Lake District National Park
The Catbells walk is a very popular and easily accessible trail, a short distance from Keswick. This 6.6 km, family friendly, circular route exposes you to superb views of Derwentwater as well as the abundance of fell peaks that surround you
Commencing the Cat Bells Walk With a Trip Across Derwentwater on the Keswick Launch
We had never even heard of the Cat Bells walk until we watched ‘Britain’s 100 best walks’ on ITV in 2018, when it was voted #4.
Although not particularly challenging, the views right the way along the walk looked breathtaking. As a result, this was promptly added to our to-do list, for when we made it to the Lake District for the first time.
Finally, in June of 2021, we got to spend seven wonderful days in the National Park and experienced three amazing hikes – Helvellyn, Gowbarrow Fell and of course, Cat Bells!
When we discovered that we could start the adventure off with a boat ride across Derwentwater, the walk’s appeal grew further!
Where are the Cat Bells?
Cat Bells is a fell in the Lake District sitting within the county of Cumbria. It is situated just west of Derwentwater and 3 miles (5 kms) south west of the town of Keswick.
Where to Stay?
Keswick is a lovely, bustling market town and an ideal location for a multitude of Lake District activities, including Cat Bells. We stayed at the Lincoln guest house which was very pleasant.
Where to Park for the Cat Bells Walk?
There is a very small car park located near to the official start point of the Cat Bells walk that you can see here on Google Maps. There are also a few small parking spots along the road that runs along the eastern flank of Cat Bells mountain.
In our opinion, as Cat Bells parking is limited, it makes far more sense, especially in peak season, to leave your car in Keswick. If you are staying in town, you could leave your car at your accommodation and walk to the Keswick Launch or park in the large Lake Road car park nearby.
Of course, you can always take the bus from Keswick to the Cat Bells and take costly car parking out of the equation!
Taking the Keswick Launch to Hawse End
The Cat Bells walk option that we chose starts at Hawse End jetty which can be best reached by taking the Launch from Keswick.
Starting the adventure to Cat Bells from Keswick on a boat was such a treat. Not only do you eliminate any parking issues, you also get to experience the beauty of Derwentwater and its surrounding fells on this 10 minute trip to Hawse End.
Check out the latest Keswick launch times and prices.
Cat Bells Circular Walk from Hawse End – Step by Step
Once you step off the boat at Hawse End, follow the line of the jetty directly ahead of you passing through a wooden kissing gate. This leads you into a wooded area and shortly to a country road.
Check out this handy National Trust Cat Bells PDF
Turn right and then immediately left following the dirt track signposted ‘Cat Bells’. This will shortly meet a road once more, where you will continue straight up the hill and over a cattle grid.
As the road swings sharply to the left, take the stone path leaving the road directly ahead of you. It is here that the Cat Bells walk route starts in earnest!
Climb to Skelgill Bank
Upon leaving the road, the trail zig zags steeply up the northern ridge of the fell as you work your way towards the first main plateau of Skelgill Bank.
Within minutes, Derwentwater comes into sight and remains a permanent fixture for the entirety of the hike.
Skelgill Bank is a perfect place to take a well deserved rest and really begin to soak in the beauty that hits you from all directions.
Cat Bells Summit
Enjoy this nice flat section as you make your way along Skelgill Bank in preparation for one final steep ascent to the summit of Cat Bells. As you make this final climb, there are a few scrambling sections but certainly nothing too technical.
The summit of Cat Bells may sit at a modest 451 metres, but the views that you are afforded certainly make you think that you are standing on a much higher peak!
To the west sit the verdant pastures of the Newlands Valley, rising to a myriad of craggy fell peaks.
To the east lies Derwentwater with the peaks of Bleaberry Fell and High Seat just beyond.
To the south, the next fell peak in line is Maiden Moor that fills the skyline.
But it’s to the north where the ultimate spectacle awaits. Lying just across Derwentwater to the north east sits Keswick, nestled below the towering fells, dominated by the peaks of Skiddaw and the distinctive saddleback of Blencathra.
Cat Bells Walk – The Descent
Once you have filled your memory banks with the visual treats from the Cats Bells summit, continue to follow the trail in a southerly direction, now heading downhill.
Soon you will reach the col at Hause Gate, the meeting point of four paths. Here, you will take the obvious path that swings to the left and leads you in an easterly direction steeply down the fell side towards Derwentwater.
Return to Hawse End
Further down the trail, the path splits. Keep left, heading north towards a plantation of conifers. Here you join the main terrace path, signposted ‘Hawse End Jetty, 1.75 miles’. It is now a simple case of following the level trail along the fellside.
Although the views along this stretch of the Cat Bells walk are not as spectacular as those experienced from the mountain peak, they are still very enticing with pretty woodland clinging to the edge of the lake below you.
Eventually, you will arrive at the point where you commenced the climb earlier. Now, just retrace your steps back to Hawse End jetty for your boat trip back to Keswick.
Cat Bells Walk – Our Thoughts
This is a thoroughly enjoyable circular walk, boasting a variety of spectacular views. Being located just a stone’s throw from the bustling tourist town of Keswick, it is of little surprise that this hike is in high demand!
Getting to the start point by way of the Keswick launch not only added that little something extra to the occasion but also took away the unwanted additional stress of trying to find a parking space at Cat Bells.
We have labelled it a ‘moderately’ difficult walk but this is mainly due to the two steep climbs to Skelgill Bank and the summit itself. Truth be told, I don’t think you are going to find too many fell walks in the Lake District much easier than Cat Bells.
Infact, the great Alfred Wainwright acknowledges the popularity of Cat Bells among fellwalkers of all abilities by saying:
“It is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. Its popularity is well deserved: its shapely topknott attracts the eye offering a steep but obviously simple scramble.”
Cat Bells Walk Q & As
How long is the Cat Bell Circular walk?
4.10 miles (6.6 km)
How long did this walk take?
The Cat Bells walk time was 3.5 hours and we certainly took it easy.
How difficult is the walk?
We would class this as moderately difficult
How did Cat Bells get its name?
It is not certain but the name Cat Bells may have come from a corruption of ‘cat’s bield’ meaning a wild cat’s shelter and possibly stemmed from times when wild cats did indeed roam wild in the UK.
Have you completed the Cat Bells walk?
If so, kindly share your opinions in the comment box below.
Are you planning on experiencing the Cat Bells walk and have some questions? If so, please also drop them into the comment box and we will get back to you as quickly as possible…
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