walk view of catbells or otherwise known as cat bells

A climb of Cat Bells, or as some call it Catbells, is a walk that every Lake District lover has on their list. It is not so high either and stands at 451 metres (1480 feet) so it is a popular walk for families with children or for those that cannot climb the higher fells of Cumbria.

It may not be the highest peak, but my word it is blessed with some of the most incredible scenery, and thus it is something that has become a popular undertaking for many.

Many thousands, from small children to the elderly have took the time to wander up the gentle ridge to the top and take in the magnificent views along Borrowdale.

a view across derwentwater from Catbells

And so many more thousands have seen it, as we have shown before, from across Derwentwater on the other side near Keswick.

BaldHiker Retreats

That is another reason this fell is so popular, it is accessible only 3 miles or so from the popular town to stay in, Keswick.

How Did Cat Bells Get Its Name?

The name Catbells is unique isn’t it? The name is thought to have come from ‘Cat Bields’ which a historical phrase meaning ‘shelter for wild cats’.

The wild cats disappeared centuries ago but the name lives on it seems.

Cat Bells Car Parking

Now then, before we get into the walk we must talk about car parking. As I have said this is a very popular walk, but, car parking at the foot of the walk is very minimal to say the least.

There is a layby type parking that only has room for around 8 cars. So if you want to chance it then I suggest you get up early and get there early.

The postcode for the small car park at the start of the walk is CA12 5UE.

Be careful parking in unofficial laybys and on the side of the roads. You have a high chance of being towed/fined, plus you must think of the people living down this remote road and how emergency services might have to get to them.

Park & Boat – Yes, to negate any worries about parking it may be easier to take the Park & Boat from Keswick Launch by Derwentwater. You can leave the car over there for a small fee and take the lake boat that stops at 7 places around the lake. The stop you want for Catbells is Hawse End.

a sheep on catbells

The Walk Up Cat Bells

From the car park you just step foot onto the foot of the wide ridge and make your way upwards. This is called North Ridge.

Once up onto the wide ridge proper you just keep walking upwards, the path is really well maintained and clear. A bit of a double edged sword really. The walk is so popular that it is always being eroded and the National Trust are having to continuously maintain it.

Walking up the ridge involves ups and downs over the lower ‘bumps’ and tiny peaks.

Within just a few minutes of getting on the path up though the views begin in earnest! Back over your left shoulder (above) you get your first big view across Derwentwater to Keswick, with Blencathra standing tall as the backdrop.

across derwentwater to Blencathra

Look back over your right shoulder and Bassenthwaite Lake, (the only Lake called a Lake in the Lake District) appears.

view from Cat Bells down to Bassenthwaite Lake

Down to your left as you go up of course you have the ever expanding views of Derwentwater. But equally impressive are the views over to the right.

Newlands Valley is a gorgeous green, even in January. Directly across it the unmistakable towering Causey Pike stands guard over western fells.

Causey Pike from Catt Bells

Beatrix Potter and Cat Bells

Down there in the upper Newlands Valley (shown below) there is the small village by the name of Little Town. A young Beatrix Potter was greatly inspired by the area around Little Town that a whole story grew out of it.

The Little Town of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (hedgehog) fame was indeed named after this real place. Lucie, a character in the story, was named after a daughter of the local vicar here at Skelghyl, a friend she met on holiday here.

And the hill that is the home of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in the book? Yes, she lived behind a little wooden door on Cat Bells.

Newlands Valley where mrs Tiggy-Winkle lived

To The Summit

As I have said the ridge walk to the summit is full of little ups and downs. Four bumps in total.

looking up to the summit of Catbells

This is one of those walks that are a joy to do more than once, each season and weather type making it a whole different experience from view to colours.

This time it was refreshing and changeable. Blue skies one way, dark clouds the other, dry then drizzle one minute and a fluttering of snow the next. An exhilarating day to be out and up.

Looking down and over to Borrowdale, behind the shadowed treelined top of Castle Crag the sun was breaking through to the valley floor whenever it could.

castle crag in the distance

And before you know it the summit is one final push ahead. Take a deep breath and await those huge views.

near the top of catbells

On the summit you have earned the right to stare at the glorious views. The wonderful giant of a panoramic for the senses that this small hill brings is one of the best of its kind.

Looking back down the ridge just ascended you get a lot of Cumbria and Lake District fame all rolled into one. Just in this one scene beyond the ridge you have – Bassenthwaite Lake, Skiddaw rising into a band of cloud, Derwentwater with Keswick at the Northern shore, plus Blencathra behind that!

view from the top of cat bells

Alas it was time to head down. Another great day had and I nver say it is the last time up here. No way, such an enjoyable walk and little climb.

catbells ridge looking down


This is a great and popular walk and for many great reasons.

The distance and height is not near the same as the big mountains in the lake district but the views and scenes are just as epic.

map of catbells walk

It is not as remote as many other places being in close proximity to Keswick, but plan ahead how you will park.

It is, in my opinion a great way to get the children doing their first peak here and whet their appetite without putting them off too much.

Enjoy the walk, and enjoy the views

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  1. Superb photogtraphy………Superb location……..Many thanks…..:)

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thank you so much Julie

  2. Colette L. Coe says:

    Beautiful…where’s the book Mr. Steele or did I miss something?

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Colette, hi.. the book? could be soon I think. Thanks

  3. Petrea Canaan says:

    Paul Steele, olhar iluminado!!! Obrigado! 😀

  4. Julie Brown says:

    Catbells has to be Heaven on Earth…..
    Where, please, are the pics’ of The Lodore Falls????

    1. Paul Steele says:

      coming soon!! 🙂 already have some pics

  5. Julie Brown says:

    Stunning and beautiful in every way…..Many thanks for posting xx

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thanks Julie 🙂

  6. John McPartland says:

    Lovely and nostalgic photos, Paul. My most memorable visit to the top of Catbells was when it was invaded by millions of flying ants. Not pleasant. Sixty seconds on the top and then a hasty retreat.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi John.. oh my yes a hasty retreat must have been in order.. great to hear you went many times 🙂

  7. Excellent “sheep photobomb”! Just kidding… 😉 Marvellous shots of an apparently magnificent spot. I especially like the one with the “light curtain” coming from the clouds. I sooo want to explore the Lake District at some point. So few days off and so much to discover here in Scotland already… *sigh*
    Paul, do you happen to know if wild camping is allowed in the Lake District!? Cheers, Oliver

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Hi Oliver, You should pop down here sometime indeed… wild camping is ok ‘up high on the top’ without the pollution, fires etc.

  8. Hank Martin says:

    Spectacular pictures and great information. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Oh Lake District is really nice! Been there ages ago . And your pics are nice, too!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thanks very much Marc, you must come this way again

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