Inequalities may lead to injustice, and are recognized increasingly as contributing to a wide range of social problems. The English uplands are characterized by low population densities, few services and low household incomes compared with other rural areas, giving rise to the potential for injustice. We use a dataset combining social, economic and environmental variables to develop a new integrative characterization of rural areas in England. We show that, despite lower income and fewer services, upland areas have some advantages compared with other rural areas, such as greater social and environmental 'richness', less pollution and less reported crime. For the more financially- and physically-mobile people living in upland areas, these benefits may outweigh the costs. However, for other sectors of society, such as the young, the old and the disabled, there may be a sense of injustice stemming from the lack of affordable housing, transport and other public services.