If you’re looking to conquer the famous Catbells Walk while visiting the Lake District, this article is for you. This guide will arm you with everything you need to know about hiking Catbells and help you to prepare for the adventure ahead.
The Lake District is hard to beat when it comes to hiking hotspots in the UK. This spectacular part of the country is home to countless hikes and trails and is a must-visit for any walking enthusiast.
In this article, I will concentrate on the famous Catbells walking route. Catbells is one of over 200 fells in the Lake District and provides stunning panoramic views over its surrounding area.
You certainly won’t be alone if you decide to hike Catbells. In addition to its unrivalled viewpoints, it’s one of the more accessible fell walks in the lakes, making it a firm favourite amongst visitors.
That doesn’t make it any less exciting, though. We completed a circular walk of Catbells from Keswick and were blown away by the scenery the journey had to offer.
If you want an adventurous hike that gets the heart-pumping and is fun for all the family, Catbells is for you. But keep reading, as we have some important information to share with you first.
So let’s get to it – here’s our ultimate guide to walking Catbells in the Lake District.
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Catbells Walk FAQs
Before I share the various walking routes to Catbells, let’s cover some key information that will be useful to know before you begin.
Catbells stands at the height of 451 metres, equivalent to 1481 feet, putting Catbells 189th on the list of the tallest Wainwright Fells.
In terms of height and technical difficulty, Catbells is one of the easier fell walks in the Lake District.
The trail is easy to climb and straightforward to navigate, with only a brief scramble to reach the summit.
Having said that, you shouldn’t underestimate the climb – you are climbing 451 metres after all! The path gets rather steep at times, and there are areas of loose rocky terrain.
All in all, however, this is an accessible hike that anybody of a reasonable fitness level can conquer. It’s ideal for young, old, and four-legged walkers alike.
How Long to Climb Catbells
Naturally, this will vary from person to person and depends on which route you take. Most people hike to Catbells from Hawes End, where it takes approximately 1-hour to reach the summit.
If you wanted to walk to Catbells from Keswick as we did, it’s around 2 hours from the town centre.
This route takes you on a pleasant woodland walk before ending up in Hawes End, adding a bit more depth and variety to the walk.
Parking at Catbells
If you’re travelling by vehicle, there are various lay-bys and roadside parking around Hawes End. The trouble is, it gets jam-packed, especially during peak times.
If you wish to park close to the foot of Catbells, I suggest arriving as early as possible.
The alternative is to park in Keswick. There are plenty of pay & display car parks around Keswick town centre, but we found a road where we could park for free. I’ve marked it on this map.
From Keswick, you can walk to Catbells as we did. Or, if you don’t fancy the extra time on foot, you can catch the Keswick Launch instead.
The Keswick Launch is a 10-minute boat journey across Derwent Water. With beautiful views of the surrounding fells, it can be a fabulous way to start and end your walk.
Catbells with Dogs
Catbells is a fun and accessible walk for all the family – including the furry four-legged ones!
We hiked Catbells with our 5kg Jack Russell cross Chihuahua, Ronnie. Ronnie is 10, but he’s in good shape and has the advantage of being small and agile.
He had no trouble navigating the path, even when it came to the brief scramble at the summit.
I would say that so long as your dog is fit and active, they will absolutely love conquering this hike with you. Ronnie’s face in the photo says it all!
Tip – You’ll encounter sheep and other wildlife along the route. For their safety and your pet’s safety, please keep all dogs on leads.
Best Catbells Walking Routes
Various walking trails will lead you to the summit of Catbells.
Here I’ll list three of the most popular routes that take you directly to the summit and back down again. I won’t cover trails that include other nearby peaks or fells as that could take some time.
If you’re interested in adding nearby summits such as Maiden Moor and High Spy, you can find varying lengths of trails and routes on walking apps such as All Trails or Komoot.
“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” – Alfred Wainwright on Catbells
Catbells Circular Walk from Hawes End
The quickest and easiest walking route to Catbells is from Hawes End. Once you’ve parked or left the boat, it’s just a 2-mile trail to reach the summit.
I make it sound easy when it’s anything but. Although a short trail and quick to do, it’s steep in places and guaranteed to get the heart pumping.
If you follow my map, you will ascend Catbells head-on via Skelgil bank. This involves an initial steep climb to the top of the first section before it levels off into a gradual walk along the ridge.
The views from this point are spectacular, and you will want to take lots of photos. However, don’t waste too much time on this; I promise the views only get better the higher you climb
Enjoy the easier terrain while you can, as it’s not long before the trail progresses into another steep climb. This is the final ascent and where things get slightly more technical.
There’s nothing too hairy, though—just a few areas of short scrambles where you may need to use your hands. You’ll want to take care when it’s wet; otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.
Following the final push, you are rewarded with jaw-dropping views over Derwent Water, Keswick, and the western fells. If you’re fortunate enough to get a clear day, it’s truly a sight to behold.
After spending some time marvelling at the views, it’s time to make your descent. You can either go back the way you came or follow my map for a slight change of scenery.
The map route continues south of the Catbells summit and follows a rocky footpath downhill.
As you approach the fork, take the left-hand footpath and follow the trail until you’re on the eastern edge of Catbells. Eventually, you will see signs for Hawes End.
Circular Catbells Walk from Keswick
If you fancy making your Catbells walk a bit more challenging, I recommend starting in Keswick. Not only does this add on a few extra miles, but it also offers a bit more diversity in the scenery.
From Keswick Town Centre, you can take the Cumbrian Way to Portinscale and follow the road until you reach Nichol End Marine.
Shortly after, you’ll see a path on the left, steering away from the road and ascending into a woodland area. Keep following the trail, and eventually, you will see signs for Catbells.
It’s pretty straightforward. There were a couple of times when we had to stop and check the map, but it would be difficult to get lost.
The woodland trail was gorgeous and got us nicely warmed up ahead of the climb. We even found an alpaca farm which was a pleasant surprise!
Finally, you’ll find yourself in Hawes End, and from there, you can follow the same Catbells trail as above.
Catbells and Derwent Water Walk
Our final Catbells walking route takes you along the shoreline of Derwent Water – Perfect for those hot summer days when a post-hike swim is in order.
Again, you’ll start your hike at Hawes End and ascend Catbells via Skelgil Bank. You’ll descend via the south of the trail as per the routes above.
Only this time, instead of following the eastern edge of Catbells, you’ll follow the road down into Manesty Park and onto the Lakeside.
There are plenty of spots where you can stop and take a dip in the lake. Otherwise, the shoreline path will lead you back to Hawes End.
While Catbells isn’t a difficult or technical hike, you will still need some suitable gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure.
Here are some essentials I recommend you have in preparation:
Enjoy Your Catbells Hike!
Well, that’s it – that’s everything you need to know about hiking Catbells. I hope you’ve found this information helpful.
If you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please get in touch! Otherwise, we wish you a fantastic hike.