Cat Bells and Derwent Water from Hawes End round

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Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.

Derwent Water is one of the prettiest lakes in the Lake District surrounded by fells and many of the slopes facing the water are extensively wooded. The Keswick to Borrowdale road runs along the eastern shore of Derwent Water and carries a regular bus service. There is a smaller unclassified road along the western shore which connects the villages of Portinscale and Grange. But the best way to enjoy the beautiful scenery around the lake is to take a boat trip on the Keswick Launch Ferry. The main landing stage is close to Crow Park and the Theatre by the Lake just a short walk from Keswick town centre. In the summer season (late March to mid November) the boats depart every 30 minutes throughout the day. The route alternates between clockwise and anti-clockwise around the lake calling at Ashness Gate, Lodore, High Brandelhow, Low Brandelhow, Hawse End and Nichol End. The full trip around the lake takes 50 minutes but you can hop on and off the ferry at any of the stops and pick up a later boat back to Keswick. There are also evening cruises available during the summer months which last an hour and include commentary and a complimentary glass of wine or soft drink. Rowing boats and cabin cruisers can be hired from the Keswick landing stage. Derwent Water is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and sits on the south edge of Keswick town and is fed and drained by the River Derwent. The river also connects Derwent Water to Bassenthwaite Lake which is north of Keswick. There are several islands in Derwent Water the largest being Derwent Island on which stands the inhabited 18th century Derwent Island House. The house is a tenanted National Trust property open to the public on five days each year. Lords Island was also home to a grand looking house and a drawbridge but in the late 18th century the house fell into disrepair and only the foundations remain now. The stone from the house was used to build Moot Hall in 1813. Moot Hall in the centre of Keswick was once the town hall but is now a tourist information centre and it is here in the square where the market is held every Saturday. During the 16th century Keswick was home to copper and lead mining on a small scale and the town was also the source of the world’s first graphite pencils. The pencil industry continued in the town until 2008 when it then moved to Workington. The Cumberland Pencil Museum and the Mining Museum are both close to the centre and are excellent places to visit on rainy days. Keswick is now mainly tourist orientated due to the many thousands of tourists visiting every year and the majority of side streets are abundant with B&B’s.

Cat Bells at only 451 metres (1480 feet) is one of the most popular fells in the area and a lovely family walk. The fell is situated on the western shore of Derwent Water and looks peacefully impressive from nearby Keswick and from the viewpoint on Friars Crag on the opposite side of Derwent Water. Tourists are drawn to its distinctive shape and feel compelled to climb to its summit. A short steep scramble to its shapely summit of all rock can be comfortable climbed by all the family from the young to the older generation. Cat Bells is mainly ascended from the northern end at Hawse End and the lower slope before you climb to the summit is Skelgill Bank. Many walkers who reach the summit return the same way down after admiring the stunning 360 degree panorama of Derwent Water, Keswick, Bassenthwaite Lake, the Newlands Valley and Skiddaw to the north and Borrowdale to the south. The stronger walker can continue along the ridge as it dips down into the steep sided depression of Hause Gate before it widens out south westwards to Maiden Moor then on to High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson to give a horseshoe walk which ends in the Newlands Valley close to Hause End. There are three disused lead mines on the slopes of Cat Bells. The Yewthwaite mine on the western side has extensive spoil heaps and shafts that were open and dangerous but have now been blocked off. The Brandlehow and Old Brandley Mine worked a lode for lead ore on the eastern side. All three mines closed in the 1980’s.

The Walk

We park at the side of the road near the Swinside Lodge and follow the road uphill to cross over a cattle grid then at the bend in the road we head forwards onto the path sign posted Cat Bells 1 mile. We just keep following the distinct path uphill and scramble over the top of Skegill Bank. We then drop down and head forwards on the level for a short way then we climb and scramble up to the summit of Cat Bells. After admiring the views and a cup of tea we head back down to the bottom till we reach the level bit. We turn right here and follow the path downhill. The path bears right still downhill until we meet the road. We turn right and immediate right onto the footpath going slightly uphill parallel with the road. We just follow the path until we meet the road again. We turn right for a short way and take the footpath through a gate on the left signposted Lodore 1 mile. We are now on the Cumbria Way. We follow the path going over a little bridge to a gate. We go through the gate and bear left for a short way then path bears right towards Derwent Water. We pick up the walk boards and keep heading forwards to go through a gate into the trees. We follow the path till we reach a building we turn right onto the track. We keep heading forwards bearing left into the open close to the shore. We pass a jetty then head forwards slightly left uphill into the trees. After about 100 yards we go through the gate on the right and head downhill to the lake shore and the Brandelhow ferry landing stage. We keep heading forwards close to the shore line until we reach Howse End ferry landing stage. We go through the gate and turn left and follow the track to go through the next gate. We bear right following the track to go through an iron gate. We go through another iron gate and turn right onto the tarmac track. We pass the Outdoor Centre on our left and keep heading forwards on the tarmac track until we come to the road. We now turn left and make our way to our car.


This is a moderate walk with inclines and declines and some easy scrambling to be adhered on the final stretch to the summit.

Elevation: Approx lowest point 77.60m (254.6ft) approx highest point 451m (1480ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 5.2 miles allow 2½ – 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North – Western area.

Start point: Roadside just past the Swinside Hotel near the Hawse End Outdoor Centre sign.


Hawse End is south west of Keswick in the Lake District, Cumbria.

Directions and Parking

Following the A66 from the east bypass Keswick and take the small road on the left signposted Portinscale and Grange. Keep following the signs for Grange until you come to Swinside Lodge on the right and the Hawse End Outdoor Centre on the left.

Parking: Free road side parking near the Swinside Lodge and the Hawse End Outdoor Centre sign and a very small free car park a little further up the road just before the steep hairpin bend OR you can catch the ferry at Keswick over to Hawse End do the walk then return on the ferry back to Keswick.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets or refreshments on the walk. The nearest facilities are at Keswick where there are public toilets in the car park at the back of the Market Place near the centre of Keswick and also at the Theatre by the Lake and the Leisure Centre. For refreshments there are ample shops, bakeries, cafes, take-away and pubs to choose from in Keswick.

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