Oct 06

Derwentwater and Catbells in the Lake District, Cumbria

by in Cumbria, Outdoors, Walking

Boats on Derwentwater, Lake District, Cumbria - photo by Zoe Dawes

Renowned for its many beautiful lakes and impressive mountain scenery, the Lake District in Cumbria attracts walkers from all over the world. Some of the mountains are very challenging and attract serious climbers and mountaineers.  But you don’t need crampons and hefty nylon ropes to enjoy this area.  In every local newsagent from Kendal to Carlisle, from Appleby to Ulverston you can find hundreds of guide books, maps and leaflets on walks  to suit all ages and abilities.   A relatively easy though challenging enough walk is Cat Bells in the north of the Lake District.  It takes about three hours to climb and you will need decent walking shoes or boots.  (See below for appropriate clothing.)

 Derwentwater and Catbells

Keswick Launch and Cat Bells, Derwentwater, Cumbria - photo by Zoe Dawes

There are various ways to get up to distinctly sinuous Catbells or Cat Bells – its unusual name MAY be from a distortion of “Cat Bields” meaning ‘shelter of the wild cat’.   You can park near Portinscale and follow the signed path near the old Grange road, but a more attractive route is via Derwentwater.  Give yourself the whole day so you can enjoy the town of Keswick and also the lake trip as well as the walk.  If you’re coming by car, you can either park in the town or beside the Theatre By The Lake.  First wander down past the lake to the end of the little headland for one of the loveliest views in England.  Friars Crag inspired Canon Rawnsley to raise subscriptions to save it for the nation and so the National Trust was founded.  The panorama takes in Derwentwater, the Jaws of Borrowdale and the fells all around, including Catbells.  Ruskin said it was one of the finest views in Europe … It’s delightful at any time of year.

Derwentwater Ferry

Derwentwater Ferry

Go back to Keswick Launch jetty and get a ferry across the lake to Hawse End.  (NB there is only a limited service in winter.) Follow the road up across the cattle grid and you’ll find a well-marked path on the left that will take you up Catbells.  The route winds and wiggles quite steeply up Skelgill Bank so make sure you take plenty of time to stop and enjoy the scenery.  When you think you’ve reached the top, you haven’t  – there’s another summit further on! You won’t have it to yourself as it is very popular but the view makes the huff n puff all worthwhile.

Cat Bells summit and Lake District View - Photo by DAVID ILIFF

Cat Bells summit and Lake District View – photo by David Iliff

You can return back the way you came or go down via Hause Gate (don’t know why there are two different spellings) and through Brandlehow Woods, and get the ferry back from there or Hawse End. Here is the walk in more detail.

Be Prepared

Derwentwater from Friar's Crag

Derwentwater from Friar’s Crag

Cumbria and the Lake District are renowned for the ‘changeable climate‘!  You will need to dress comfortably for possibly all kinds of weather – rain, hail, snow, wind and, if you’re lucky, maybe even sunshine.   You can set off in glorious sunshine and find that fog or rain descends on you very quickly, so do check the weather before you go walking and take appropriate precautions. Wear comfortable hiking boots, waterproof jacket and a hat if it is at all likely to be cold.  Be sure to have a map and mobile phone.  Take plenty of water and things to eat as you’re bound to use up a lot of energy on this walk.

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10 Responses to “Derwentwater and Catbells in the Lake District, Cumbria”

  1. From Zoe Dawes:

    There are so many wonderful walks around the Lake District and I must admit I am more in favour of a gentle stroll than a strenous climb, but it really is worth making the effort to get the magnificent views from the top of the fells.

    Posted on October 6, 2013 at 5:23 pm #
  2. From Elspeth Wrigley:

    Just love Catbells. I’m not sure how many times my children thought we’d got to the summit, when in fact we hadn’t – it is very easy to eat your picnic too early if you are aiming to have it on the tops!

    We haven’t done the route via the Ferry – that sounds like fun and I’m sure would be an added attraction for any children in the party.

    Posted on October 7, 2013 at 9:05 am #
  3. From Zoe Dawes:

    Always good to go by boat Elspeth but there’s still the walk to be done when you get off 😉 Good tip – bring extra picnic!

    Posted on October 7, 2013 at 9:29 am #
  4. From Elspeth Wrigley:

    Extra picnic sounds a fine plan Zoe 🙂

    I think I always worry that we won’t finish a walk before the last ferry – we tend to have a lot of diversions on our walks – stopping to skim stones and collect wimberries and the like, but the idea of incuding a ferry does appeal – nothing quite like being on the water 😀

    Posted on October 7, 2013 at 10:17 am #
  5. From Barry McCann:

    There is the story of the Hermit of Derwentwater, St. Herbert, who live alone on the island with a simple diet of his own grown vegetables and fish caught from the lake. The remains of his sanctuary, a small grotto of stone known as New Hermitage, are still visible. He was immortalised in words by Wordsworth, who wrote

    This quiet spot: and stranger, not unmoved
    Wilt thou behold this shapeless heap of stones
    The desolute ruins of St. Herbert’s cell
    There stood his threshold; there was spread the roof
    That sheltered him, a self secluded man…

    Posted on October 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm #
  6. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks so much for sharing that Barry – a very prefect link to another attractive spot in the Lake District 🙂

    Posted on October 30, 2013 at 9:47 am #


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