10th December 2008

If you change your plan, you never know what you'll include in a walk - Cat Bells and Walla Crag


Walk Overview
Time 09.05 to 15.15
Duration 6 hr 10 min
Distance 13.7 mile
Ascent 2900 ft
Walking with On my own
Portinscale - Ullock - Newlands Beck - Stair - Skelgill - Cat Bells - Borrowdale - Grange - High Lodore - Watendlath Beck - Ashness Bridge - Walla Crag - Springs wood - Keswick - Portinscale
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Roadside parking near Portinscale suspension bridge

This is somewhere I tend to start walking from qutie a lot. It's nice and handy for Keswick, Borrowdale, Newlands Valley, Skiddaw, Latrigg and even the Castlerigg Stone Circle area.

The parking is free and no matter at what time of year or time of day I've always managed to get a space here.

From here you're only about 10 minutes walk from Keswick with everything the town has to offer, and in the opposite direction you're less than 5 minutes walk from Portinscale.


Route Map

A frosty start to the day in Portinscale.

Walking down the lonning between Portinscale and the path to Ullock.

Alongside Newlands Beck and looking towards the Skiddaw fells.

That's a bit brighter on the fells for you. And talking about brightness; I was beginning to think I'd made the wrong decision this morning. When I left home I fully intended to do a walk from Pooley Bridge, however, as I was driving along I got to thinking about different combinations of fells I could do on the same walk (doesn't everyone think like this ??). Anyway: up until today I'd never done a walk which included both Cat Bells and Walla Crag. So I did a quick circuit of the roundabout outside Keswick, headed back the way I'd just came and ended up parking near Portinscale. Ten minutes later and based on the shortness of the days at this time of year, I'd devised a rough plan of how to link the two together.

I did realise the walk through Newlands would be in the shade, but when I saw just how clear the fells were, I began doubt the wisdom of changing my mind. Never mind I thought, once I get onto the 'other side' of Cat Bells I'll be in sunshine for most of the walk. What I didn't consider was that I'd be walking under the one big cloud in the Lake District today. Sadly I had to reach Grange before I could take advantage of the sunshine.

A selection of the north western fells enjoying what were incredibly clear conditions.

Cat Bells summit and with the northern fells behind.

and looking a little further around to the left, , ,

, , , and further still.

That's the culprit. Although it does help to make a dramatic picture.

Grange bridge seen in front of the fells on the eastern side of High Spy.
For those who are questioning my sanity; I didn't need to wade through knee deep frozen water to get this picture. I'm not that keen!! The main part of the river actually flows under the 'other bridge' just to the left of the picture. This side only begins to flow properly after a few days rain. For the rest of the time you just have this pool which you can easily walk around to get to this point.

That's more like it - the sun finally breaks through.

Looking along the double bridge to Grange.

It was lovely and peaceful walking along here today. It was hard to believe that the only vehicles that passed me between Grange and High Lodore were a tractor and a bus. It's quite a different story in the middle of summer I should point out. In fact, the yellow line down the side of the road doesn't so much mean no parking, it also means 'pedestrians cross this at your peril'.

Long, menacing shadows creeping up behind me as I look towards the Skiddaw fells.

At High Lodore I left the Borrowdale road and headed up through Mossmire Coppice to reach the road between Ashness Bridge and Watendlath. I suppose I could have carried on through Borrowdale and simply walked to Ashness Bridge via the obvious route along the road. However, the route I took offers an equally convenient way to gain height, but more to the point, it includes some nice woodland which tend not to be included on walks very often.

The footbridge over Watendlath Beck.
The route I'd taken brought me in from the left hand side of the picture, and after crossing the bridge I continued alongside the wall to reach the road. Even if you dawdled about it would still only take a couple of minutes to reach the road from here.

Sunshine trying its best to light up Ashness Wood.

The view from Surprise View.

This "la'al fella" wasn't the slightest bit interested in the view; surprise or otherwise. Its only concern was how much bread I could spare. As it turned out, it wasn't a case of how much I could spare, it was how much 'Robin' could eat. Yes I know, I'm generous to a fault.

Afternoon sunshine on the route from Ashness Bridge to Walla Crag.

Looking across to Walla Crag.

Despite the shade quickly advancing across the landscape, I managed to reach the summit of Walla Crag in time to get this picture which shows exceptional clarity on the northern fells.

As I left Walla Crag there was a brief and final burst of sunlight which cast a gorgeous glow on the fellside around me. Add that to the darkness of the fells in the distance and this is the result.

Well, I must have made good time today. When I was about half way through the walk I tried to work out what time I'd get to Keswick. At the time I expected to get here late enough to see the Christmas lights. As I say, I must have made good time.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks