Lakeland Fells

Great Gable

Photograph of Great Gable by Ann Bowker

Wainwright's Lakeland Fells

The Lakeland Fells provide some of the best high level walks in England. The highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike (978 meters), is located in this area, as well as many other well known fells such as Skiddaw, Helvellyn and the Old Man of Coniston. These and the rest of the Lakeland fells were made famous by the late writer and fell walker, Alfred Wainwright. In his seven volume work, A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, he divides the mountains of the Lake District into different geographical areas, giving each its own individual book. These are listed below:

At first glance, these divisions see a little unusual. Why, for example, didn't he divide the Lakeland Fells into four areas like the Ordnance Survey did later on with their explorer maps? The reason for this is that he wanted to make the divisions in a way that would make sense to a fell walker. As he explains himself " ... it is necessary to divide the area into convenient sections, making the fullest use of natural boundaries (lakes, valleys and low passes) so that each district is, as far as possible, self contained and independent of the rest" (Wainwright 1955, Introduction to his Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells). So, for example, a fell walker on the Helvellyn range would not generally cross over the low pass of Dunmail Raise, which separates the Eastern Fells from the Central Fells, to somewhere like Steel Fell, in the same day.

Lakeland Fells Map

The map above shows the seven areas of the Lakeland Fells as defined by Alfred Wainwright. Click on any of the coloured Lakeland fells areas to display it's name. You can also zoom in and see details of individual fells within each of the areas.

The Wainwright Guides

Eastern Lakeland Fells

The Eastern Fells contain the Helvellyn and Fairfield range, the "... greatest single mass of high ground in Lakeland" (Wainwright 1955, Eastern Fells). To the south and east they are separated from the Far Eastern fells by the Kirkstone Pass, Patterdale Valley and Ullswater. To the west is the pass of Dunmail Raise, the Vale of Grasmere, and Thirlmere. And to the north is the wide Vale of Keswick with the Northern Fells beyond.

Far Eastern Lakeland Fells

The Far Eastern Fells contain the quiet, yet magnificent High Street mountain range. These are right at the Far Eastern Tip of Lakeland (hence the name), and are bordered by the Eastern Fells to the North and West. The outer boundary of Wainwright's Lakeland Fells is the Head of Ullswater and Haweswater in the North-east, and Longsleddale Valley Church to the South-east. This area then extends across to Ambleside's Wansfell in the South West. The area also contains the Haweswater and Kentmere Valleys

The Central Lakeland Fells

The Central Fells are situated right in the heart of Lakeland, fully surrounded by the other geographical areas. Despite having the most centrally situated fell -arguably High Raise - these are not the highest mountains in the Lake District. Despite, this however, there are many spectacular fells which are very popular with walkers. The most notable of these are Harrison Stickle, Loft Crag and the Pike of Stickle, collectively known as the Langdale Pikes. Pavey Ark is another fell with dramatic scenery, and has one of the hardest routes attemptable by fell walkers - Jacks Rake (a grade one scramble). The Central Fells are bounded to the South by the Langdale Valley. The eastern boundary starts at the lowland area around Lake Windermere and Ambleside, travelling up through the Vale of Grasmere, Dunmail Raise, Thirlmere, all the way up to the Vale of Keswick in the north. To the west is the Borrowdale and Langstrath Valleys, and the Sticks Pass which cuts off the Central from the Southern Fells.

The Southern Lakeland Fells

The Southern Fells take in many of the highest fells in Lakeland, including Scafell Pike, Scafell and Bowfell. These are bordered by Wasdale to the East, Borrowdale to the North, and Langdale to the West. The Southern Fells also include the Coniston range right on the Southern Boundary of Wainwright's Lakeland Fells. Writing about the "Scafell-Bowfell massif" Wainwright notes that "within this area the fells are the highest, the roughest and the grandest in Lakeland: they are of volcanic origin and the naked rock is much in evidence in the form of towering crags and wildernesses of boulders and screes" ; and writing about the Coniston fells he says "Compact, distinctive, with several summits of uniform height just above 2,500' the slaty Coniston fells bear many industrial scars which detract little from the general excellence of the scenery and, indeed, provide an added interest. The dry turfy ridges are a joy to tread" (Wainwright 1960,The Southern Fells).

The Northern Lakeland Fells

The Northern Fells area is particularly independent from other high level regions of the Lake District. Writing about it, Wainwright states "Circular in plan, the area of the Northern Fells is completely severed from all other mountainous parts ... by Bassenthwaite Lake, the Vale of Keswick and the low country of the Glenderamackin River, which extend like a wide moat around the southern base of the group. West and north these fells are bounded by the coastal plain of Cumberland and east by the valley of the Eden. Thus they rise in isolation as an independent and separate geographical unit" (Wainwright 1962, Northern Fells ). Two of the best known fells in this area are Blencathra and Skiddaw, very popular with fell walkers.

The North-western Lakeland Fells

The North-western fells include the breathtaking heights of Grasmoor, Robinson, Crag Hill and Grisedale Pike. This scenic area is bounded on the East by Borrowdale on the far side of the Cat Bells - High Spy Ridge. The Vale of Keswick and Bassenthwaite lake form the north western boundary; and to the South is the valley of Buttermere and the Honister Pass, and to the west there are coastal plains. These fells are extremely breathtaking.

The Western Lakeland Fells

The Western Fells have many of the best walks and views in Lakeland. Bounded by Buttemere to the North, Wasdale to the South-east and coastal plains to the west, the valley of Ennerdale lies in the centre of these fells, with Great Gable and Kirk Fell at its head. Separating Ennerdale from Buttermere is the High Stile - Haystacks ridge. South of Ennerdale is the Pillar, Scoat Fell and Red Pike. Yewbarrow and Seatallan are the most south-westerly fells before Wast Water in the Wasdale Valley.

Lakeland Fells
Blencathra Coniston Old Man Easedale Fells Helvellyn Langdale Pikes Pavey Ark Scafell Pike Skiddaw