On paper, Catbells should be a fairly straightforward and easy-ish walk. At 451m it is no Scafell Pike. And true, whereas on Skiddaw we barely saw a walker (surely a bad sign?!), on Catbells, there were many older ramblers, families, day-trippers and holidaymakers. But I didn’t get the impression of there being many hardened mountain walkers. And Wainwright himself says:”Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together”.
But I had a sprained ankle (yes, yes, I know I should have laid in bed and drank copious amounts of tea but it wasn’t too bad a sprain) and although it wasn’t broken, merely bruised, it did mean that this hill climb would be a little harder than it ought to be.
We thought there might be a long and tedious road walk before the climb itself, but a helpful lady at the tourist information centre told us there was a short walk along the road which led into a pleasant wander through woodland – or we could take a boat trip. That sounded rather appealing to me, feeling rather lazy, but we took the scenic wooded route anyway.
So walking through Keswick town centre, we passed a bridge over the River Greta (on the way back, we witnessed a heron and a guillemot at the river) and saw the pencil museum across the road. Then turned left, onto the Cumbria Way, past the village of Portinscale towards the Lingholm Estate. We greeted alpacas chewing sweet grass in a field and carried on via the woodland, where we came across this unusual fungi on tree.
And here are a few views of our walk up Catbells… And the scenes from the hill itself, looking down to Derwentwater.
If you are looking for a hill climb to do with your family – whether children, teens, middle-aged or retired and fit parents, this is a brilliant walk. Lovely scenery and wonderful views, not much scrambling and not too steep or strenuous. It is still a hill, still a challenge, but if you’re moderately fit, you can do this. It makes a great ‘first’ hill climb or, if you’re a lover of peak bagging, your first of 214 Wainwright’s! Not one for lovers of solitude though as it’s a popular climb, probably for the reasons I’ve given.
I got confused at the top as it looked as if we hadn’t reach the summit. Where was the cairn for me to take a photo saying ‘I did it?!’
But there is no cairn and there wasn’t one in Wainwright’s day either. The ridge continues to Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Handsworth and Robinson which can provide a horseshoe walk if you’re in the mood and have the time.
But we didn’t so we climbed back down the same way, tracing back our steps through the woodland – where waterproofs were quickly donned during a fierce downpour – and headed into Keswick, ready for a warming cup of tea and a bite to eat at an American-style diner.
Facts of the Day
1. Catbells could be a corruption of Cat Bields (the shelter of the wild cat) – but this isn’t certain.
2. Catbells overlooks Derwentwater, and its nearest town is Keswick (you can walk from Keswick to it).
3. There is a memorial stone to Thomas Arthur Leonard (1864-1948). He founded the Co-operative Holidays Association and the Holiday Fellowship and was a pioneer for outdoor holidays for working people.