Catbells is a hill in the Lake District that sits at 451 metres tall. It’s not the highest hill in the area, but it’s certainly a spectacular one. Easily accessible for an afternoon walk with the family, I would recommend Catbells for any budding adventurer. Here is our experience of Catbells with kids.
We started our walk off at the Lingholm Kitchen and Walled Garden. As we had had a paddle boarding session in the morning (which you can read more about here), we were desperate for toilet facilities and a light lunch. We chanced upon the car park for the kitchen, which was free parking at your own risk.
Just as you leave the car park and head toward the kitchen, there is a footpath to the right hand side with a sign pointing the way to Cat Bells.
After relieving ourselves, we started the walk to one of the most popular hills in the lake district.
The footpath takes you past the Lingholm Estate. In the fields to your left are a variety of animals, including chickens and alpacas! A small business operates alpaca walks and experiences. Check them out here if you want to take a look! The kids will be entertained with watching the animals for a while and it will give you something to talk about.
Onward about half a mile you come into woodland and through a gate where Catbells comes into view. The route is fairly straight forward from here and actually forms part of the Cumbria Way.
At the base of Catbells, the ascent starts as a zigzag up a steep bank, called Skelgill, with views flourishing immediately on either side. Derwent water makes itself known out to the left and the tips of Causey End and Barrow to the right.
We walked on a late August afternoon, and, while it wasn’t quite summer, the sun shone down on us, reminding us how open we were to the elements. I would advise to still treat Catbells as a serious walk, that can offer all the elements of a mountain twice it’s size.
A Summit Already?
The zigzags stop and up ahead is what looks like a summit peak. The slopes are still steep enough to feel a burn, but the path is well marked and maintained. From this side of Catbells, unfortunately you will get a false summit experience, about 3 times! Once the first peak is hit, you realise there is another one, with a bit more effort required to get up and over. And then again! The last peak takes a fair amount of a scramble effort, but again, the views are 100 percent worth the extra push.
I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous, but it’s not something to take light heartedly either. Never underestimate a sudden gush of wind, especially on somewhere that’s unfamiliar or exposed. Loose rocks scatter the summit, but the path is visible.
Total Time Taken
The whole route time, from parking to summit is roughly 1hr 30, so a total running time of 3 hours plus extra for lunch stops and picture taking!
Views from the top include a panoramic vista of Derwent water and on to Borrowdale. We were very lucky in that we had a clear afternoon with miles of greenery ahead of us.
Getting back down is much quicker. Take the route back down to Hawes End and retrace your steps.
Catbells is a fell deserving of it’s popularity and should definitely be attempted by anybody is who able. Not only because of it’s hiking status, but also of the rich history that surrounds it. Beatrix Potter bases her stories around the waters of Derwent and Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s home is set on the eastern slopes of Catbells. Many an author is inspired by the flanks of the Lake District.
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
The car park postcode CA12 5TZ. It is free for customers, therefore I recommend popping in the the gift shop or their kitchen for cake and coffee.
Have you visited Catbells with kids? Are there any other ‘family fells’ that you would recommend? If you would like to share your Wainwright adventures, please head over to the Facebook group to interact with other like-minded families.