Cat Bells: the lair of the Wildcat

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.

A proper little mountain

At a mere 451 metres it’s considered a ‘minor’ fell but the rangers here call it a 'proper little mountain' - it's call false summits, short scramble sections where you have to use your hands, a bare rocky dome for a summit and - of course - incredible views right across Derwent Water to Skiddaw and down the length of Borrowdale.

In many ways its popularity is also its downfall; so many people come to walk here that we face constant erosion problems. Our upland path team spent hundreds of man hours on Cat Bells during 2017 repairing the paths to protect the fragile soils and stop sediment washing into the lake, which is a protected site of special scientific interest.

Behind the scenes work to repair cat bells

Help as you walk

You can help minimise erosion damage by sticking to the main paths. Some people use short cuts that can quickly be gouged out into deep erosion scars by the famous Lake District rain - help keep Cat Bells special, and download our free map that shows where the main paths are, as well as the times and distances.

map for cat bells

Download a free map for Cat Bells

Cat Bells was nominated as one of the Nation's Favourite 100 walks. Why not see what all the fuss is about?

Come by boat or bus

Parking is extremely limited, the roads are steep and narrow. 

There is no permanent car park at Cat Bells - only a couple of laybys. One is at Gutherscale CA12 5UE where the main path starts, the other is at Little Town CA12 5TU where you can walk up the Newlands Valley side of the hill.

We recommend either getting there very early (before 9am) or getting here by boat or bus. The Park & Sail in Keswick offers 200 parking spaces and allows you to park all day for £4. It gives a 15% discount on tickets for the Keswick Launch which stops at 7 lakeshore jetties, including Hawse End for Cat Bells. Find out more at Visit Keswick

From April-October the 77A bus service from Keswick also stops at Cat Bells.

Occasionally a farmer opens their field for parking, but don't bank on it being open when you visit.

Beatrix Potter country

The area around Cat Bells was a favourite of children’s writer 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.