Will Renwick walks the Derwentwater hilltop circular walk: a high route around Derwentwater from Keswick, climbing Catbells and Walla Crag along the way and visiting Ashness Bridge

Derwentwater: a lake with one foot in the mountains and another in the small-town ambience of Keswick, and flanked by the justifiably famous Catbells. If you’ve ever wondered about what it might be like to walk all the way around this gem of the northern Lake District, this walk, which is 18km/11.5 miles in length and takes about 5.5 hours to hike, is well worth considering. It’s a moderate hillwalk, involving 658m/2158ft of ascent.

One of the great things about this route is that it lets you see a favourite Lakeland lake from all angles, while taking in classic hillwalks along the way. After beginning in Keswick, the Catbells ridge is traversed in its entirety, and then an ascent along the eastern side of the lake brings you to Walla Crag, a famed viewpoint – where you may be able to spot climbers at play.

Hillwalking gear for snow walking

Click here to read Will’s account of the walk. If tackling the route in snowy conditions, as Will did, you should consider crampons, an ice axe, and maybe a down jacket – which can make all the difference for keeping warm on a chilly summit break!

Start/Finish: Keswick Youth Hostel
GR: NY267235

  1. Turn R from hostel and take road to town centre. Walk R down the high street, following it W out of town. After crossing the bridge turn L into playing fields. Follow the path on their edge and at road turn L over footbridge. Continue straight along the road, following it L at junction by The Chalet. After Nichol End Marina go L onto footpath. Continue through woodland on the Cumbria Way. At the kissing gates go across the lane and follow footpath along the wall, crossing a cattle grid.
  2. Take the path zigzagging up Catbells and follow along the ridge top to summit and over. At the footpath crossroads turn L downhill. Halfway downhill turn R and join the lower path, turning R on it. Join the road and turn R, then after 100m turn L onto footpath. Turn R when path splits and go through the reserve along edge of the lake. Turn L on main road then R behind hotel. Lodore Falls are near on the R, but turn L to follow path alongside road until the jetty.
  3. The walk can end here by catching the boat bus. To continue, rejoin the road and take lane up behind hostel and follow uphill to Ashness bridge.
    Take footpath on L just before bridge. Go through stone wall and take middle track uphill. Continue on to corner of wood and follow woodland edge to Lady’s Rake viewpoint.
  4. At viewpoint go down over stile and L to follow wall downhill and into the valley. Cross bridge to road by farm. Turn L and after 100 yards go L again and back across stream. After mast keep L of stream and follow road back down straight into town centre.