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.