Cat Bells from Skelgill

Cat Bells

Cat Bells is the mountain most often referred to as people's first. This miniature mountain has a modest height of only four hundred and fifty one metres above sea level. Anyone with reasonable fitness levels can walk to its summit. This makes it an ideal walk for first time hill walkers, families with children or those retired from tackling the higher fells. However despite its modest height and accessibility this is a must do mountain. The jaw dropping views from Cat Bells summit compete with those of higher summits in the Lake District National Park. The walk starts from Skelgill just a few miles from the popular town of Keswick. If preferred, the walk can be extended to start from Keswick. Experienced hill walkers should consider Cat Bells when the higher fells are shrouded in cloud.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from a small car park off the minor road to Skelgill near Keswick at grid reference NY 246 211. There is only room for a dozen spaces in the car park. If full, you may be able to park down the road at Hawse End, where there is some roadside parking. Alternatively you could start the walk in Portinscale or Keswick and follow the route of the Cumbria Way to Hawes End.
  2. To find the car park turn off the A66 just a mile west of Keswick, on the road sign posted to Grange, Portinscale and Newlands Valley. Drive through Portinscale village, still following the signs to Grange and Newlands Valley.
  3. A mile south of Portinscale, take a left turn signposted to Grange. After half a mile the road rounds a sharp bend then crosses a cattle grid. At the next sharp bend to the left, instead of rounding the bend, turn right up the road sign posted to Skelgill. The car park is then on the left a hundred metres further down the road.
  4. From the back of the car park ascend the path that heads west and meets up with the main ridge path that comes up from the road junction at Hawes End. If you parked on the road, ascend this path from the road junction with the sharp bend.
  5. Both paths meet at the foot of the north east ridge of Cat Bells. Continue ascending Cat Bell's northwest ridge ascent path. The path is fairly rough and steep in places but easy to follow. Be careful in wet weather on the often shiny and slippery rocks.
  6. Once you have finished the initial ascent, the path tops out on a flat area known as Skelgill Bank. Those amazing views will now open up over Derwentwater. The mighty bulk of Skiddaw will dominate the views behind you.
  7. From Skelgill Bank continue along the ridge heading south and start the final ascent to the summit of Cat Bells. After a short steep ascent you will find yourself on the summit, hopefully on a clear day with stunning panoramic views. The summit has no cairn, trig pillar or shelter, just bare rock.
  8. The views from the summit are awesome, and as I said above, compete with those of higher summits in the Lake District National Park. To the north; Skiddaw and its unique neighbour Blencathra, to the west; the Derwent Fells and those of the Coledale Horseshoe, to the south; the continuation of the ridge to Maiden Moor, High Spy and Dale Head, and to the east and south east, across the beautiful Derwentwater and Borrowdale Valley; the rest of the Lake District National Park.
  9. From the summit of Cat Bells descend south along the ridge into Hause Gate between Cat Bells and the next mountain on the ridge Maiden Moor. At Hause Gate a path crosses the ridge path from left to right. Turn right to head west on a descent path into Yewthwaite Comb.
  10. The path descends to the left of Brunt Crag. There is a lot of scree and quarry spill, so take care descending here. At the bottom of Yewthwaite Comb there are old quarries, and Yewthwaite Gill provides some dramatic waterfalls.
  11. The path turns right and heads north. After a short while it reaches a wide track with a stone wall on its left side. Continue north along the track keeping the farming fields over the stone wall to your left.
  12. After just over a kilometre on the track you will reach the tarmac road at Skelgill Farm. Continue along the tarmac road away from the farm, heading north for less than half a kilometre to reach the car park at the starting point.
  13. For food and drink on your way home why not check out one of the local establishments in and around Portinscale. There are numerous accommodation options in both Portinscale and Keswick At Skelgill Farm there is the Cat Bells camping barn, just metres from the start of the walk.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL4 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 89 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland West Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.