Holiday Book Review: From High Heels to High Hills

From High Heels to High Hills: One Woman Walking the Lake District - in Her Own Style
From High Heels to High Hills: One Woman Walking the Lake District – in Her Own Style

It was the cover of this sassy book that first caught my attention and captured my imagination. I had toyed with the idea of packing a day sack and heading to the hills for some months but always stopped just short of planning a route. I’m not sure if that was because it was just easier to enjoy the view across Lake Windermere and the hills beyond on the drive to work but, more likely, a lack of confidence fuelled by the many thoughts that assailed my mind – ‘you are not outdoorsy enough’; ‘you will get lost and end up having to call out mountain rescue’; ‘people like you should stick to tea rooms and garden centres’.

Whatever the reason, my interest was piqued by the pair of spotty red, white and blue Dune stilettos (mud photo-shopped on!) pointing resolutely towards a magnificent Lakeland mountain scene and taking centre stage on the cover of From High Heels to High Hills. Tanya Oliver was obviously a lady after my own heart!

This is a guide book with a difference. It is written with honesty, humour and without pretension. Tanya enjoys hill walking and is passionate about the Lake District mountains but also enjoys the world of fashion and make up – yes, the book even gives advice on how to avoid chipping your nail varnish on rocky sections of your route!  In short, this book says you don’t have to fit a stereo type to enjoy walking in the hills – it’s ok to be you!

The book inspired me to get out on the fells. Sam the dog even ventured out for the walk
The book inspired me to get out on the fells. Sam the dog even ventured out for the walk

I don’t want to give the impression that this book was written without the healthy respect commanded by the imposing Lakeland fells and the unpredictable weather conditions that they are couched within. Tanya has a vast amount of knowledge and experience of walking in different conditions and high heels are most definitely not on her recommended kit list. She knows how to use an OS map and compass and would never leave home without informing someone of the route she was taking and when to expect her home.

Having said that, I love Tanya’s anecdotes of how she lost her way even before leaving the car park in the village of Hartsop and how dignity departed when she lost her footing and plunged twice in quick succession into the River Calder. Now she always checks to see that there is no-one around before hopping from rock to rock!

High Heels to High Hills includes all 214 Wainwright fell walks. Indeed Wainwright’s guide books provided much of the initial inspiration for Tanya to don her walking boots. Some of the hills get no more than a passing mention; others are described fondly and in detail with lovely views captured in some stunning photography. Her writing style flows easily and conversationally and is, at times, warmly self deprecating. Amidst chapters on ‘Bogs and Screes’, ‘My Favourite Fells’, ‘Getting Lost’, ‘Walking with Children and Animals’ and others there is a beautiful and brief interlude on ‘My Favourite Heels’ again with full colour photographs! This is perhaps not a guide book that you would pack to take into the hills with you, but rather serve as a catalyst for getting you there.

I believe a good book should inspire a change for the better or, as Dr Seuss says, ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”, or “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

On 8th June, I packed a rucksack and headed for my own little solo adventure in the Lakeland mountains. Enough said. Job done. Thank you Tanya!

Have you enjoyed this book or any others while walking in the Lake District? Let us know in the comments…


  • Title: From High Heels to High Hills
  • Author: Tanya Oliver
  • Publisher: Step Beach Press, 2012
  • ISBN: 1908779020, 9781908779021
  • Available from Amazon

Leave a Reply