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Tarn Hows: one of the best places to visit in the Lake District

by | Destinations, England | 5 comments

Post updated March 2024

Tarn Hows is one of my favourite places in the Lake District.  It has some of the most magnificent views in the whole of the National Park and is stunningly beautiful at all times of the year. It is a truly special place.

We are fortunate that Tarn Hows is only a short hop from where we live and sometimes, when the weather is good, we just head up there for our daily doggy walk. Why not?!

Jane standing with Jasper over snow covered lake

Why visit Tarn Hows?

Tarn Hows has many attractions, among them, some of the best views in the Lake District. For this reason, it is one of the most popular places to visit in the National Park. This is the only downside to Tarn Hows: it can be quite busy during holiday periods or on sunny weekends. However, it is a large area and there is plenty of space to enjoy some beautiful walks and admire the wonderful views.  Furthermore, if you choose your time carefully and are prepared to go off the beaten track a little, you will have the place pretty much to yourself.

Jane with dog Jasper overlooking Tarn Hows

Some of the best views in the Lake District

Tarn Hows itself is very picturesque. The small lake has several islands where the Victorians planted trees, all of which contribute to the scenic overview.

Small islands with trees in Tarn Hows and reflectons in the water

However, it is not just the tarn which is stunningly beautiful; it is the magnificent landscape all around which makes Tarn Hows so special. From the tarn, one can see the Langdale Pikes, Coniston Old Man, Wetherlam and Helvellyn. There are fabulous views of the Lake District in every direction.

View over Langdale Pikes

View of Wetherlam

And when there is snow on the fells or even on the tarn itself, it is even more beautiful.

View over snow covered lake to fells behind

View over snow covered fells from Tarn Hows

Wetherlam with snow from Tarn Hows

Langdales with snow on the tops

Tarn Hows: circular walk

Another reason for visiting Tarn Hows is that there is a very easy circular walk around the tarn. The path is well maintained and although there is a little up and down in places, it is quite accessible.

Border Collie on path

Easy path round Tarn Hows

The circular walk is a little under two miles and is therefore popular with families. Needless to say, this walk around Tarn Hows is very scenic!

View over Tarn Hows with islands and reflections

It is entirely up to you whether you decide to take the clockwise route or the anti-clockwise route. Just remember to turn back occasionally and admire the views from every direction!

Trees reflected in water

View over Tarn Hows with reflections in water

There are various view points and benches around the tarn. We usually take a snack and a flask of tea (or mulled wine, depending on the time of year!)

Other walks near Tarn Hows

In addition to the circular walk around Tarn Hows, there are lots of other walks in the surrounding area. These trails tend not to be so busy, but they are rather more rugged and a little more challenging, depending on which route you opt for.

The trail towards Black Fell from Tarn Hows

This is one of our favourite walks near Tarn Hows. It takes in the tarn itself, but then heads out towards Black Fell and the surrounding countryside. It is a loop and takes a couple of hours.

The start of the trail

This route starts and finishes at a convenient parking place on the A593 (see below for parking tips). The track is signposted for High Arnside Farm.

Sign post for cottages

After a few hundred meters on this farm track, the trail to Tarn Hows is signposted off to the right.

Sign post for Tarn Hows

Once at the tarn, follow the easy path anti-clockwise. We usually stop here at some point along the way for our snack whilst we enjoy the view. It never gets old!

Reflection of trees in water at Tarn Hows

Heading away from the tarn

Eventually, you come to a stile off to the right, away from the tarn.

Stile in fence

Follow the trail away from the tarn and up the hill. The views over to the Langdales and surrounding fells here are the best in the Lake District.

Jane with Jasper with fells in background

Langdales view

View over fells

After admiring the views here, follow the trail down the hill and continue to cross the quiet road at the bottom.  The trail at Iron Keld is immediately opposite where you pop out on to the road. The signpost reads Knipe Fold

Knipe Fold sign

This part of the trail is harder going than most of the route, but perfectly doable. When we were up there recently, this part of the trail was quite wet in places. Thank goodness for waterproof boots!

Peter on rocky uphill trail

Gradually the path opens out and starts heading down again. There are fabulous views along this part of the trail. Even Jasper stops to admire them!

Jasper looking at the view

Wetherlam with snow

As you will see, we do this hike at all times of the year.

Snow covered fells

Jane standing in front of gate on trail with fells in background

There are even snatches of a view over to Lake Windermere.

Windermere with fells in background

And back to the car!

Eventually, the trail comes back out on to the A593 and it is a short walk up the road to the car. It is worth noting that there is a footpath, but it is on the other side of the dry stone wall, so not immediately obvious. This path leads directly back the Farm road which was the starting point (and parking place) for this hike.

Sign indicating footpath

After leaving the circular walk around the tarn, it is unusual to see more than a few people on this route. It is a lovely hiking trail and I would recommend it if you want to do more than just hike around the tarn.

Where is Tarn Hows?

Tarn Hows is a couple of miles from Coniston and the nearest village is Hawkshead. We usually go via Ambleside and Skelwith Bridge coming from Bowness-on-Windermere.

The road leading up to the tarn is quite narrow and twisty. It is difficult if there is snow unless you have four-wheel drive. I speak from experience!

Parking at Tarn Hows

There is parking at Tarn Hows and we have parked there occasionally. It is just a short hop over the road from the main car park down to the tarn. This car park is provided by the National Trust and unless you are a member, you have to pay. On holidays and fine weekends, this car park fills up quickly so if you want to park there, I would suggest you arrive early.

Alternatively, if you are up for a walk, there is parking on the A593. There are several pull-ins and places to park without causing an obstruction. This parking is free, but as ever, please park responsibly as some of these roads are quite narrow. (The route I have described above starts on the A593 where we parked for the trail described above.)

The history of Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows was originally 3 smaller tarns until a major landscaping project was initiated by new owner, James Garth Marshall, in the 1860s. Tarn Hows was already a notable beauty spot. His plan was to enhance it further by creating a new, bigger body of water and planting new trees.

In 1930, when the area was for sale, Beatrix Potter (the author of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny etc) bought it. She later sold part of it to the National Trust and gifted the remainder in her will so that it could be preserved for the nation. It is still owned and managed by the National Trust.

 

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5 Comments

  1. It looks like a Paradise. We’d be there all day with a picnic ☺️

    Reply
  2. Wow! I’d never heard about Tarn Hows and now I want to hike there.

    Reply
  3. Oh the countryside looks just amazing over there! I would certainly love to hike Tarn Hows.

    Reply
  4. Tarn Hows in the Lake District looks like a great place to escape for a walk or hike. I’d want to do the easier circular walk.

    Reply
  5. The Lake District is definitely on our list of places to visit. I had not heard about Tarn Hows before so good to consider for our plans. Great that this is only a short distance from you at home. And to be able to find times and spots where you can have it pretty much to yourself. Love all those reflections!

    Reply

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Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

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Meet Jasper, our border collie!

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