A walk to Cat Bells from Little Town

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Start: Little Town Distance: 3.3 miles (5.2 km) Climbing: 342 metres
Grid Ref: NY230193 Time: 2 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Cat Bells
Start: Little Town Distance: 3.3 miles (5.2 km)
Grid Ref: NY230193 Time: 2 hours
Climbing: 342 metres Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary: The walk to Cat Bells is extremely popular and in high season it will be a surprise that you should find yourself alone on the top. There is usually a train of walkers going to and from the car park at Hause Head but this fantastic alternative avoids all the crowds and makes parking simple while also giving the best views.

The Walk:
Brunt CragBrunt Crag
View from Little Town to SkiddawView from Little Town to Skiddaw

Wainwright begins his introduction of Cat Bells by writing "Catbells is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. It's popularity is well deserved; its shapely topknot attracts the eye, offering a steep but obviously simple scramble to the small summit" The ascent he describes from near Hawse End Outdoor Centre on the mid western edge of Derwent Water is possibly one of the most congested places in all of the Lake District in the tourist season. This walk offers an alternative, a fascinating ascent from the south and west that provides unveiling views of majesty on the finalk apporoch to the summit, not from the north as the hordes do but from the south where the magnificent view of Derwent Water with the Skiddaw and Blencathra mountains spring into full view straight ahead. It is awesome and my prefered way to reach the heralded summit of Cat Bells. The start is from outside a wonderful painted white chapel just outside the tiny hamlet of Little Town in the Newlands Valley. Parking is easy on the generous verge so pull up, stop the car, put on the walking gear and include provision for rain in your backpack....just in case. Finally don't forget the refreshments. All done? Good let us set off.

On the saddle of Cat Bells and Maiden MoorOn the saddle of Cat Bells and Maiden Moor
The Mart Bield path to Cat Bells summitThe Mart Bield path to Cat Bells summit

Little Town is the littlest town of all - no shop, no inn, no post office, some lodging. So said Wainwright many years ago and nothing has changed so do not expect anything but silence. Traffic running through the place is a rare event. Once the simplicity of arrival and preparation are done we are walking from the chapel back through Little Town to reach the access point to the fells at the bottom of Looking Crag. A path goes left and right. Make sure to go left and skirt round Looking Crag heading in an east direction to a Y branch in the track. Here we go right and begin to climb Yewthwaite Comb to Brunt Crag. Nearby are the old workings of Yewthwaite Mine but don't be tempted to explore for there is a dangerous opening to a vertical shaft that may be unprotected. Don't venture, stick to the path and to the work of climbing the track. It is the hardest work of the entire walk but its not a long ascent, about 130 metres up in 700 metres of distance. The work is worth it as once done we arrive at Hause Gate. It is easier walking, uphill but less steep than what we have just done, to Cat Bells from here. The Mart Bield path lies ahead.

Majestic view to Derwent Water, Keswick, Skiddaw and Blencathra from Cat BellsMajestic view to Derwent Water, Keswick, Skiddaw and Blencathra from Cat Bells

The Mart Bield path is a draw, believe me. The path ascent looks benign but there is a climb nonetheless. The reward at the top though is awesome, the view from the summit of Cat Bells is glorious with the prize of brilliant views across Derwent Water to Keswick with the monumental Skiddaw and Blencathra mountain ranges behind. The Lake District is full of fabulous scenes, I revel in them all but this is one of my favourites and because of the lower height of Cat Bells it is one shared by many. I applaud all who venture up here, it is worth every effort. The summit itself is inconspicuous with no cairn but just a humble pile of rock. no matter though it deserves more, it does have this permanent view. Unwilling to break off we must be on our way and so we head continuing north down the ridge, now with the crowds only to veer off to the left halfway down Skelgill Bank to follow a track down due west to the bottom of the fell.

The Newlands ValleyThe Newlands Valley
Little Town Chapel is not to be missed, it is a wonderful building in a wonderful settingLittle Town Chapel is not to be missed

From the bottom of the fell side descent we meet a defined path on the wall edge between fell and pasture and follow it south back to Looking Crag, our first point of ascent of the fell earlier. Then it is a simple matter of following our steps back through the hamlet to Little Town chapel, (alternative: Newlands Church) our starting point and now our finish. Take in the splendour of the chapel before you leave Little Town, it is one of the finest examples of small community faith in the country.

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