Catbells circular walk | An introduction to the Lakeland fells

Catbells circular walk is a great introduction to walking the lake district fells.  The views from the top are outstanding giving a wonderful return for your effort.  If walked on it’s own it is a quite short circular walk depending on where you park your car. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious the walk can be extended to cover more ground in many directions. As this post is meant as an introduction we will stick to the most popular short circular route which covers about three and a half miles.

The walk is suitable for all ages, having said that you will need good mobility and a certain mount of fitness.  The paths are well trodden, well  maintained and very clear to follow and with the help of this guide you should have very little to worry about.  Just enjoy the views and the wonderful feeling being in the great outdoors brings.  This is one of our favourite walks and it’s probably the hill we have climbed the most on a variety of routes.

Catbells
Catbells from Derwentwater

Location

Catbells circular walk is located within the Lake District national park and is close to the market town of Keswick.  It rises to over four hundred and fifty metres on the western shore of Derwentwater with it’s distinctive bell like shape makes it a very prominent landmark that can be seen for miles.  

When to go

Catbells circular walk can be done at anytime of year.  My personal favourite season is Spring or maybe Autumn.  If theres snow and ice you will need specialist winter skills and equipment so if this is your first hill walk I wouldn’t venture onto the fells in these conditions but wait until you have more experience and perhaps take a winter skills course, which can be great fun. 

Where to stay

If your coming for longer than a day trip you will need to find accommodation.  Keswick has many options.  To find out more about the town please see our Guide to Keswick. I would recommend staying for at least a long weekend.  This is a wonderful part of the world with lots of things to see and do besides this amazing walk.

Catbells walk
View from the path

The walk

Our Catbells circular walk starts from the small carpark at the base of the hill itself.  This carpark has room for about eight cars.  It is best to get here as early as you can to get a space as it fills up very quickly.  If full, there are plenty of options to park on the roads round and about the start of the walk.  If using this option please make sure you leave enough space for other road users to pass.

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to finish the walk in daylight hours.  The walk is about three and a half miles and could take you up to four hours depending on your fitness or if you are doing it as a family with the kids.  It is a suitable walk to do with the children, there are a couple of short scrambles where you may need to get your hands dirty.  These are easily negotiated, just take your time, walk at the speed of your slowest group member and help each other where required.

Catbells walk
Enjoying a break before the hike down

Equipment

People often ask us what do you need to set off out in the hills for a days walking.  This of course, all depends on the time of year.  Winter hill walking requires specialist equipment to be done safely.  As we recommend you steer clear of winter walking until you have a little experence in the hills we will stick to three season walking which is basically Spring through to Autumn.

A good sturdy pair of walking shoes or boots is a good place to start. They need to have a good grip, ankle support and most importantly they need to be worn in don’t set off on a three hour hill walk in new boots. You will end up with very sore feet and maybe blisters.  Couple these with some good socks and your ready to go.

Water and at least a snack to keep your energy levels up is very important.  Don’t go into the hills without these even on a short walk like the one in this report.  If it gets hot you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get dehydrated.  Other useful things to take are sunblock, sun glasses and a camera of some kind.  We all have one on our phones.

Catbells walk
Chris on the path to the summit

Equipment Continued

Another thing that could spoil your day is the weather.  You need to make sure you have a rainproof coat with you and hopefully it will stay packed away in your rucksack but it’s best to have one just in case.  We also carry waterproof over trousers.  A hat is always useful.  In good weather it will keep the sun off your head and in cold weather it will keep your head warm.  Gloves are also useful,  I don’t go hill walking without mine 

Last but not least is some form of navigation.  On this walk the paths are very clear and well sign posted and there are usually other people about so it may not seem necessary.  I personally would always carry a paper map and an app on my phone with the walking route on it.  Keep to very simple good clear way marked paths as you learn how to use these.  Move on to harder routes as you gain more experience.   

Always stay alert to things that change during your walk.  Don’t be afraid to turn back if you are unsure.  Don’t be shy ask other walkers for advice and help if needed, most will be pleased to help.  Have fun, stay safe and most important of all enjoy yourself.  Take your time to see things around you and take in the views.

Os map and route

This Catbells circular walk starts at the carpark at the base of cat bells.  The post code for the carpark is CA12 5UE.  The carpark itself is about a hundred metres down an unnamed single track road.  It’s not the easiest to find so if you struggle or it’s full park on the road side wherever you can and use the GPX file to find the start of the walk.
Catbells circular walk
Catbells carpark
Step One

After parking use the GPX file above to find the start of the walk.  You will need some kind of online mapping app that will allow you to download the file.  Alternatively you can follow the route via the signposts as the route is quite easy to follow. You can also use the paper map. OS Explorer OL4.

Step Two

You’ve done the hard part parked up found the start and your on the path.  Now all you need to do is relax and enjoy the walk with some amazing views, which open up as you gain height.  You will see the path to the top open up before you.  Follow the path up and over a couple of bumps and a couple of short scrambles.

Catbells
Chris on the path
Catbells Trig Point
Catbells Trig Point
Step Three

After about a mile you will come to the trig point as you can see the top of the hill is just above on the higher ground.  Have a look around. The top of the trig has a little map pointing out the direction of landmarks. Hopefully you have picked a nice clear day and can spot them. If this is your first summit congratulations you have just bagged your first Wainwright. 

Step Four

Now to find your way back down.  Keep following the path over the top of the hill and down the other side.  Just before the path starts to go back up onto Maiden Moor you will come to a quite distinct crossroads.  We turn left here onto a clear path downhill towards the road.  The path zigzags down quite steeply but on a good well made surface.  Keep left as the path forks down some well made steps.

Catbells walk
The path zig zags down the hillside
Catbells way maker
Pointing the way
Step Five

As you get closer to the bottom of the hill you will see a path that runs parallel to the road.  Again turn left and follow the path.  The path follows the road back to the turn off to the carpark.  At one point the path seems to join the road.  Keep to the path and you shouldn’t go wrong.  Hopefully you have remembered where you parked and have had a great introduction to the Lakeland Fells.

Refreshments

One of the best things about hill walking is the after walk refreshment.  Perhaps your fancy a pint of local ale, a Gin and Tonic or two or just a refreshing soft drink to rehydrate a little.  Your in the right place.  Keswick and the surrounding area has a vast array of pubs, cafes, wine bars and restaurants.  From Fish and chips and pub grub to top of the range dining.  We have a couple of favorites. 

The Dog and Gun in the town centre is one of the most well know walkers bars in the country. Some say its not as good as it used to be but we have always been welcomed.  It serves good quality local ales and is famous for its Goulash.  The other is a cocktail bar called The Round. This place serves the most fantastic burgers. It gets very busy at weekends so you may need to queue. 

What next

Hopefully you’ve had a great time on your Catbells circular walk and you’re looking to get out and try some more hills walking.  The English Lake District is a fantastic place to get out into the hills.  Alfred Wainwright drew up pictorial guides to two hundred and fourteen of the hills and fells of the area.  Bagging all of these is a great challenge and a very addictive way to keep yourself out and about in the breath taking countryside. There is a very helpfull free website we use to tick off our completed hills.  It’s called Walking Highlands.  It covers all the major named hills of the British Isles including the Lakes.

Our View

In our view this walk is a perfect introduction to the Lake District fells.  It’s in an easy location to reach, not far from local amenities and has fantastic views.  It is suitable for all ages and has a clearly marked path that is easily followed.  Even though it is viewed as an easy walk it has enough going for it to keep you coming back again and again.  We really do hope you enjoy it as much as we do.   

Disclaimer

Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. The information in this post is provided free of charge and is only provided as a guide; it is each walker’s responsibility to check it and navigate using a map.

Booking resources for your trip to Keswick

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

Some of the links on this page contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may get paid commission on sales of those products or services we write about. You will never be charged a fee for shopping through one of our affiliate links. You may even get a discounted rate and we will make a small commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.

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