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Golden Spring sunrise at Catbells overlooking Derwentwater in the Lake District National Park.

Catbells Sunrise.

A panoramic view taken from Catbells overlooking Derwentwater.

Located on the Western side of Derwentwater is arguably one of the Lake Districts finest viewpoints; Catbells. Popular amongst photographers and tourists, once at the summit, it's easy to understand why! The hump like shape of the slopes of Catbells leading the view over towards Skiddaw, toppled with an impressive view of Derwentwater make not just for ample photographic opportunities, but views that will quite literally take your breath away! The difficulty of the hike itself is classed as moderate, with a short steep section on the beginning of the ascent with a few minor scrambles which in all honesty, sounds more intimidating than it actually is! I would allow 45 minutes at a minimum, for a person of average health/fitness.    

The views from the summit, as I said before, will quite literally take your breath away! However, in my opinion, in terms of photography the best compositions are to be found just before reaching the actual summit. The reason for this is the summit area is for the most part very flat and although there are a decent amount of rocks to use in your foreground, you end up losing a lot of the mid-ground interest. Before reaching the summit point, there is a relatively steep scramble up to the top. It's on this short scramble where you will find the best compositions; due to the fact that being on a slope, you can get closer to your foreground, whilst pointing your camera down without loosing any of the mid-ground, creating more of a three dimensional feel to your image!  

Catbells for the most part is mainly a sunrise location, which can be shot all year round depending on the look you want to achieve! 

- November to February the sun rises more to the South-East, which tends to give better light on Skiddaw. Frosty mornings can add an extra element of interest to your foreground. Also, there's a greater chance of the presence snow on the fells.

- April to June the sun starts to rise at a more northernly direction (just to the right of Blencathra). This can give you more vibrant skies and more light in your foreground. Bare in mind the fact that once the sun comes over the horizon, you will most likely have it in your shot, unless shooting vertically.

Amazing colourful sunrise over Derwentwater taken from Catbells in the Lake District.
Stunning views of Derwentwater at sunrise taken from Catbells in the Lake District.

Light On Catbells.

Morning light hitting the slopes of Catbells.

When the winds are low, the humidity high and a clear sky throughout the previous evening, it wouldn't be uncommon to witness a cloud inversion from the top of Catbells! There are some great photographic opportunities in these conditions. You can use a wide angle lens to show the whole scene or use a long lens to isolate certain elements of interest in the valleys below. Be sure to stick around for a while! As the sun rises, so will the mist. As this happens, parts of the landscape will reveal themselves but pay attention as the moment can be over as quickly as it began.

Pre-Dawn Sunrise At Catbells.

Pre-dawn colours filling the sky above Derwentwater from Catbells.

Cloud inversion sunrise taken from Catbells on a fresh Spring morning. Lake District National Park, UK.

Breaking Dawn At Catbells.

Sun rising above the horizon with a stunning cloud inversion over Derwentwater.

Lingering Autumn mist in the Borrowdale valley seen from Catbells in the Lake District National Park.

Misty Borrowdale.

Morning mist revealing trees in the Borrowdale Valley from Catbells.

Cloud inversion over Brandlehow in Keswick. Lake District, UK.

Cloud Inversion Over Derwentwater.

Looking down towards Brandlehow as the morning mists start to lift.

Hazy Blencathra seen from Catbells

Blencathra In The Haze.

Calm reflections in Derwentwater at sunrise taken from Catbells.

Getting Here

There is a small car park at the bottom of Catbells with space for around 12 cars. On a quiet weekday or an early morning, you should have no problem finding a parking space but for busier than usual periods, it may be a good idea to get a launch boat from Keswick lakeside to Hawes End.

If you're heading for the car park then you want to head for a little village called Portinscale, which is the first exit after the junction for Keswick on the A66. Stay on the road leading through the village and through a large area of woodland, following signs for Braithwaite and Buttermere. Eventually you will come to a bendy road that goes over a cattlegrid and just before the next bend, take the right that will shortly bring you to the car park.

Nearest post code for car park: CA12 5UE

How to get to Catbells in the Lake District.
Catbells free parking

Turn off To Car Park.

At this point in the road, take this right to reach destination.

Catbells free parking

Car Park.

Car park at the foot of Catbells with space for 10-12 cars.

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