Cat Bells is a lovely little fell. It's got a little of everything, a narrow ridge line, steep climbs and rocky steps, yet is a remarkably straightforward ascent. As seen from Keswick it has a beautiful and iconic profile, which you can feel when you are on it. And it has wonderful views from the summit.
In summer the slopes are clothed in bright green bracken with Herdwick sheep hiding in its midst. In the depths of winter with the bracken dead and brown, the early morning sun turns the slopes golden. The rock is grey whatever the time of year. It's a tuff from the Borrowdale Volcanics family which means it was blown skywards in great clouds and settled as dust. Over the many millions of years it lain it was compressed to become a mudstone, which we refer to as just slate. It can be quite slippery in the wet.
The walk starts at the little rough parking area near Hawes End on the minor road to Skelgill. After a little warm up climbing onto Skelgill Bank, you tackle the last final slopes up to the summit of Catbells. It looks quite intimidating but you are not forced into any particular line. If you don't like one bit it's easy to find many alternatives. The summit is reached all too quickly. The only disappointment is there is no cairn, trig point or marker of the summit; just a bare bit of rock. After looking at the view, it's onward along the ridge and then down to the hause. Turning right off the ridge you follow an easy grass path, which above some old quarrying spoil heaps becomes stony and loose. It's only a short section and turning off beneath a crag a grass path is followed above bucolic pastures of Newlands valley. Finally reaching the end of the Skelgill minor road the car park is but a short stroll along the tarmac.
This parking area fills up quickly, you should not park on the roadside verge as it is too narrow, and in any case there are yellow lines in places.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
At the end of the car park nearest to Hawes End, take the path signposted "Cat Bells 1 mile" up the stone pitched steps. Continue on the path climbing along the side of Skelgill Bank.
At the crest of the rising path, bear right onto the ridge and take the zigzags to the first rocky step. In the middle of this band of rock is a plaque to Thomas Arthur Leonard the founder of the Holiday Federation. Keep to the left of the plaque for the easiest scrambling.
Keep on up to the top of Skelgill Bank.
The most striking view is north west across Newlands valley to Causey Pike.
Continue on, keeping to the ridgeline path. The climbing soon starts again with the imposing rock and scree of the climb to Catbells ahead. Don't panic, it's not as bad as it looks and isn't too prolonged.
At the bottom of the bare rock, keep right for a short while, then take one of the easy paths left to meander onto the middle. Zigzag gaining height, or tackle the steps head on, take your pick. You are not forced into any difficulties, so if you don't like the look of a step backtrack round and pick another. In this way you can make swift upward progress.
All too soon the clambering is over and all that remains is a little stroll over to bare patch of rock at the summit. No cairn, trig point, or monument stands at the top to celebrate your achievement. Ah well, you'll have to make do with the view!
On a clear day you'll see Skiddaw to the left of Keswick as you look north, and to the right is Blencathra. Directly across Derwent Water is Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and the boggy central fells. To the south is Maiden Moor, to the right of that is Hindscarth, and Robinson.
Continue southwards along the ridge descending towards the hause. There are a number of paths that can be taken, the most definitive action though is to turn right as you approach the lowest point of the hause.
An old level is visible over to your left but you'll need a torch to explore it any more than a few feet.
Descend westwards into the Newlands valley. A rocky section with cairns marking the way descends steeply in places. Keep right, and bear right under the crag to pick up a terraced path well above the quarry spoil heaps.
Keep on this path, and gradually you descend to join a wider path just above the intake wall. Keep ahead, another higher path joins in. Continue to the end of the track to join the Skelgill minor road and back to the car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy - A Half Newlands||60m (66 yards) away|
|Catbells||60m (66 yards) away|
|Causey Pike and Scar Crag||1.4km (0.9 miles) away|
|Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head - A Half Newlands||2.2km (1.3 miles) away|
|Robinson and Hindscarth from Little Town||2.2km (1.4 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and the Great Wood||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell from Great Wood||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|A Short Stroll to Lodore Falls||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|A Short Walk From Ashness Bridge to High Seat||2.8km (1.8 miles) away|
|A Shorter Coledale Round||2.8km (1.8 miles) away|
|To Force Crag Mine - a Coledale Low Round||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|The Coledale Horseshoe||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Around Derwent Water||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|The National Trust Centenary Stone from Keswick||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|A short walk to Friar's Crag from the Moot Hall, Keswick||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Cumbria Way - Keswick to Caldbeck||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Castlehead Viewpoint from the Moot Hall, Keswick||3.2km (2.0 miles) away|
|Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head||3.2km (2.0 miles) away|
|Force Crag Mine||3.2km (2.0 miles) away|
|The Old Keswick Railway Line and Latrigg||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Whinlatter Forest - Heavy Sides Walk||4.1km (2.5 miles) away|
|Words In The Woods||4.1km (2.5 miles) away|
|Lodore Falls, Watendlath, Grange Fell, and the Bowder Stone circular||4.3km (2.7 miles) away|
|A Short Walk to The Bowder Stone||4.4km (2.7 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011