I often think of Walla Crag as a non-identical twin to Catbells. As a peak, it is nowhere near as distinctive, though it is similar in height, at 379 m (1,243 ft). It stands above Derwentwater’s eastern shore, while Catbells rises proudly opposite to the west. The ascent is easier, but affords similarly stunning views. It also makes for a great family excursion, the route I describe below taking around 3 hours to complete. The featured image shows Walla Crag as seen from Catbells ridge (it is the tree-clad cliff behind the central island on Derwentwater). Below you will find a photo of Catbells and the surrounding northwestern fells taken from the summit of Walla Crag.
From the market town of Keswick, there are two main routes of ascent. For a more dramatic excursion, follow the signposts to Great Wood from Borrowdale Road, which heads south from the town centre. Then take the steep ascent to the left via Cat Gill. This walk has stunning views, and is not technically difficult, but is not suitable for small children as there is steep exposure in some sections.
The route we took with our 3- and 8-year-old is a much more gradual ascent, and still pleasant and full of interest. Follow Springs Road out of Keswick all the way to the Springs Farm Guesthouse, where the road becomes a pleasant wooded path following the banks of Brockle Beck. You will cross the stream twice before entering open farmland which leads to the summit of the fell. It is a fine grassy ascent suitable for even the youngest of hikers. Only the final section requires caution, as this crosses the top of a steep cliff, popular with paragliders. This section can be avoided altogether, but it does add interest to the walk. To the north, on a clear day, you will have stunning views of the imposing Skiddaw and Blencathra mountain ranges.
The summit is a rocky outcrop clad in heather, which paints the hillside a delightful purple in high summer, as we were lucky enough to see it. If it’s not too windy, this makes for a perfect picnic spot.
Descend by the clearly-defined path in the direction of Borrowdale. To the south, the distinctive summit of Great Gable dominates the skyline, with the dramatically named Jaws of Borrowdale in the middle distance. A slight detour to the west will lead you to the summit-viewpoint of Falcon Crag, where if you are lucky you may see a peregrine falcon!
An easy descent leads southwards to the picturesque Ashness Bridge, which is probably the most photographed stone bridge in the whole Lake District. It is very popular for wedding photo shoots and selfies. I broke with tradition and explored the bridge from a new perspective:
From Ashness Bridge, you can follow the road down to the lake shore, or the steeper but car-free permissive path through the woods. You will arrive at Ashness Landing, where in pre-covid times it was possible to take a ferry back to Keswick. I hope this lake-hopping service will be reinstated soon! Alternatively, you can take the number 78 bus (a very pleasant open-top route in summer), or walk back along the lake shore via the delightful Calf Close Bay and Friar’s Crag (around 90 minutes.) For refreshments at this point, follow the permissive path south towards the Lodore Falls Hotel, and be sure to visit the dramatic waterfall. There is a bus stop right outside the hotel, with regular services to Keswick.