This is a wonderful walk of fells, tarns, waterfalls and even an old quarry now used as a climbing venue. Starting at the convenient parking place and picturesque Tarn Hows it follows the banks of the tarn for a while before branching off to Black Fell where there are splendid views to all points of the compass. Following bridleways and footpaths, it crosses the Ambleside to Coniston road to head past the quarry at Hodge Close before climbing Holme Fell. From there you pass the delightful Yew Tree Tarn to cross the Coniston road once more. Climbing up beside Tom Gill through woodland you come across a 30 foot tall waterfall. This is the outfall of Tarn Hows which you return to just a little further on.
Tarn Hows is a very well known Lake District visitor attraction. What is less well known is that the tarn used to be three smaller ones called High, Middle and Low Tarn. In 1862 James Marshall gained the land and set about building a dam to raise the level, and with other landscaping largely created the Tarn Hows we see today. Later he sold it to Beatrix Heelis, better known as Beatrix Potter, who passed it eventually to the National Trust for safe keeping.
The car park at Tarn Hows is the largest car park and has public facilities, also parking is available at Glen Mary Bridge and beside Yew Tree Tarn.
N.B. We've had feedback from someone who's done this walk recently that some of the signposts (of which we mention quite a few) have gone missing so please bear that in mind when doing this walk but we will re-survey it as soon as possible and update as appropriate.
If you need accommodation we have details of 34 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the Tarn Hows car park return to the road and cross over to the lake, bearing right on the path. Then bear left to follow the well graded gravel circular lake shore path anticlockwise. Drop down to the gate beside the water, go through, and follow the path as it meanders its way around. There are the occasional small yellow footpath markers with "Cumbria Way" on them.
After 300m (330 yards), at the signpost turn left to "Arnside and Langdales". The Cumbria Way also follows this way. Initially this path is gravel like the circular path but soon deteriorates to a rough wide path. Continue to the gate at the end. Go through onto the track and turn right signposted "Iron Keld".
This track is now very rough. Climb up quite steeply at first into a couple of sharp corners and then it levels out some. After another couple of sharp corners look out for the "Public Bridleway" sign and gateway with the National Trust "Iron Keld" sign on the left. Turn left through the gate and follow the bridleway as it climbs to the top of the plantation.
Approaching the wall, turn left at the signpost and go through the gate. Immediately right on a narrow path climbing reasonably gently up the fellside. A couple of cairns soon come into view. After meandering a little the trig point of Black Fell can be seen ahead in the distance. Just follow the path through little boggy puddles and round tiny knolls to the trig point.
Just a little further on, across the ladder stile is where the OS have a spot height of
From the trig point, turn right to visit the prominent tall cairn - which has good views to Windermere. Then turn sharp right and drop down from the cairn, then bear left on a narrow path.
Reaching the outward path bear left and return to the last gate. Don't go through but turn right. This rough bridleway is popular with mountain bikers. The track soon goes through a gap in the dry stone wall to follow alongside a wall, which it then doesn't stray far from all the way to near Low Arnside. Reaching the farm track bear right.
Go through the gap in the wall. In a few metres keep left to remain on the bridleway, and then at the signpost just another few metres on, turn left at the "Public Footpath" signpost. Here you leave the bridleway, drop down through the field following a very vague path to a gate with a little yellow footpath marker.
Go through the gate and bear right to follow the boggy path around the edge of the field below Hollin Bank. Ignore the gate and footpath on the right, continue on the track as it climbs slightly over the shoulder to the gate. Go through and along to the busy Ambleside - Coniston road.
Cross carefully to the minor road opposite. In just a few metres at the junction bear left. Follow this minor road climbing very gently, past the bench on the left, it then drops to a sharp right and then sweeps left climbing steeply round a knoll. Reaching the junction bear right signposted "Hodge Close".
Continue through the farmyard at High Oxen and on to the rough lane. Follow this all the way to the gate at the end. Go through the gate, and continuing ahead to drop down a slight bank to the tarmac road at Hodge Close. Turn left, go between the buildings and carry on along the road. Climb up to the parking area. On your left are some impressive quarries, and steep, precipitous drops directly into water.
At the end of the obvious parking area bear left, around the quarry, onto a rough path. Bear right to a gate. Go through the gate, there's a National Trust sign here "Holme Fell", and bear right onto the track.
Follow the track up to the gate and go through. Just above the gate the track swings right, here turn left on a narrow path to climb up a notch. Bear right around a boggy patch, and then shortly left to the old reservoir. Again bear right around it on a narrow but well trodden path. Ahead Holme fell is on the right, and Ivy Crag on the left will be visible.
Follow the path through more boggy patches and around little knolls to climb the gap between the two tops. Bear right in the gap, and nearing the top turn sharply right to a path clambering up a little rock step and through heather. Bear left towards the summit area which is the rocky promontory past the cairn.
Return back through the heather and back down the rocky step. Cross the gully and head over to Ivy Crag. The summit of Ivy Crag again seems not to be a cairn but just the rocky promontory this time the other side of a slight gully.
From the top, drop back into the gully, and bear right down the rough path heading for Uskdale Gap. Drop down to the cairn and bear right to cross the line of stones - as if it is telling you not to go that way! Drop down the rough path, this seems to more of a stream than a path, but there are occasional cairns.
Look out for the path leaving the stream and bearing right. Now you are heading for Yew Tree Tarn. Continue past a couple of glacial erratic looking boulders. Continue dropping down keeping right on a mainly easy descent. At the bottom, in Harty Guards Wood, when the path flattens out in a wide boggy area and some more large boulders: turn very sharp left. There is a path across this tree root strewn, and boggy area. The path indistinct at times does reappear very quickly, and bears right to go through the wall at a gateway.
Go through the gate and over to the tarn. At the signpost turn right to follow around the tarn and below the wall. Initially over grass the path soon becomes well graded gravel. Follow the path around the tarn to the dam.
Cross the dam and before reaching the road bear right alongside the wall and road. In 50m (55 yards) cross the road to the other side and up to the path above the road. Bear right.
Just before reaching the National Trust Tom Gill CP, turn left through a gate signposted "Tarn Hows". Climb up the first bit of stone pitching you've seen all day alongside the gill. Bear left, and then reaching the small sign to "Tom Gill Waterfall" bear right on a narrow path directly above the gill to the waterfall. Climb up on the path to the head of the fall.
Continuing on you eventually arrive back at Tarn Hows. Turn right and go through the gate, the bear left and then right back to the car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|A stroll around Tarn Hows||56m (62 yards) away|
|Steel Edge and Wetherlam Edge, from Tilberthwaite||2.5km (1.5 miles) away|
|A visit to Cathedral Cavern from Tilberthwaite||2.5km (1.6 miles) away|
|Tarn Hows from Coniston||3.0km (1.8 miles) away|
|Latterbarrow from Hawkshead||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Wetherlam, via Lad Stones ridge and Black Sails||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston, from Coniston village||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Cumbria Way - Coniston to Dungeon Ghyll||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Coppermines Valley above Coniston||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston||4.5km (2.8 miles) away|
|Dow Crag and Goats Water||4.5km (2.8 miles) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston, Brim Fell, Swirl How, Wetherlam||4.5km (2.8 miles) away|
|Walna Scar, White Maiden, White Pike, with a visit to Blind Tarn||4.5km (2.8 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011