Cat Bells Walk Keswick
Cat Bells is majestically poised above Derwent Water and quite arguably one of the most popular of all the low level Lakeland fell walks at 451 metres (1,480 ft); a mountain in miniature. The ascent is well rewarded with breath taking views over Derwent Water to the east and the Newlands valley to the west and back over the town of Keswick to Skiddaw and Saddleback (Blencathra walk), although Sharp Edge is not visible.
The renowned Lake District writer and walker Alfred Wainwright acknowledged the popularity of Cat Bells among fell walkers of all abilities by saying;
“it is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. Its popularity is well deserved, its shapely topknot attracts the eye offering a steep but obviously simple scramble”.
Sometimes it is hard to fathom why generation after generation certain walks remains ever popular, although some are immortalised by writers such as Wainwright and Beatrix Potter into the national heritage and I believe it is good to know why these walks have become shrine like to those seeking the outdoors. To have the wind blowing in your face and knowing the famous have walked these very same footpaths gives food for thought.
For those with long memories or young children will be interested to learn that Cat Bells was the home of Mrs Tiggy Winkle. With several of Beatrix Potter’s earlier publications drawing their backgrounds from the area around the Newlands valley and Derwent Water, where Beatrix Potter spent several summers before 1903. The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903) was inspired by the red squirrels which still frequent the woods on the shores of Derwent Water, Owl Island where Old Brown lived in the story being St Herberts Island. The connection is strongest with The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle (1905). This story is about a small girl called Lucie who lives at Little Town in Newlands. One day she meets washer woman (or washerhedgehog!) Mrs Tiggy Winkle, who works in a kitchen behind a small door on the side of Cat Bells. The real Lucie being a daughter of the vicar of Newlands whom Beatrix Potter met on her visits here.
Cat Bells Historical Connection
Cat Bells has long had its historical deep rooted past which brings people of all ages back time and again to walk these well-trodden footpaths. There are those who walked Cat Bells with their parents and return with their children and it is this lifelong connection which I believe makes such walks as Cat Bells part of the national heritage of walks if there was such an accolade.
There is ample parking around the base of Cat Bells and usually a farmer’s field wherein you may park, with currently a very reasonable £3 for the day fee for the privilege.
From here you will clearly see the ascent of Cat Bells directly in front of you and the cattle grid. There is a wooden footpath sign at the road junction which clearly indicates the start of the route. Leaving the road you will see a wide bridleway track to start with before the path commences to climb very steeply through the zig zags.
Very quickly you will start to climb and Derwent Water will come into plain view and the higher you climb the more of the Lakeland panorama comes into view. A memorial tablet will be passed for Arthur Leonard (founder of the Co-operative and Communal Holidays and ‘Father’ of the open-air movement) and eventually you will reach the first summit.
The footpath continues onwards and upwards along an undulating ridge to a final climb to the summit of Cat Bells.
The summit of Cat Bells can be a busy spot in high season and is a great place to swap walking notes with other walkers.
Continuing beyond the summit of Cat Bells following the footpath towards Maiden Moor and at the intersection of the crossroads take the left hand track, whilst descending steeply on a path through the zig zags, there being a fence on short sections.
As the track continues downwards it bends towards the right, heading away from your walk starting point, whilst you may wonder if you are going along the correct route as it is unclear at this point where you well make your uturn.
As the path widens the tree line will come into view and a dry stone wall separating the open fell from the trees. Taking the path leading left which runs along the lower slopes of Cat Bells with superb views over Derwent Water.
The footpath eventually reaches the road by the quarry, but leaves again, although here you may simply follow the road back to the walk starting point or return to the lower slopes of Cat Bells.
Cat Bells Walks Video
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