What is Fell Walking?
Fell walking refers to the activity of walking up and down fells.
A fell is a geographical feature similar to that of a mountain or hill. The origin of the term “fell” indicates the part of the mountain in which trees stop growing. Today, the term is common in Northern England and Scotland and usually refers to the mountains and hills of the Lake District and Dales.
Steep slopes, coupled with uncompromising weather, these Northern fells are for the true adventures of the British Isles. For anyone looking to keep fit by walking in the great outdoors, fell walking is certainly something to consider.
Where to Walk
Fell walking is quite a regional term, usually indicating locations in the Lake District, Dales or parts of Scotland, but the approach is similar to that of hiking in mountainous regions anywhere in the world.
Depending on your own fitness levels, you may want to choose an appropriate first location. If this is your first fell walk, choose a small route that is beginner friendly so you can get used to the terrain and style of walking. It doesn’t matter how much walking you’ve done in the past, fell walking brings with it unique challenges which is why you should try and ease into things.
The Lake District has some nice beginner friendly fell walks in the UK.
Most National Parks and walking trails will have maps that include multiple routes for varying difficulty.
Once you’ve got a few fell walks under your belt, you can try the more adventurous routes and head further off the beaten track. Some fell walks can be very long (multiple days), so if you’re looking for an adventure, this is undoubtedly a great way to see the countryside and keep fit. You could even combine it with wild camping.
For the ultimate fell experience in the UK, Scotland is where you want to head. The slopes become steeper and the walks become increasingly secluded.
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Benefits of Fell Walking
Fell walking is a fantastic activity for healthy ageing. We’ve highlighted just some of the benefits below.
One of the most obvious benefits of fell walking is getting to enjoy some stunning views and scenery. After a challenging climb to the top, you’re rewarded with some of the best views in the country.
It doesn’t matter what the season is, the views will always take your breath away.
Walking long distances is a great way to improve your cardio-vascular fitness. This helps in the battle to lose weight/fat and feel healthier in everyday life.
Fell walking doesn’t require expensive gym memberships or equipment, yet it can deliver some fantastic health benefits.
Due to the steep climbs, fell walking will undoubtedly help to develop muscle and strength, particularly in the lower body. This type of walking will help to strengthen the quads and glutes which are vital for healthy ageing.
A strong lower body helps to support functional movement and allows you to move with ease and joy.
Fell walking often goes beyond nice gravel tracks and trails, instead taking the road less travelled. This means there may be rocks to avoid, holes in the ground and an overall less stable walking environment. This is makes it a fantastic way to improve practical balance and stability – key skills that support healthy ageing.
There have been countless studies into the benefits of walking in nature on our mental health. From a stroll in your local park to the extreme heights of a fell, getting active in great outdoors not only delivers great physical benefits but mental benefits too.
Fell Walking Clothes
It’s important to think carefully about the clothes you wear. Firstly, anyone who has done any sort of fell walking in the past will tell you is that the weather can change quickly. It may be sunny and warm when you set off, but be prepared for very localized weather changes on the fells. Sudden wind and rain can arrive and if you’re not dressed appropriately, this can ruin your day.
Therefore, a good coat (wind and rain-proof) and a warm fleece are always worth packing. Similarly, waterproof trousers can be a bonus too.
Most importantly though, is a good pair of walking shoes. These want to be robust and ideally with ankle support to avoid any nasty turns. It’s also worth bringing thick socks (and even spare socks) for the walk.
What to Bring
As well as good clothing, there are some other things worth bringing with you when fell walking.
Staying hydrated is a must. This means drinking frequently throughout the walk, especially on a hot day. Dehydration is dangerous and something you should be actively aware on when on the fell.
Having plenty of healthy snacks will help give you much needed energy bursts.
Avoid bringing with you big meals that will be hard to digest and instead focus on light snacks that will give you the energy you need. Nuts are often a popular choice amongst walking enthusiasts.
There are lots of apps that can track your walk via GPS. When you’re embarking on such a big adventure such as fell walking, this can be added motivation at the end to see how far you’ve travelled.
Keeping track of your physical activity can be a great way to set fitness goals and targets.
Walking poles aren’t for everybody but some enjoy having the added stability of poles during a hike or trek.
Using poles during a walk can change how the walk benefits your muscles. In essence, the poles spread the workload across more muscle groups, including the arms, shoulders and core. This can mean that by the end of the walk, it feels much more like a full body workout.
For those who can’t get enough of their walking poles, discover the joys of Nordic Walking and the benefits this offers.
Check out our guide on the best walking equipment for a detailed list of other things you may want to bring too.
Fell Walking Groups
If you’re serious about fell walking, check out any local walking groups near you that may offer guided walks in the area. This would be a great way to get started.
Similarly, many tourist destinations will offer guided walks around the fells which can be like a tour guide around nature.
Similarly, you may just prefer to pack a bag and head for the outdoors on your own.
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