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

by | Destinations, England | 4 comments

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, but it also has the most wonderful views of the surrounding landscape.

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

From the tarn, one can see the magnificent 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

View over snow covered lake to fells behind

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.

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.

Most recently, we followed the route below.

This route was still a circular route for us in that the loop started and finished where we had parked on the A593 (see below). We hiked up the trail from the road to Tarn Hows, taking the track signposted for High Arnside Farm.

Sign post for cottages

The trail to Tarn Hows is signposted off to the right from the farm track after a few hundred meters.

Sign post for Tarn Hows

Once at the tarn, we followed the easy path anti-clockwise for a way, stopping for our snack at one of the benches on route!

Reflection of trees in water at Tarn Hows

We then left this path and headed over a stile off to the right, away from the tarn.

We climbed one of the small hills along the way to better see the views over the Langdales and surrounding fells. It was a stunning day.

Jane with Jasper with fells in background

Langdales view

View over fells

Following the trail down the hill and continuing away from Tarn Hows, we crossed the quiet road and headed up the trail at Iron Keld. The signpost reads Knipe Fold.

Knipe Fold sign

This part of the trail was harder going than most of the route, but perfectly doable.

Peter on rocky uphill trail

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

Jasper looking at the view

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

There are even snatches of a view over to Windermere.

Windermere with fells in background

Eventually, we came out on to the A593 and had to walk up the road to where we had left 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 took us directly back to the car, opposite the Farm road where we had started our hike.

Sign indicating footpath

Once we left the circular walk around the tarn, we saw very few people. 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 on this particular day.)

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

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

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

  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.


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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.

We are quite active and love skiing, hiking, biking, exploring etc, but we also enjoy history, art, music, science…..and good food and wine! In this blog, you will find articles on all of these subjects as we discover them on our travels.

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Thank you!


Meet Jasper, our border collie!

Jane and Peter with black and white dog on rocky landscape


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