Suggested maps for Catbells – OS Explorer Map OL4 (1:25,000) & OS Landranger Maps 89 & 90 (1:50,000)

5.8km (3.6 miles) – total ascent 392m


Catbells is a great place to start any fell focussed Lakeland adventure.  It is relatively short and offers some amazing views. Derwent Water, Keswick and the Skiddaw range all can be seen to the North East. This has to be one of my favourite ‘go to’ walks in the Lake District and Catbells was the first fell I took my daughter up!  Keswick was a childhood holiday destination and places like Portinscale, various campsites and National Trust properties in the area are ingrained in my memory.

A classic view of Catbells in the Lake District, looking from the North.
Heading up Catbells in the Lake District – my 9 year old daughter in the foreground.

The tranquil beauty of Derwent Water and Borrowdale are not to be missed on any journey into the Lake District. Keswick itself has a sense of energy and a vast array of diverse shops and pubs to welcome any visitor.  A walk through the town to Crow Park is a must on any visit. I have spent hours here gazing across Derwent Water to Catbells and beyond.


The legendary author and artist A. Wainwright starts off his description of Catbells in his ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells – The North Western Fells’ by saying:

“Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved.”

It is a great beginner mountain but is slightly more than a simple walk as you will read below. Catbells was also a favourite of Beatrix Potter who used the area for the locations of many of her tales.  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle lives on Catbells behind a little wooden door.

The Route

The early starter will find parking at NY246211, just north of Catbells and about 2.5km south of Portinscale.  The path itself is easy to pick up from here.  Head south up the well trodden path and steadily climb to the top of first summit (338m). Ahead of you is the saddle feature of Skelgill Bank and a clear view of the route to the summit of Catbells.  Just shy of the summit itself there is a little exposed face of rock to tackle.

This is not severe enough to be classed as a scramble and all ages and abilities manage this!  That said, never underestimate anything in the fells and appropriate care should always be taken. 3 points of contact is a good start.

The Summit

The summit of Catbells (NY244198) stands at 451m. You will be rewarded with a great sense of achievement and amazing views.  To the south is Maiden Moor, High Spy and the beautiful Borrowdale valley, to the west are the Derwent Fells, to the north is the ancient Skiddaw, and to the east Derwent Water and Keswick.  I took my daughter up here some years ago (she was 9 and this was her first Wainwright) and an enterprising young couple were selling home made iced lemonade from a trolley on the summit for charity!


When you are ready move off of the summit and continue south along the path. After 600m you will come to a prominent track junction on the lowest point of the saddle (NY244191). Here turn left (east) continuing down the side of the mountain.  After 100m his track will head southeast and you should continue for another 600m. This will bring you to a track junction where the track meets a wood (NY248186).  Turn north (left) and along the side of the wood until the track (part of the Allerdale Ramble route) meets the road.  Here you have two options; either walk along the road or immediately rejoin the Allerdale Ramble track that slightly ascends before delivering you back to the start point.

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