Walk This Way: Lake District | Living North

Walk This Way: Lake District

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Our second Living North walk takes you to the Lake District and the picturesque Cat Bells

Keswick, Cat Bells, Maiden Moor, High Spy returning along the Newlands Valley

This is one of the most popular and enjoyable scenic walks in the Lake District. It’s starting point close to Keswick with its many welcoming pubs, cafes and restaurants make it even more appealing. 

Parking: Parking in Keswick or at the Theatre by the Lake (if you choose to take the ferry to Hawes End to begin your walk) or at the small car parking area at Hawes End if not.
Start: Hawes End
Finish: Hawes End or Keswick if you choose the ferry option.
Distance: Approx 10 miles
Time: 4.5-5 hours 
Difficulty: It is a fairly long walk over some rough terrain with some steep climbs and stages where you will need to scramble using one or both hands to ascend or descend rocky areas. Returning along the Newlands Valley over rough terrain and loose scree can be hard on feet and ankles. A basic standard of map reading is required.
Footwear: The walking is generally good but there are rocky ascents/descents and areas of rough scree. Some areas can also be muddy. Walking boots are highly recommended.
OS Map: Explorer OL4
Other: Dogs should have no problem with this route. When returning along the Newlands Valley some grazing land is crossed so a lead would be required.

If you choose to take the ferry to Hawes End (which I do recommend) park in Keswick (or at the Theatre by the Lake), all car parks are pay and display. From the landing stages beyond the Theatre catch the anti-clockwise ferry to Hawes End. During the high season (18th March – 5th November) there is a 9.45am boat from Keswick that reaches Hawes End at 9.55 which is ideal.  On completion of the walk take the clockwise ferry from Hawes End to Keswick. Again during the high season there is an hourly ferry. We normally catch the last regular service at 15.40, although until the 28thOctober there is also a 16.40 if you don’t quite make as good time as you expect on the walk or maybe have a longer lunch!

A day ticket allowing you to hop on and off the ferry at will is £10.50 for adults and £5.25 for age 5-15.

The Route

From Hawes End follow the sign saying Cat Bells 1m. It isn’t far to the top of Cat Bells but the first stretch zig zags straight up the north face of the ridge and is a testing start to the walk. Feel free to pause and admire the view back over the lake as required. Continue past the Memorial Stone and up over Skelgill Bank. Now we approach the first scrambly section onto the top of Cat Bells (1). It is best here to take the central route over what at first appear to be a rocky overhang as those to either side can prove slightly trickier. Once past this the route to the right is seen as providing the easiest path to the summit. Again please pause to take in the marvellous views from here back across the valleys (2)

Continue down from the summit following the very distinct path before beginning to ascend again as you climb onto the vast expanse of Maiden Moor. The footpath bypasses the summit of Bull Crag to your right but it is worth the slight detour and climb for the great views over the surrounding valleys. Looking back along our route from the summit of Maiden Moor there is a memorable view of Cat Bells with Lake Derwentwater and Keswick behind.(3)

We now continue up towards High Spy, passing High Spy North Top on our left and a shallow unmarked tarn (4) on our right. (5) Unlike the summit of Maiden Moor that of High Spy is unmistakeable with it’s very large, well-cared for cairn. Weather permitting this is a great place for a break and some lunch. From here there are views across to Great Gables almost directly south in the distance, Fleetwith Pike and around to Hindsgarth and Robinson as we swing to look west.

Follow the rough path down from the summit of High Spy (it is occasionally marked with small cairns) in a south south-westerly direction. Follow this path until Dalehead Tarn comes into view on the far side of a small stream. Again a small diversion is required to visit the tarn itself as it is just beyond our path. The route to the tarn is clearly marked and we return along the same route. Returning from the tarn cross the small stream and immediately drop down to the left to follow the path alongside the stream (heading virtually north with the stream now on your left). After about 50m we join the main path that will lead us down into the Newlands Valley.

The path can be a little indistinct along this stretch but staying close to the stream offers the most scenic route with some beautiful waterfalls (6) and, in my experience, rarely another soul around. Follow the path closest to the stream down the valley. The walking can be a little hard on ankles through this section as it has a fairly steeply angled slope across our direction of travel and there is a lot of loose scree to traverse. Pausing frequently to admire the falls we eventually reach flatter and often more boggy ground. Turning slightly right our path gradually becomes a track and eventually a paved farm road. Looking back along our route from here you get lovely views of both Hindscarth and Robinson rising above the Newlands Valley. Stay on this path past the climbing hut on your left and onwards towards Little Town. Above the car park the track splits and you need to bear right. Stay on this track around gradually to the right with Cat Bells high above you on your right hand side. The path follows the line of a wall and passes through a quarry before meeting the road at Skelgill. Here we bear right back to the car park or onward to the ferry landing below at Hawes End.

Published in: December 2017

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