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OS Explorer Map OL4 (1:25,000) & OS Landranger Maps 89 & 90 (1:50,000)
5.8km (3.6 miles) – total ascent 392m
If you are new to the experiences the Lake District has to offer then Catbells (or Cat Bells) is a great place to start. It is relatively short and offers some amazing views of Derwent Water, Keswick and the Skiddaw range to the North East. This has to be one of my favourite walks in the Lake District! I guess this is mainly due to the fact that my family used to holiday in and around Keswick when I was growing up and I have fond memories of the area from staying in places like Portinscale and various campsites and National Trust properties in the area.
The tranquil beauty of Derwent Water and Borrowdale are not to be missed on any journey into the Lake District. Keswick itself has a sense of energy and there is a vast array of diverse shops and pubs to welcome any visitor. A walk through the town to Crow Park is a must on any visit.
Back to Catbells then. The legendary author and artist A. Wainwright starts off his description of Catbells in his ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells – The Northern Fells’ by saying “Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved.” It is a great beginner mountain but is slightly more than a simple walk. Catbells was also a favourite of Beatrix Potter who used the surrounding area for the locations of many of her tales. Mrs Tiggy-Winkle lives on Catbells behind a little wooden door
The early starter (or those the ‘parking fairies’ favour) will find parking at NY246211, just north of Catbells and about 2.5km south of Portinscale. The path itself is easy to pick up from here. Head south up the well trodden path and steadily climb to the top of first summit (338m). Ahead of you is the saddle feature of Skelgill Bank and a clear view of the route to the summit of Catbells. Just shy of the summit itself there is a little exposed face of rock to tackle but this is not severe enough to be classed as a scramble and I have seen all ages and abilities manage this. Never underestimate anything in the hills though and appropriate care should always be taken.
The summit of Catbells (NY244198) stands at 451m and offers a great sense of achievement with, as previously mentioned, amazing views. To the south is Maiden Moor, High Spy and the beautiful Borrowdale valley, to the west are the Derwent Fells, to the north is the ancient Skiddaw, and to the east Derwent Water and Keswick. Once I took my daughter up here (she was 9 and this was her first Wainwright) and an enterprising young couple were selling home made iced lemonade from a trolley on the summit for charity!
When you are ready move off of the summit and continue south along the path for about 600m to a prominent track junction on the lowest point of the saddle (NY244191) and turn left (east) continuing down the side of the mountain. After 100m his track will head southeast and you should continue for another 600m until a track junction where the track meets a wood (NY248186). Turn north (left) and along the side of the wood until the track (part of the Allerdale Ramble route) meets the road. Here you two options; either walk along the road or immediately rejoin the Allerdale Ramble track that slightly ascends before delivering you back to the start point.