A Circuit from Tarn Hows.

Start. Tarn Hows car park.

Route. Tarn Hows car park - Tarn Hows - Rose Castle Plantation - Cumbria Way - High Crass - Smithy Brow - Oxen Fell - Tilberthwaite - Hodge Close - Shepherd's Bridge - Yew Tree Farm - A593 - Glen Mary Bridge - Lane Head Coppice - Tom Gill - Tarn Hows.

Notes. A Lakeland classic, Tarn Hows, one of the most visited spots in the Lake District, an important visitors attraction since before 1899. Originally owned by the Marshall family, part of their vast Monk Coniston Estate. In the 19th century they dammed the high valley turning Low Tarn, Middle Tarn and High Tarn into one, Tarn Hows. Landscaping and tree planting took place converting this haven in the hills into a beauty spot with stunning mountain vistas. It was later purchased by Beatrix Potter and her husband William Heelis before being sold on to the National Trust, who still own it to this day.

“Don't do as I do, do as I say”, the words of my mother on many occasions when I was a kid, usually followed by a clip round the lug. Well today I set out with no map and no compass on what was supposed to be a misty walk round Tarn Hows, the fact the car park was full and the paths heaving forced me into a change of plan. Who would have thought on a day of low cloud and heavy rain so many people would be trudging the tarns many paths, I needed to change my strategy, that's when I regretted not bringing the map.

Misty views and rain accompanied me as I wandered along the east shore of Tarn Hows, through dripping woodland I wandered with no views what so ever. I'd all ready decided to find another route, hopefully free of the crowds, nowhere should be this busy. My opportunity came as I rounded the tarn stepping into the woodland below Tom Heights, a path cutting back on the right caught my attention. I have been here before so knew this wide right of way would guide me to a stoney bridleway, it did, the start of a long descent to the main road at High Cross, the start of a tarmac single track lane over Oxen Fell.

The finger-post promised passage to Oxen Fell and Hodge Close, as I'd left the crowds far behind and the map further behind, (on the kitchen table), I thought it best to follow way marked paths. Over the surface of a very narrow lane I wandered my intention to head to Hodge Close, after passing High Oxen Fell Farm a typical white washed Lakeland farm the track ended to be replaced by a stoney bridleway, this in turn guided me into the Tilberthwaite valley, placing me amidst the detritus left by the demise of the slate industry, depositing me at Hodge Close, a formidable hole in the ground.

Just one of many slate quarries in this valley, worked on a large scale in the 19th century, but on a much smaller one from the 1960s. The massive excavation of light green slate was worked to depths of 300ft, now all that remains are 150ft walls ending at a water filled crater, many passages radiate under the surface but these are the domain of experienced cave divers.

From this ruddy great hole, having no map I decided to follow the access road until I came across another finger-post, hopefully pointing in the direction that suited me, it wasn't until I reached Shepherd's Bridge a welcome sign promised passage to Yew Tree Farm. With a wide track under foot I wandered under the impressive cliffs of Calf Crag and Long Crag, the track deposited me on the main Coniston road next to Yew Tree Farm, I turned left then carefully wandered to Glen Mary Bridge car park, the start of the path through Lane Head Coppice, up the side of Tom Gill. The trod was quite steep, the waters of Tom Gill well spectacular, I stopped many times to admire the spectacle. As the gill narrows I popped out at Tarn Hows next to the small dam holding back the waters, the mist of earlier had cleared, the people had not, back to the car then, go and find a watering hole in Coniston.

view route map.


Misty views over Tarn Hows.

Strolling along good paths looking west into Lakeland murk.

This headland brings back memories, it was the long hot summer of 1976, a Sunday, I'd got my own transport, with it came freedom, I'd just met my wife to be Sue, we came here picnicking, spent all day on that headland in the sun, and guess what, it was just as busy as it is today.

Tarn Hows is fed at it's northern end by a series of valley and basin mires and drained by Tom Gill, across this mire the slopes of Torver Intake.

A view into the murk along the western shore line.

Appearing through the gloom, High Arnside Tarn.

Descending to High Cross with misty views over Yewdale for company.

Nearing High Oxen Fell Farm looking to Great How.

Typical Lakeland farm, High Oxen Fell.

Welcome to Tilberthwaite and the detritus left by the slate industry.

Hodge Close just one of the many slate quarries in the Tilberthwaite valley, look closely you can just make out two tiny figures at the entrance to the cave next to the waterfall.

Moss covered boulders in Low Coppice.

Yewdale Beck on it's short journey to Coniston Water.

The Calf Crag face of Holme Fell seen from the single track road near Shepherd's Bridge.

Top Gill.

Tom Gill spills from the outflow of Tarn Hows in a splendid display of white water.

The mist has lifted, looking over Tarn Hows towards Rose Castle.

I started here so I'll finish here, this is what we missed in the first shot.

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