Tarn Hows is situated in a lofty position overlooking Coniston and Yewdale. Originally three tarns existed in the bowl between the fells, but after the enclosure act of 1862, James Marshall of Monk Coniston gained full ownership of the area. He embarked on a series of large-scale landscaping projects including damming the lower tarn so that all three merged to form one large tarn.
The walk around the The Tarn with its wonderful views and its sense of being high up, is a well-established classic and a ‘must do’ for anybody visiting the area. For those with extra energy a walk up to the even higher perch of Black Crag adds greatly to the experience, as also does a trip to Tom Ghyll to visit the cascades and waterfalls.
Walk Around Tarn Hows - A True Lake District Classic
Start/Finish: National Trust Car Park, Tarn Hows GR SD326996
Distance: 2.7km/1.6 miles (+4km/2.5 mile extension)
Time: 1 hour (+1.5 hours extension)
Height Gain: 90m (+180m extension)
Strenuousness: 1/5 (2/5 Black Crag extension)
Navigation: 1/5 (2/5 Black Crag extension)
Technicality: 1/5 (2/5 Black Crag extension)
Gravel tracks and paths (with some gradients steeper than 1:10) suitable for wheelchairs, prams and most trampers around a wooded tarn . The extension to Black Crag includes forest tracks and paths across open fell.
OS Landranger 90 & 98 (1:50 000), OS Explorer OL6 & OL7 (1:25 000), Harveys Superwalker (1:25 000Southern Lakeland,
British Mountain Maps Lake District (1:40 000)
The circular walk around The Tarns needs little description as it is on well-prepared and obvious gravel paths. The views change perspective as you progress, so whether you tackle it clockwise or anti-clockwise make sure you stop occasionally and take in the views behind as well as the ones in front.
For the Black Crag option the best bet is to make use of the Cumbria Way which is reached by heading clockwise around The Tarns and following the gravel path to a sign marked ‘Arnside and Langdales’ at the NW corner of the circuit. Turn L oﬀ the circuit and follow the path through the trees to a gate onto a rough lane.
Turn R and follow the lane for 650m to the Iron Keld bridleway (for High Arnside) on the L. Join the bridleway and follow its course through the old plantation to a gate, go through it then on the other side turn immediately R onto a narrow path. This path is followed N as it climbs steadily to Black Crag marked by a stone trig point.
From Black Crag retrace your steps back down the path and along the bridleway to re-join the rough lane. Turn R and follow the track NW for 330m to a pair of gates either side of the lane. Take the LH gate and follow the narrow way-marked path towards Tarn Hows to join the circuit path around The Tarns.
For those who love the great outdoors Coniston is the perfect base. At the back of the village the lofty mountains of the southern fells stretch skywards with crags and ridges that will meet every fell walkers and climbers’s desire. In front of the village is the ﬂashing blue lake of Coniston Water with endless challenges for sailors, canoeists, ﬁshermen and divers.
You can link a walk around Tarn Hows with a hike from Coniston to Hawkshead.