Catbells with kids
Days out,  Travel,  Walking

That’s Just The First Bit – Tackling Catbells With Kids

Since walking up Old Man Of Coniston back in January, me and T have been wanting to take on more of the legendary wainwrights of the Lake District. I have signed up to walk up Helvellyn (one of the biggest… eek!) in June for charity so I thought it would be a good idea to get practise in on some of the shorter fells. After a quick Google I discovered that Catbells was meant to be one of the best to tackle with kids. So off we went.

Bank Holiday Walks

The bank holiday gave us the perfect opportunity to get out in the lakes. Especially as the weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold and not raining. What’s more, Spike’s besties family was free too so we decided to do the walk together, giving Spike a friend to help get her up the hill! We set off early as the bank holiday usually means bad traffic in the Lake District and got to our destination at quarter to 10. We were heading for the Keswick Launch Boat which takes you across Derwentwater to Hawes End where you can start your route up Catbells. However at the last minute we decided to skip the boatride and head to Lingholm Estate to park instead. This cost £10 for the whole day, but you get a £4 discount voucher for their cafe which was handy that early in the morning as we needed coffee!

Lingholm Estate & Beatrix Potter

The Lingholm Estate looked beautiful, we walked through to the cafe and loved the nods to Peter Rabbit we saw. Lingholm was one of the places where Beatrix Potter spent much of her time during visits to the Lake District before she moved to the area. The kitchen overlooks the walled garden which is thought to be the inspiration for Mr McGregors Garden in the Peter Rabbit books. The squirrels of the area inspired the Tales of Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs Twiggy-Winkle is said to have lived on the edge of Catbells itself. The estate features lovely wooden statues of some of the characters from the stories and Spike and her friend loved giving them a cuddle. The estate is also home to the Derwentwater Alpacaly Ever After location, the company that my sister and I enjoyed an Alpaca walk with in Whinlater Forest in 2020. You can actually join a group and walk the alpacas out on Catbells and I love the sound of doing that!

The First Glimpse of Catbells

Following parking up and our coffee stop, we walked down the edge of Lingholm Estate and made our way to Catbells. It wasn’t long before we were coming out of the trees and seeing our first glimpse of the hill. It spread out in front of us and looked magical. I told the girls that the big hill in front of us was what we were walking up and they gasped. Then Spike’s friends dad mentioned that was just the first summit. I didn’t realise until we went that Catbells has false summits… you think what is infront of you is the top, but actually its the 3rd peak that is classed as the top!

Well Signposted Routes

We walk in the Lake District a lot, and I have to say this was one of the best signposted locations I’d been to. You could clearly get to the hill and once there there was a post at the bottom telling you that the summit was an hour in its direction. It was only an hour if you walked at a decent pace… and I did not. I will hold my hands up and say that it was me holding everyone up haha. Spikes best friend was well on a mission on the way up and kept having to be told to slow down and wait for us! Once off the hill it was easy to fidn your way back down to the path that leads along the bottom of the hill back to Lingholm and again, everything was really well signposted.

Walking Up Catbells

As I say, Catbells has fake summits, so the side of the hill you tackle first, at least from the direction we came, isn’t the only bit you have to climb. This first side was “easy” in that it didnt involve any scrambling really. It was a clear path that didnt require your hands to pull you up. It was steep but it was just walking. We stopped a few times for a breather before reaching the top of that first bit, where the next two summits could be seen. It felt like a long way to the third, and actual, summit. But it actually looked a little smaller from here than the second one, which is actually Skelgill Bank – not a wainwright but a named hill. The bit from the first summit to the Skelgill Bank was to be perfectly honest, the most difficult for me. It involved a proper scramble, pulling ourselves up the rocks a bit to get to the top of the Bank. By the time we got there I was knackered. We stopped for a bite to eat and a longer breather while enjoying the views.

The Third and Final Peak

After our breather we set off again, I think by this point the adrelinne of nearly being there kicked in and I found it a bit easier. It helped that the others had all slowed right down at this point too! We powered through to the very bottom of the last bit of scramble and thats when stuff got difficult. By this point we were a fair way up the hill and Spike was tired. In fact, she was absolutely knackered and it didnt help when she handed me her waterbottle without the lid on properly and I dropped it. She said she wanted to give up and go back. But we were right under the summit, we could pretty much see it! So we managed to talk her into continuing after a bribe with some sweets. Her friends parents are genius and packed Millions, which are apparently the perfect walk sweets! We went up the scramble and found ourselves on the peak of the hill, with a very cliamble trig point which we had to get the girls off. We had our picnic overlooking Derwentwater and the girls were so happy to have reached the top. So much so Spike didnt even question the walk back!

Walking Back to the Car

The walk from the car to the top of Catbells was only 2.5 miles, and it was possible to go back the same way to get back, but you could also complete a loop which dropped to the side of the lake. Once you reach the top of Catbells there is another fell, which looks appealing to some. This was Maiden Moor, which is not much taller than Catbells at 576m, Catbells is only 451m, as you don’t really go down to go back up it. We saw a few people who planned to walk just Catbells and continued on to Maiden Moor because of the early time we got to the top. However, on the same walk to that fell, you come across a walk down the side of Catbells to get to the lake. From the top of Catbells back to the car was another 3.5 miles, so we opted for this walk as the kids were tiring. This was a much steeper path and I’m glad that we didnt take that route up! It was ok to walk down but we had to hold Spike’s hand a lot because of how steep it was.

Brandelhow Park

Once we were off Catbells, we found ourselves at a gate to Brandelhow Park, a National Trust park which has walks around the Derwentwater lakeside. The woods were stunning with gorgeous bluebells littering the grass, then we were by the water which was perfect for skimming stones, and we even found a gorgeous hand sculture which I loved and the girls got in to. This was the kind of place we probably would have loved to exmplre on a usual day in the Lakes and I want to go back to enjoy it again when I’m not tired from walking up a mountain!

A Coffee in Kewsick to Recover

Once we got back to the car we decided the girls something to show off for their efforts, and to celebrate them walking their firt wainwright. Thankfully Conquer Lake District has thought of this and have created sew-on patches for you to collect. We knew these were available to pick up in the town and went to grab them one. We headed to George Fisher to pick that up and stopped for a brew while we were there. It has been a long time since I’d been to Keswick and the town looked busy and had a lot of shops I would have loved to explore on a usual day. It definitely looked like a great place to stay!

Proud of My Girl

I was really proud of how well Spike did on the walk. It was a 6 mile loop which shes managed before but never all the way without being picked up. I think it helped that she had a friend and thankfully we get on really well with the parents of her friend so we will definitely plan another walk with them. I wouldnt say it was an easy option for kids though, even though it’s meant to be a great starter fell for them. Having practically walked up Loughrigg twice, but never having made the summit, I reckon that will be easier and probably more of a chilled walk for the kids to do. I plan on trying a few more with her and will share our experience.