiful radio mast got there before you! The trig is the highest point.

A Walk Nearby: Redruth Mining Walk

Carnmenellis hill aside, there are some good walks to be had in this area of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. I put together an 8 mile circular walk, the Redruth Mining Walk, which includes:


Carn Brea – a distinctive hill (228m / 748ft) with a monument on top that makes it a recognisable feature on the horizon.

Carn Marth – another hill (235m / 771ft) with spectacular 360 degree views, as well as an amphitheatre  in an old granite quarry that shows regular performances

Gwennap Pit – an unusual amphitheatre in a depression in the ground (caused by mining) where John Wesley preached between 1762 and 1789.

Head here for the directions and maps.


Hensbarrow Downs (9364.4m / 1196ft)

St Austell in Mid Cornwall SX 001574

Hensbarrow Downs replaced Hensbarrow Beacon as the highest point in February 2017. The highest point is now described as “embedded rock in long grass” and is accessible from paths on nearby roads. It’s a pretty bleak place near the village of Stenalees in the heart of Cornwall’s china clay industry. It’s surrounded by iconic china clay mine spoils (dubbed the Cornish Alps by locals) and not so iconic radio masts.

If you’re in the area for hill bagging, great, if not I recommend a walk in nearby Luxulyan Woods (SX 055572) to see the much more impressive Treffry Viaduct!


Brown Willy (420m / 1377ft)

Bodmin Moor in North East Cornwall SX 158799

Hill Bagging in Cornwall: Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall UK. Copyright Kim Gentle-Boon, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor

Brown Willy, the highest hill in Cornwall, is on the north of Bodmin Moor. The Moor feels like a wild and empty place, desolate under quickly changing skies, with Brown Willy brooding over it. The featureless plateau and rocky granite outcrops belie the history of the people that have shaped it over thousands of years. There are prehistoric burial sites, bronze age stone circles, standing stones, hut circles and medieval field systems scattered across the landscape. And the commons are still used for grazing today.

Peaty bogs and low cloud or rain are characteristic of the area and some of Cornwall’s main rivers rise here. The River Fowey (pronounced Foy) empties into the English Channel at the village of Fowey on the south coast and the Camel empties into the estuary at Padstow on the north coast (both worth a visit). The unique environment means that it has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The SSSIs protect habitats and environments across the moor, which makes it a fascinating place for walking and hiking.

Brown Willy Trail Run

If you enjoy trail running you can join the annual 7 mile Brown Willy Run on New Year’s Day, which is organised by Truro Running Club. There’s no entry fee, just a donation to local charities. (Search and Rescue is usually one of them.) You can register at Jamaica Inn on the day; full details can be found on the running club’s website. It’s a great way to grab the Marilyn on a fully marshalled route.

The name 'Brown Willy' often induces giggles, but is thought to derive from the Cornish Bronn Wennili, which means 'hill of swallows'. It's quite romantic really!

The hill is easily accessible from a public car park south east of Camelford. When you come from this direction you have to cross Rough Tor first (pronounced row, as in argue) before you climb Brown Willy to the south east. Rough Tor is 20m below Brown Willy so don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve bagged it until you’ve got to the top of the 2nd hill!

I recommend including Brown Willy in a full walk approaching from somewhere like Jamaica Inn (this really isn’t a romantic place, it’s a commercialised nightmare) at Bolventor. There are plenty of tracks on the ground out over Tolborough Tor and Catshole Downs, at least for part of the way. The Moor is notorious for bad weather and low visibility as mist can come down very quickly. You definitely need a map and compass for areas of open moorland.


Kit Hill (334m / 1096ft)

Tamar Valley in East Cornwall SW 374713

East Cornwall offers some lovely walks around Kit hill, a 400 acre country park situated between Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor. Fantastic views open up from the top, so it’s well worth bagging!

Once you’ve finished hill bagging you can enjoy a circular walk and the wildlife of the heath. There are also old tin mine and quarry workings, prehistoric barrows and horse riding trails to explore.

Download the official Kit Hill leaflet for full details, including directions and parking.


Watch Croft (252m / 827ft)

West Penwith, West Cornwall SW 420356

Watch Croft is in the far west of the county in an area called West Penwith. It’s near Rosemergy, which is a short distance from the South West Coast Path on the north Cornwall coast.

On a clear day there are fantastic 360 degree views, which make it well worth a detour from the coast (3/4 mile). Drivers can park on the B3306 near Rosemergy either at Carn Galver Mine or just past it to the west.

Stone circle on West Penwith in summer. Copyright Stephanie Boon, 2017. All rights reserved.

Part of Nine Maidens Stone Circle with Carn Galver on the horizon.

West Penwith

West Penwith is a fascinating area to visit for its many well-preserved prehistoric sites. It’s definitely worth devising a long walk or even staying a few days to explore. Just a short distance from the top of Watch Croft is a 6 foot standing stone (menhir) and a settlement of round houses. To the south east you’ll find Men Scryfa, an inscribed standing stone, nine maidens stone circle and the Men-an-Tol holed stone. There are plenty of tracks on the ground to connect up to make a good circular walk.

West Penwith has a lot of Open Access areas, which means you can roam wherever your like. Protect your legs though because bracken and bramble grow like mad and the tracks can be overgrown.  A map, compass and warm clothes are essential at any time of year because the weather can change very quickly. Check the weather forecast and choose a fine day for fine views or soak up the enigmatic atmosphere in the mist.


Where’s The Best Hill Bagging In Cornwall?

According 10 Mile Hike!

What makes a good walk? Atmosphere and wildness are at the top of the list for me, which means

The best of Cornwall's Marilyns are Brown Willy and Watch Croft, without a doubt!

Don’t just go hill bagging, make a day hike and soak up the remoteness and big skies, immerse yourself in a landscape with human history that goes back thousands of years. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

Which One’s Your Favourite?

Is it in Cornwall or further afield? Let us know in the comments and if you’ve got any tips or favourite routes to share we’d love to hear those too.

Happy Hiking

Stephie x


Save me to your Pinterest boards!

Discover Cornwall's 5 highest hills with some of the best views for miles. The 5 hills, from Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor to Watch Croft in West Penwith, are classed as 'Marilyns' - an alternative list for hill-baggers to 'collect' across the UK.

Hill bagging is popular with hikers in the UK, but the best hills aren't all in the uplands... The lowlands have a secret up their sleeve: The Marilyns. Discover a list of hills for the geographically challenged!

Discover Cornwall's 5 highest hills with some of the best views for miles. The 5 hills, from Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor to Watch Croft in West Penwith, are classed as 'Marilyns' - an alternative list for hill-baggers to 'collect' across the UK.


No Comments

Join the conversation - or start one!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Enjoy this blog? Share the love with your friends! x