Catbells and your need to know guide on the Wainwright


Wainwright Number:

North Western Lakes

OS Map:
Explorer map OL4

Catbells is 451m high or 1480ft tall. 

This Wainwright is located in the north western Fells of the Lake District.

You can head up to Catbells by parking on the northern side of Wainwright. From here you head straight up the breast of the Fell following the only path available to the summit. 

You will need Explorer map OL4.

Catbells is the start of the Newlands Valley horseshoe walk. This includes Maiden Moor, Robinson, and Hindscarth to name but a few Wainwrights on this walk. 

At the top of Catbells is a large trig point with a round metal plate on the top. The metal plate has the other Fells carved into the top so you can see all the other Wainwrights in other directions and name them too. 

Facts about Catbells

What is there to say about the iconic fell in the Lake District that is Catbells. It is simply a fell that is for everyone. All ages and fitnesses come to Catbells to walk to the top and gaze at the views it gives out. Alfred Wainwright says it in the best way.

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.”

Something else that might be of interest is that although it is it by far one of the busiest fells in the Lakelands. It really does hold something for everyone. There are steep sections from the offset, flat walking to pick your pace up on. Along with a scramble which looks much scarier than what it actually is.

And when you make it to the top, you really do feel as though it's a milestone in your hiking. For us, Catbells was one of the first fells that we climbed. And I'm sure this is the same for many people out there. But it's a friendly little hill that welcomes anyone who gives it a shot. 

It also gives out a false summit top, as when you get over the first ridge and feel as though you’re there. You see the longer walk to the true summit and it takes you back for a short while too. It really is an excellent Wainwright to walk.

How high is the Wainwright? (m/ft)

Catbells stands at 451m tall which is 1480ft. It might not be the tallest of the Wainwrights but it makes up for it in character. It’s a fell that gets the beginner hikers in the Lakes hooked to want to achieve more. It draws them in and once you’ve climbed to the top, you’ll be wanting more from the fells that surround Catbells itself.

Where is Catbells located?

Catbells is located in the north-western region of the Lake District. It lies just west of Derwent Water and close to the town of Keswick. Which makes it even more so of a tourist attraction to those who look up to the summit from the banks of the water.

So how hard is Catbells to climb and which routes can you take?

Catbells is a fell that isn’t hard to climb but does have a small scramble in parts which makes it more exciting that difficult.

There are two routes heading up to the top. The other routes that you might see have been closed off to stop erosion on the fell. So please stick to either the front or back routes up and down the Wainwright. Or a less walked path from Little Town which meets at the back end of Catbells too.

The route up the front of the fell starts from the roadside and is signposted as you make your way there. In the summer months, there is usually an ice cream van parked just on the side too for a cool treat on your way up or back down.

The back route takes you from Manesty and this route up has plenty of stone steps to warm your legs up on the way to the top. So if you are not a fan of steps as you climb higher up the fells, then starting from the front of the fell might be for you.

Just bear in mind if you do a round trip, chances are you’ll have to come down the steps instead. Which is the lesser of the two evils? It’s a hard one for sure, we’d agree.

How long does it take to climb the Fell?

To get to the top of Catbells can take as little as forty minutes or so for someone in good physical fitness. This doesn’t include the stopping for the photos that you’ll want to take along the way though.

If you choose to do the round route of the Wainwright then give yourself a couple of hours as then you won’t be rushing yourself but rather enjoy the walk for what it really is.

Are the paths good climbing up Catbells?

The paths that lead up any of the routes to the top are really good. As I mentioned earlier there are some steps involved. And a little scrambling too. But besides that, the paths are well-trodden and easy to follow as you make your way up, down or around the Wainwright.

Check out the up to date weather for Cat Bells right here

Best parking for Catbells

There are plenty of places to park to climb up Catbells itself. Coming from the less popular route starting from Little Town, there is a small amount of parking through what can very only just be classed as a village. And I believe there is an honesty box that you can place money into, to stay there.

If you chose to start from the Keswick region, you can park anywhere between Keswick, Portinscale and towards Brandelhow. There is mostly side of the road parking and also mostly free. But this does get very busy in the summer months. So early parking would be recommended to avoid some long walks to and from the car. Unless it is through choice.

The little village of Grange also offers some parking, although not a lot. But there are some public conveniences in the village too.

What is at the summit?

At the top of Catbells is a trig point. This stands proud on the rocky outcrop of the Fell. And on top of the trig is a round metal plate that shows each of the fells that you can see as you’re stood at the top. This is great for learning what other Wainwrights are around you. And you might just find yourself looking at the next one on your list to have a go at next.

There is plenty of room at the top of Catbells too, to have a snack and sit for a bit to enjoy the views if you’d like.

Views looking towards Derwent Water from Catbells
Views looking towards Derwent Water from Catbells

What are the views from the top of Catbells?

The views from the top of Catbells look across the North-Western part of the Lake District. The main body of water which can be seen from almost anywhere on Catbells is Derwent Water.

In any weather the views from Catbells are awesome. They really do give you a good look across the Lakes. You can see the likes of Skiddaw in the north, Grisedale Pike and Grasmoor in the west. Along with the tiny but epic Castle Crag looking towards the bottom end of Derwent Water, and Helvellyn to the East.

Which OS map do you need to climb
the Fell?

The ordnance survey map which covers the area of Catbells is OL4 for the Lake District. It will show you clearly each of the routes which you can take and how to go further from Catbells if you’d want to as well.

One of the big walks in the Lakes is the Newlands Horseshoe. This covers six Wainwrights and is a whole day worth of walking. You can choose to do half the Newlands Horseshoe instead if you like too. And the ordinance survey map shows you exactly where you can come down off of the fells if you choose to.

It’s well worth checking out.

Where to stay B&Bs, Campsites, etc

Keswick would be the best place to stay if you are wanting to be close to Catbells. It’s a great little town with so much to see and do there too. So if there is bad weather forecast then Keswick will offer something for everyone to do.

True Freedom Seekers
Thank you for taking the time to read our page. We hope you have enjoyed the information which we have for you. Please feel free to reach out to us about anything regarding the Lake District. Or leave a comment below. Happy Wainwright bagging.

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