The 4 best Catbells walks, near Keswick, with route maps

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The summit of Catbells (left of centre of the photo) overlooking Derwent Water, near Keswick in the English Lake District. Catbells is one of the most popular, accessible and best walks in the Lakes. For any new visitors looking for walks near Keswick - it's a must-do walk

Catbells - one of the Lake District's most popular fell walks

Catbells has a modest height of 451 meters (1,480ft) - so it's quite accessible - even for families and children. It's also a very popular walk as it is not far from Keswick in the Lake District - and it offers superb views of the surrounding fells and Derwent Water. Its an excellent walk for those new to fell walking or even more experienced walkers who want to see some cracking views on a walk that doesn't take long at all!

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The view from Catbells looking across Skelgil Bank towards the town of Keswick at the head of Derwent Water on the right with Skiddaw mountain in the distance and Bassenthwaite Lake in the far distance to the left. For a relatively quick walk  - the views are some of the best in the Lakes.

How long does it take to walk up Catbells?

The climb up from lake level to the peak if you park at the closest point is about 30 to 40mins and most people walk up form the northern end which is the steepest way as shown on the route maps in this blog post.

How long does it take to walk up and down Catbells?

This depends on the route you take as there are a few options of varying length as shown on this blog post. The quickest route up and down the shortest distance can be done in an hour. I recommend allocating more time though and taking in one of the circular routes depending on how much time you have.

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Why is Catbells called 'Catbells'?

It's unclear why the name is Catbells but it’s probably a corruption of an old english term in reference to where wild cats still roamed the area. Rest-assured they don't now :-)

How high is catbells?

451m is it’s elevation and it's a well-known and distinctive landmark overlooking Derwent Water.

Where is Catbells?

Catbells is a popular walk near Keswick in the English Lake District, Cumbria. It overlooks Derwent Water lake and has superb views for it's relatively modest height compared to the bigger Lake District Mountains.

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The 4 best Catbells Walking Routes

The 4 best and most popular walking routes to Catbells and back

Often those who walk to the summit of Catbells are relatively new to walking - so I thought I would share some of my favourite and best routes to Catbells. The routes are of varying distance and starting points - and which route you choose all depends on the time you have available really and your modes of transport.

#1. The quickest circular Catbells walking route (which returns via the western edge of Catbells):

Distance: 4.8km, 3 miles
Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Start: Car Park at foot of Skelgil Bank (or get the ferry to Hawes End landing stage)

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[Click map to enlarge] This is the quickest route to the top of Catbells and back. It starts at the Car Park at the foot of Skelgil Bank, and then it's straight up Skelgil bank - onto the summit of Catbells and the down the western edge of Catbells via Brunt Crag then onto Skelgil. This gives good views of the Newlands Valley. Full route can be found here http://outdoorsgps.com/route/show/432687_catbellsfromskelgill
Here you can see the elevation o this quick route - it's a fairly steep climb up Skelgil bank which might get you out of breath :-) but after that it's quite easy

#2. Alternative Catbells short circular walking route (with great views of Derwent Water all the way around)

This is my favourite short route because of the views of Derwent Water on the descent.

Distance: 6.2km, 3.8 miles
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Start: Hawes End ferry landing stage or Car Park at Skelgil

This is another quick route up to Catbells and in my opinion is worth the extra 0.8 miles compared to the previous walk as the views over Derwent Water are superb along every step of the way. Full route here http://outdoorsgps.com/route/show/484576_catbells-from-hawes-end-ferry 

As you can see once Catbells has been tackled it's plain sailing on the way back :-)

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On this photo I have illustrated the path you will take on the Catbells route above so you can get a feel for the kind of terrain you will be walking

#3. Catbells walk returning along the Cumbrian Way along Derwent Water's edge

Distance: 6.7km, 4.2 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Start: Car Park at foot of Skelgil Bank or take the ferry to Hawes End

This is my best way of walking Catbells as it gives a lot of variety and different views. As well as the great views from Catbells, you also walk through the woodland of Manesty Park and along the Cumbrain Way along Derwent Water's edge around Brandelhow Bay and onto Brandelhow Park.You can either start from the Skelgil Car Park or any of the 3 Ferry landing stages along the route. The full route can be found here http://outdoorsgps.com/route/show/496186_cat-bells-via-skegil-bank-manesty-park-derwent-water-edge-brandelhow-bay-brandelhow-park

Once you have tackled Catbells on this route - its a nice leisurely stroll along flat terrain on Derwent Water's edge back to the start 

#4. Catbells from Keswick - the long way

Distance: 15.1km, 9.4 miles
Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Start: Keswick town centre
This route is ideal if you want to start from Keswick and fancy a longer walk or don't want to travel via car/ferry/bus to the usual starting points nearer Catbells. The walk begins along the Cumbrian Way out of Keswick and heads to Portinscale and Fawe Park and then you walk up to Catbells via Skelgil bank in much the same way as the routes above. You would then return along the easter edge of Catbells then onto the same way back to Keswick via The Cumbrian way - or you could even catch the ferry back at the landing stage at Hawes End if you time it right! Full route can be viewed here http://outdoorsgps.com/route/show/416956_lake-district-catbells-1-1
When walking to Cat bells from Keswick you have plenty of time to warm up before you begin the ascent of Cat Bells - with a leisurely stroll back to Keswick

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The summit of Catbells overlooking Derwent Water near Keswick. In terms of accessibility - Catbells is one of the most popular and best walks in the Lake District. For any new visitors to Keswick in the Lakes - it's a must do walk

Extending your Catbells walk

I have only shown the most popular Catbells routes on this blog post to help those unfamiliar with the area in planning a walk. For the more experienced walkers or walkers with more time on your hands - then after Catbells you may want to head onto Maiden Moor, High Spy or even Dale Head! You can make the walk as long or as short as you like really!

The Keswick area

For most people planning a walk up to Catbells, and who want to stay in the area, then Keswick is an excellent place to stay for a night or more  - and is my favourite Lake District town. I'm no fan of Windermere as it's just too busy and full of tourists, and whilst Keswick is also busy, it seems to retain some Lake District charm, whilst having plenty of pubs, restaurants and shops! You'll find some accommodation offers in Keswick below:


To finish off - I hope this little blog post sheds some light on walking up Catbells and for those unfamiliar with the the area it helps you plan your walk. I really recommend Catbells if you are in the Keswick area as it offers some great views.

Blog Post by Stuart Hodgson, 'The Hiking Photographer'


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