With the weather set fine just now, I’m always keen to get up onto the tops for some exercise, to smell the heather and grasses and feel the wind in my hair.
You don’t need to be a fitness freak, super athlete or regional champion to get started on fell running, which is why I often suggest Catbells as a good place to start, if you think you might become interested and want to give it a try.
Situated about three miles from Keswick, it’s easy to get to by bus, bike and foot. Taking a car to the foot of Catbells is more tricky now as there are restrictions on parking in the immediate vicinity. But if you don’t mind a half mile walk you can usually find somewhere, unless it’s a really lovely day in high season. Evenings are easier too. Bank holidays are best avoided.
You can approach the mountain from the east via Grange, from the southwest via Little Town or from the north, which is the direction I normally choose, as it leads you up the crest of the mountain.
There’s a good path, which unfolds gradually, giving you a growing sense of the local landscape. Derwentwater is magnificent beside Keswick and to the north Bassenthwaite opens up. Then there are the views of the high tops of Skiddaw and Blencathra to the north and the Langdales to the south.
Don’t think you need or should run all the way. Even the best fell runners will walk on the steepest sections. It’s about 1250 feet of climbing to the top of Catbells, which at a good pace will take you anywhere between 20 to 35 minutes.
If the going is getting a bit tough or the weather is changing, you can miss out the top and drop down to the right on tracks over the fellside. This will take you back to your starting point.
From the top you can proceed southwards almost until you reach the saddle, leading up to Maiden Moor. There’s a track leading off to the right, which drops steeply over the grass and then onto a stony track. Take care when you are running here, as the path is constricted in places.
The path veers continually round to the right as you drop down, so that you are now running parallel with the route you had taken on the way up the mountain. The path now is simple and easy for running and the route is clear. (See bottom photo below).
Near the end you pass a farm half hidden (see photo) and then you reach a parking point (See bottom right photo below), about 300 metres before the cattle grid on the bigger road. The descent will be much quicker, so an hour should be enough to complete the whole round.
If you try this out do let me know, by posting a comment below at the bottom of this blog.