Our Favourite Lake District Tarns
01 July 2022

Have you ever heard of tarn bagging? Like Wainwright bagging or Munro bagging, tarn bagging is visiting as many Lake District tarns as possible, and ideally having a swim, although depending on which set of rules you read, simply dipping a hand in it or skimming a stone across it also count.

Let's start with what defines a tarn, and just how many are there to bag? A tarn is small mountain lake and they can be found dotted across the National Park. As for just how many there are, this is up for debate. According to an article in Outdoor Swimmer, there are 463 tarns in the Lake District National Park. In the 1995 book, The Tarns of Lakeland, authors John and Anne Nuttall counted 335, while many articles and blog posts state 197.

We'll let you decide on how many will make up your list. In the meantime, here are a few of our favourite Lake District tarns which are all relatively close to either our Windermere or our Ullswater cottages. Maybe you can make a start on this popular Lake District pastime.

School Knott Tarn

School Knott Tarn is considered one of Windermere's best kept secrets and is a short walk from our Windermere Cottages, so the ideal starting point for your new adventure. 

Tarn Hows, Coniston

We've included Tarn Hows in many of our blog posts, simply because it is an absolute must-visit place if you're in the Lake District. It's absolutely stunning. No wonder it's one of the most popular spots in the Lake District. A circular path runs right around the tarns and is ideal for pushchair and wheelchair users.

Blea Tarn

If you're heading to the Langdale Valley, make sure you visit Blea Tarn. It's one of the easiest to visit, with a convenient car park on the Little Langdale to Great Langdale road. The back of the Langdale Pikes means it's a popular spot for photography enthusiasts, keen to capture the reflection of the towering peaks in the tarn's still water. 

Loughrigg Tarn, Ambleside

Nestled just north of the village of Skelwith Bridge, beneath the steep flank of Loughrigg Fell is Loughrigg Tarn. Loughrigg Tarn was one of William Wordsworth's favourite Lake District spots, describing it as ''round, clear and bright as heaven''. In the summer months, the surface of the tarn is a carpet of water lillies, and the views of the Langdale Pikes are simply breathtaking.

Stickle Tarn

We're staying in the Langdales for our final tarn. Stickle Tarn is a little trickier to reach - or certainly more demanding. It's a steep walk from the National Trust Stickle Ghyll parking area and follows Stikle Ghyll all the way up the valley side. But you'll want to stop on the way, simply to wonder at the dramatic views. The tarn itself boasts Pavey Arc and Harrison Stickle as a stunning back. These summits, together with Pike O'Stickle, once formed part of the outer rim of a massive volcano.

Red Tarn and Grisedale Tarn

For visitors to our Ullswater Cottages, a walk to Red Tarn or Grisedale Tarn is an excellent way to spend a day. 

Red Tarn lies on the eastern flanks of Helvellyn, with the forboding Striding Edge and Swirral Edge to either side. This is one of the highest tarns in the Lake District, lying at an altitude of 718 metres. If you're feeling particularly energetic, you can head up Swirral Edge to the summit of Helvellyn - the views across the Lake District are amazing.

Grisedale Tarn lies on the Coast to Coast Path and is easily accessible from Cruck Barn and Elm How - the path leading to the tarn runs right by the properties. The tarn is positioned between Seat Sandal, (its back wall), Fairfield and Dollywaggon Pike. 

The clear and fresh water is reputedly the resting place of the crown of Dunmail, a Celtic King who fought the Saxon King Edmund in 945AD. Legend says that it was removed and cast into the water following his death in battle. 

That's our roundup of our favourite Lake District tarns which are all within relatively easy reach of either our Windermere Cottages or our Ullswater Cottages, and hopefully a good place to start your tarn bagging experience in the Lake District. If you would like any more information on these walks, please do get in touch.

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