Our day on Skiddaw (see post #210) had been a change from our local hills in North Wales, and a check on the weather forecast showed it looking fair for the day after. It didn’t take long to decide to grab another lakes day, but where? A short hill day before driving back to Wales (including a dog walk for Border Collie ‘Mist’) was looking favourite, and we were in the Northern Lakes so it had to be Cat Bells.
Cat Bells is regarded by many as a bit of a soft option, and no wonder. A height of 451 metres (1,480 ft) isn’t going to set many pulses racing, either through excitement or exertion, and it’s widely regarded as a family day out – so what’s wrong with that, I ask. The well-known Lakeland walker Alfred Wainwright said of the hill, “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.”
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been up here, but one occasion was July 23 1986. I remember it because it was the day that Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson, and rather than stay at home with wall-to-wall royal wedding on the TV, I decided a walk up Cat Bells with my oldest daughter Kelly would be a good alternative. My youngest daughter Heather was too young to make the walk at two years old, but Kelly romped it at 3¾ – Cat Bells certainly is a hill for all ages.
The popularity of the hill has its downside – get to the start point after nine o’clock on a warm Sunday morning with good weather guaranteed and you can be certain that every parking space in the area is full. Well, not quite every space, and a bit of local knowledge soon turned up enough room for the camper.
Our route was the classic circuit – the path on the lower slopes of the east side of Cat Bells took us to the popular start point near Hawse End, followed by a southerly traverse of the Cat Bells Ridge before descending at Hause Gate and heading down towards Manesty.
We expected it to be busy, but found it not too bad – several family groups with kids mingled with the older generation, but there is enough room for everyone up there. Joining in with the fun were a couple of paragliders taking advantage of good soaring conditions over the summit ridge.
Despite all the family joviality going on, there are a couple of short rocky scrambles to add interest to the day – it’s the kind of ground that fell-runners hurtle up or down but where the less confident or those with creaky legs might suddenly think, “Hey, I thought this was supposed to be an easy day out!” In reality, the rocky bits really are short and add interest like a bit of extra seasoning.
Good old Cat Bells! – Not the biggest or the longest or most difficult day out in the Lakes, but plenty to occupy three hours or so. And did I mention the views? The photos probably give an idea, but if you have never been there, you’ll have to go and find out for yourselves!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock
Now this is more our size, and beautiful too! Will tackle Cat Bells soon. Thanks Paul, hope you and Chris are well.
kind regards, Stan
You had the perfect day too, Paul. It’s one of my favourite walks too, and the view of Cat Bells from the far side of Derwentwater makes for a beautiful Photograph – there’s something special about the sinuous rise and fall of that ridge.
I like Catbells now but have to say that, when I started out as a very nervous fellwalker, it used to scare me quite a bit and I never thought it was a beginner’s hill – there are many simpler hills. The reason was the steepness/narrowness of the ascent and the rocky sections, especially in the wet. I’d never recommend it as someone’s first Wainwright – I’d send them up something like Barrow I think…