My favourite Catbells Walk route, near Keswick, Lake District

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
Catbells offers some of the best views that the Lake District has to offer for a relatively modest in height mountain/fell for the Lakes. It's also a quick walk and near Keswick so its very accessible.

The best Catbells short circular walking route (with stunning views of Derwent Water)

This is my favourite short circular walking route of Catbells because of the amazing views of Derwent Water on the entire walk, even on the descent and way back. Catbells is a popular Lake District walk and it's easy to see why, as it is quite short, quick to do, has great views and even has a little bit of a fun and challenging scramble up a couple of rock faces. It's great for adults and kids alike.

Cat Bells Walk Distance: 6.2km, 3.8 miles
Cat Bells Walking Time: 1.5-2 hours
Cat Bells Walk Start: Car Park at Skelgil or Hawes End ferry landing stage
Cat Bells Walk Difficulty: Moderate (2 scrambling sections up Skelgil bank)

Whilst short in distance and quick to do, those new to walking often head to Catbells, so just beware it is fairly steep in 2 short sections (if done head-on from the northern end via Skelgil Bank, which is the way I recommend) as there are 2 little scrambles up steep rock that require you to use your hands, and those who are a bit scared of heights may not feel comfortable in some of these more exposed positions. That being said it's a route that kids do often and is perfectly safe.

How high is Catbells? 

451m is it’s elevation and it's a well-known and distinctive landmark overlooking Derwent Water and Keswick with impressive views of the surrounding mountains, like Skiddaw on clear days.

Catbells walk route:

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On this photo I have illustrated on a photo of Catbells from a distance, the circular route you will take on this walk so you can get a feel for the kind of terrain you will be walking. The walk basically starts on the right of this photo and up the steep-ish Skelgil Bank first then it goes left (south) towards the Catbells summit and back down the opposite, gentler end. I fully recommend doing the walk this way as its more fun, and less strain on the knee's! going up Skelgil bank rather than coming down it.

Catbells walk map:

[Click to enlarge] This is the best route up to Catbells in my opinion, in a circular, anticlockwise direction. It starts at the foot of Skelgil Bank to the north (park as close to here as possible - see end of blog for notes on parking) It is definitely best done by heading up to Catbells via Skelgil Bank first (the steepest section of the walk) and then coming down the southern end where the path is gentler and more defined. You will get stunning views over Derwent Water throughout the walk if you go this way. 

As you can see on this elevation chart of the walking route - once the Catbells summit has been tackled it's plain sailing on the way back :-)

Photos of what to expect on the best Catbells walk:

This walk starts right at the foot of Sklegil Bank just off the road. If your heading here by car - try and park as close to this point as possible. There aren't many car park spaces though, so be sure to see my note on car parking at the bottom of this blog post.

The walks begins with a nice gentle uphill - always a plus ha

It doesn't take much to gain some height and the stunning Derwent Water soon comes into view

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
On this sunny, clear autumn day the views are impressive over Derwent Water towards Walla Crag & Ashness Bridge. (I have another blog post on a walk over the other side of Derwent Water here if your interested www.hikingphotographer.uk/2016/08/walk-from-keswick-castlehead-walla-crag-ashness-bridge)

The initial path winds it's way up Skelgil Bank, changing between stone steps and gravel path.  

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
Looking back down over the winding path we've just walked.

Approaching the first little scramble

Here you can see the first scramble up the rock face. It's nothing too tricky - but may be a bit slippy in the wet.

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You may have to use your hands for the first scramble. This is why I recommend doing this circular walk to the Catbells summit from the northern, steeper-end via Skelgil bank, as its easier gong up the steep rock than coming down it! It's all perfectly safe in dry conditions and make the walk a little bit more fun and varied (if you are not very mobile, a complete novice or a bit scared of heights you might find it a bit of a challenge though!)

Onwards and upwards, Catbells is just in shot in the far distance behind this little peak

The view over Newlands Valley is pretty impressive with lot's of other fells that are good walks too.

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
The views are great all the way on this walk and here you can see the mountain of Skiddaw covered in cloud and Blencathra in the distance to the right 

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
Shidting our gaze slightly left (north-west) and looking over towards Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance.

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
We're not far from Catbells summit now and the walk is flat for a bit

Approaching the 2nd steep section where again you may have to use your hands a little bit

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
Admiring the view (taking a rest ;-)

This section can be a little tricky - and you just find the best way up yourself across the rock. For those with a fear of heights you may feel a bit exposed here. It's perfectly safe though if you just take your time and watch your footing. Like I said it's easier going up this way than back down and in the wet it can be slippy.

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
And we arrive at the Catbells summit! We're looking north here backwards where we have walked and get stunning views of Derwent Water, the town of Keswick off to the right and the mountains of Skiddaw & Blencathra in the distance.

Catbells view summit walk
Shifting our view more to the north-west here towards Bassenthwaite Lake

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
For a quick walk, it maybe took 40 mins to get up here - the views are fantastic and it's definitely a place to stop, take a rest, grab a bite to eat and a drink and just soak up the views.

If we look east from the summit we look over towards Ashness Bridge and Lodore Falls hotel - where the trees give it a very autumnal feel

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
And now looking west from the summit of Catbells towards Robinson, Grasmor and the surrounding fells

After a 10 min rest we head down from the summit of Catbells via the southern route which is more gentler.

Looking towards Borrowdale with the autumnal Manesty Forest Park in full view

This is an important junction on the path. If you carry on straight ahead you can extend your walk up to Maiden Moor, but on this particular route - make sure you take the left and descend ;-)

Catbells walk view cat bells keswick Lake District best route map how high summit
The descent from Catbells via the southern end is much gentler and you will see some stunning views of Borrowdale, Manesty Park and over to the Ashness Bridge area. On this photo Manesty Park is in full view and on the longer walk you can walk through the forest to vary the walk up. Visit my "4 Best Catbells Walks" blog post to see this longer Catbells route

Looking back up the path we have just walked down.

As we near the end of our descent this spot was a good place so soak up the view and enjoy a drink of coffee from the flask.

The path is pretty flat now all the way back the start and you'll have views of Derwent Water all the way back.

You'll have a nice leisurely stroll all the way now

And finally back to where we parked. If your lucky there may be spaces to park your car along the road side when you visit :-)

Where to park on a Catbells Walk?

Whilst free to park, there isn't great deal of car parking spaces at the foot of Skelgil Bank (maybe room for 10 cars or so) which get full quite easily. If this is the case, head along the road to Grange on the eastern edge of Catbells where there are sections where you can park on the roadside, which is what we did. Again there isn't massive amounts of car parking spaces, so on a weekend with good weather it may prove tricky to find a spot. Tip - get there early or do the walk out of season or mon-fri.

Catbells where to park the car parking
[Click photo to enlarge] You can just about make out the road along the eastern edge of Catbells here which heads to the village of Grange, and you can see the cars parked on the road side. This is your best chance of finding somewhere to park (and its free).

I hope this little blog post sheds some light on what is the best walk 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.

Post by Stuart Hodgson 
'The Hiking Photographer'

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  1. Hey Stuart, great blog! We did this very route to Catbells just the other week and you have explained it really well. I am so glad we came up Skelgil bank first and on to catbells that way, because a) I don't like heights, b) I have a torn ligament and wearing a full leg brace, it just made it that much easier to do that little scramble up rather than coming down it. To be honest I don't think I would have fancied coming up all those stone steps/path, going down them was so much easier! I shall be having gander at your other blogs, to give me some inspiration for our visit in August. Thank you❤

  2. Glad you found the blog post useful in planning your walk - that's why I do the blog :-) Well done for doing it all in your leg brace too as there are some tricky bits. Hope you find more inspiration here for doing your Lake District walks - my favourite place in the world!

  3. Thanks for blog great information, I will try catbells again as only did half way up.

    1. Pleased you found the blog useful up Cat bells - hopefully you get all the way up next time - the views of Derwent Water from the summit are well worth it :-)


Thanks for taking an interest in my blog, all comments and questions are welcome! Best, Stuart

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