County Topping

In a post last month, I looked at the county top of Hampshire (and Berkshire). What is a county top though?

Basically, a county top is the highest point of a county. It should only be a traditional county:  there are no prizes for the highest bureaucratic interference.

Therefore as there are 92 counties in the United Kingdom, and 26 in the Republic of Ireland, there should be 118 county tops in the British Isles, except that some of them are shared between two counties; the summit of the hill marking the county border. Of these, Ben Macdhui is the top of Aberdeenshire and of Banffshire; Cuilcagh of Fermanagh and of County Cavan; Sawel of County Londonderry and of Tyrone; Arderin of Laois and of Offaly; Mount Leinster of both Carlow and Wexford.  Some hills have two county tops on them in different places, like Meikle Says Law in East Lothian and Berwickshire, and Walbury Hill in Hampshire and Berkshire, where the very summit belongs to one county alone.  Therefore there are by this reckoning 89 county tops in the United Kingdom, or 114 county tops in the whole of the British Isles.  You could add the Isle of Man too, though it is not a county, making 115.

Serious toppers have made another sensible rule too: it should be the natural ground level, so no artificial structure counts:  neither banks nor buildings.  Otherwise you might take the lift to the top of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf and claim to have topped Middlesex.

With all this in mind, serious research was carried out for the Historic Counties Trust, resulting in a list published on Wikishire:

County topping is a long process if you want to bag them all but rewarding.

Books and top toppers

  • Johnny Muir has written a book “The UK’s County Tops – Reaching the Top of 91 Historic Counties” (though his effort predated the work of the Historic Counties Trust and he missed Sgùrr Mòr in Cromartyshire; a forgivable omission).
  • Andy Strangeway has set out to sleep overnight on every county top:  by September 2012 he had become the first person to sleep on the summit of all 52 counties of England and Wales.  (I joined him for the penultimate top on that list, which was Bush Ground in Huntingdonshire.)

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