One of the great pleasures of walking in the Lake District are the mountain tarns. Created by the work of glaciers around 15,000 years ago the tarns are the location of many of the most picturesque views. These are my favourites.
The tarns in the Lake District (known as corries in Scotland, cwms in Wales) are formed when a glacier scours a dip in the land. They traditionally (but not always) are quite deep, have a head wall on one end and a moraine/dam near the outflow. Many of the walks in the mountains include at least one. Not only are they great to look at, add to the scenery but they are also becoming increasingly popular to swim in. I prefer the looking though!
There are estimated to be 197 tarns in the Lake District. These are my favourite 12 in no particular order. Some are well known, some less so. It is worth visiting them all.
Nestled between Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man the approach is via the Walna Scar Road and Coniston Village.
The Best walk which includes Goats Water is the Coniston Round
Beacon Tarn is quite a large body of water to the south of Coniston. It is a peaceful place surrounded by rocky knolls, hidden hollows and a sense of tranquility. I have swum in this one!
The Best walk that visits Beacon Tarn is Woodland Fell and Beacon Tarn
Access both the Kentmere Round and High Street via Small Water at the Head of Haweswater.
The Best walk which includes Small Water is the Head of Haweswater
Scales Tarn is tucked away on the approach to Sharp Edge, the most dramatic climb of Blencathra. An easier climb heads south from the tarn.
The best walk which includes Scales Tarn is Blencathra via Sharp Edge
Tucked away under Helvellyn, Red Tarn is enclosed between Striding and Swirral Edges. It is a geographers dream.
The Best Walk which includes Red Tarn is Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Angle Tarn is tucked away on the route from Patterdale to High Street. It is shallower and more sprawling than many, I think it is called ‘freeform’ in swimming pool parlance!
The best walk including Angle Tarn is Angletarn Crags
Blind Tarn is a small circle of water tucked on the wide flanks of Coniston Old Man. It looks and is a perfect spot, I love it.
The Best walk which includes Blind Tarn is Dow Crag via Seathwaite Tarn
A large body of water midway between Eskdale and the Duddon Valley, Devoke Water is rarely visited but is a place of quiet and peace surrounded by low hills.
For more information how to enjoy this visit the Devoke Water walk
Sprinkling Tarn is a rugged tarn above the head of Borrowdale. It is one of the finest places in England to wild camp.
For the story of a wild camp at Sprinkling Tarn follow this link
These two tarns are hidden away in the rarely visited lands between Eskdale and Wasdale. Throw in Eel and Stoney Tarns and it is perfect for wild swimming enthusiasts.
The best walk to these 4 Eskdale tarns is Burnmoor and Blea Tarn walk
Between Watendlath and Rosthwaite in Borrowdale is an attractive tarn in some rugged countryside. It is perfect for a family outing with the fell of Great Crag above.
The best walk for that visits the tarn is Dock Tarn and Watendlath
Styhead Tarn is one of the most visited tarns in the Lake District with good reason. It is easy to get to from Borrowdale and is in a beautiful setting. Great Gable is the steep and dominating mountain to the west.
The best walk that includes a visit to the tarn is Styhead and Sprinkling Tarn
Stickle Tarn lies under the great head wall of Pavey Ark and reached after the steep climb from the valley. The tarn is perfectly formed, popular with many idyllic picnic spots.
The best walk that includes Stickle Tarn is The Langdale Pikes
Many famous locals had their own personal favourites. Beatrix Potter always enjoyed Moss Eccles Tarn near Hawkshead, William Wordsworth often visited Loughrigg Tarn whilst the most famous of all, Alfred Wainwright (tarn choice not person!) had his ashes scattered at Inonimate Tarn on Haystacks. The Victorians were big walkers and many a Sunday afternoon was spent visiting Easedale Tarn, near Grasmere, Bowscale Tarn near Blencathra and School Knotts near Windermere.
Enjoy your walking
For more of my ‘Best Of…’ walks follow this link
Hi does anybody know of a list of all the tarns I understand there is roughly 197 but me and a friend have set out to visit every one but can’t find a list of them all any info would be really appreciated Thankyou so much
Ignore my last comment just reread article.
Are you claiming that Wainright is more famous than Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. Agree with your choices though.
Love the smaller out of the way tarns in West Cumbria. So unspoilt, real gems.
Wonderful views. Know a few, will definitely visit the rest. Great thanks.
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