Most of the time we go out walking we follow paths (the green dashed lines on the Ordnance Survey maps) but most walkers are completely unaware they can walk anywhere in much of our upland areas. Just look for the shaded background (yellow/light brown colour) on the O/S maps and you can walk anywhere. This is ‘Access Land’ and this ‘freedom to roam’ contrasts with much of the lower level land (white background) where you must stick to paths.
The pleasures of being able to explore where you want, discover your own route, visit perfect viewpoints and find quiet spots makes walking in our beautiful uplands so enjoyable. All of the peaks in the Lake District lie in access land so have a look around when you get up there and enjoy all the different views.
However walking off paths does require more navigation and awareness skills than just following a path, particularly if the cloud is down or the land particularly featureless. One rule to remember is that the drystone walls you come across will not have gates or stiles so avoid them as they offer a barrier you may not be able to climb and should not anyway. In addition you should know how to take and follow compass bearings, measure distances and have a mountain awareness and experience which comes from being out there with others.
If in doubt join one of our Intermediate Navigation Courses specifically for this