Walking with Wainwright: Cat Bells

30 January 2020

We’ve previously mentioned Cat Bells in our discussion of our top 4 Autumn Colour Walks in the Lake District, but in truth, Cat Bells is a walk that can be enjoyed all year round. In this article you can find out where to park, the difficulty and routes for this walk, and a great pub to celebrate your achievement in afterwards.

Cat Bells

Cat Bells paws into 451 metres of skyline, rising up from the western shore of Derwent Water next to Keswick. It’s well loved by visitors to the Lake District and has been so at least since Alfred Wainwright’s time. Alfred Wainwright has spoken about Cat Bells and this is what he said:

 ‘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 topknott attracts the eye offering a steep but obviously simple scramble.’

As Wainwright has suggested, this is a walk that is well suited to families, or new walkers who enjoy the concept of hiking but are a little intimidated by some of the more aggressive fells and mountains in Cumbria, such as Langdale or Glaramara.

Parking in Keswick

There is a lot of paid parking available in Keswick, but you shouldn’t hope to find dedicated free parking here. Keswick is a very popular town in the Lake District and, as a result, it’s often very busy. The cheapest car parks are on Crosthwaite Road (Football Club and Fitz Park) which charge £3 for the whole day, but you’ll have to do a little walking to get into Keswick town.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to go walking anyway, adding the extra 5-10 minutes to your walk is probably worth it when you no longer have to worry about getting back to your vehicle in an allotted time.

Alternatively, you could get a Lake District bus to Keswick from the central Lake District but be aware that the buses to Keswick take a long time to reach their destination.

Once you’re in Keswick, you’ll need to get to the foot of Cat Bells to begin your walk. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • If you start your day early, you might be able to park near the foot of Cat Bells, but only if you start early. The popularity of this fell means that parking spaces are pretty scarce and as a result, most walkers need to start in town.
  • There’s a bus service running from Keswick. At the time of writing this blog, this is the 89 bus, but this may have changed by the time that you plan to undertake your walk. If you want to be sure on the bus number and its time, we recommend that you check with the Keswick bus timetables online.

We hope that you are successful in finding the perfect parking space!

Reaching the Summit

Most hikers approach Cat Bells from its northern route at Hawse End, which is also one of the routes that Alfred Wainwright used, and this is the route that we will describe here.

From the starting position at Gutherscale car park, walkers will curve round the foot of Cat Bells until they reach a footpath that ascends the hill. During the ascent, walkers will be afforded views of Skiddaw and Swinside behind them.

Walkers should note four ‘bumps’ during their ascent; sections of the route which are steep for a while then flatten out for a bit. Ascending each successive bump is an achievement that will bring you closer to your goal of reaching the summit.

When you are approaching the fourth bump, you will be able to see the summit of Cat Bells to the left of the bump. On ascending the fourth bump, you can proudly announce to your fellow walkers that you have reached ‘Skelgill Bank’ and will shortly be at the finish line.

Once you reach the top of Cat Bells, it’s time to crack out the hot thermos of tea and enjoy a snack to prepare you for the return journey. Assuming you’ve hiked on a good day, you should also take this chance to admire the views from the summit, looking out over the other fells like Blencathra, Walla Crag and Clough Head.

Where to Dine

A good walk always works up an amazing appetite, so your final stop should be one of Keswick’s many pubs or restaurants. We recommend a stop by the Java café if you finish your walk in the afternoon, there is also a Wetherspoons set in an old courtroom. For a more refined experience, you might choose to stop by The Sizzling Stone steak house, or if you’re feeling thematic you might try a drink and a Sunday lunch at The Wainwright pub.

Alternatively, you could grab yourself a small bite to eat and drive back to one of our self catering holiday cottages to rustle up a grand meal of your own. Our Lake District cottages are the perfect place to retreat to after along day’s hike, so we invite you to make the most of our comfy furnishings for your next holiday soon.

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