Cat Bells: the lair of the Wildcat

Catbells with cloud reflections on Derwentwater, Cumbria

Cat Bells, 'The lair of the Wildcat' is perhaps one of our most iconic fells dominating the view across Derwent Water from Borrowdale.

The lair of the wildcat?

No need to fear, there are no big cats waiting to pounce on the unwary walker! The name Cat Bells may have come from a corruption of 'cat's bield' meaning a wild cat's shelter and may stem from days gone by when wild cats still roamed our countryside. Whatever the reason for it's name, Cat Bells is a notable part of the skyline of Borrowdale which you simply cannot miss.

Compact and bijou

At a mere 451 metres it’s considered a ‘minor’ fell but its easy accessibility and appealing views make it an attractive achievement for the casual walker.

In many ways its popularity is also its downfall; heavy usage has resulted in erosion problems and a continued need for managed repairs and continuing maintenance. 

In recent years parking restrictions have been put in place on the narrow local roads but don’t let this deter you, as by far the best approach is by Launch across the lake from Keswick alighting at the Hawse End jetty.

Beatrix Potter country

The area around Cat Bells was a favourite of children’s authoress Beatrix Potter who used the surroundings as locations for ‘The Tale of Benjamin Bunny’, ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ and of course 'Mrs Tiggy-Winkle' the hedgehog laundress who famously lived behind a little wooden door on Cat Bells. The door was possibly one that Beatrix had seen at the entrance to one of the many mines on the fell.

Our Rangers' top tips for enjoying Cat Bells would be quite simply to make sure you have the right maps and equipment, stay on the path and don’t take shortcuts.