The Lake District is well known for its 16 lakes, but what about the smaller bodies of water that are scattered across the national park? Tarns are small mountain lakes, and they can be found all over the county. From the highest at Red Tarn to the deepest at Blea Water, each one has its own special character for you to enjoy.
With nearly 200 tarns to discover in the Lakes, ‘tarn bagging’ has become a sport to almost rival the popular Wainwright Bagging. And, with pools hiding between mountain hillocks, it can be a much more challenging activity than you may think!
Whether you’re giving tarn bagging a go, or would just like to get off the beaten track a little, take a look through some of our favourite tarns in the Lake District.
Devoke Water, Eskdale
Iconic for the ruined boathouse that sits on its shores, and the windswept scenery that surrounds it, Devoke Water is the biggest tarn in the Lake District. On Birker Fell, close to Eskdale, it’s in a remote region and accessed either via foot or a rough bridle track.
While, from the boathouse, Devoke Water looks as though it has an infinity pool-style edge, you can actually walk around the whole circumference. It’s also a popular wild swimming and fly-fishing spot and you might see Brown Trout skimming through the water.
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Tarn Hows, Coniston
Though man-made, Tarn Hows is a truly beautiful lake surrounded by gorgeous scenery and once owned by Beatrix Potter. A popular family- and wheelchair-friendly location, you can even hire a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter to circle the lake. A walk around the water is a miles without stiles route.
If you’re travelling with kids, pick up a Nature Discovery Trail pack from the car park and let them unearth all the natural wonders around about. Don’t forget to pack a picnic to enjoy by the water once you're done!
Take a look at our holiday homes in Coniston.
Bleaberry Tarn, Buttermere
Surrounded by High Stile, Red Pike and their adjoining ridge on three sides, Bleaberry Tarn is in a sheltered location above pretty Buttermere. It’s a welcome stop for walkers on their way up Red Pike, with its waters cooling you off after a steep upward climb. Though small in size, you’ll often find people swimming, resting and picnicking up here because of its popularity. If you’re doing this walk, then make sure to leave some time for a quick stop – you won’t regret it!
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Brothers Water, Ullswater
Continue past the ribbon lake of Ullswater, on towards the intimidating Kirkstone Pass, and you’ll pass right along the shores of Brothers Water. Formerly known as Broad Water, its current name is a memorial to two brothers who sadly drowned there in the 1800s.
The tarn benefits from a miles without stiles route, which takes you by Hartsop Hall, a traditional Lakeland hill farm that boasts its own herd of red deer!
We have a great selection of cottages around Ullswater.
Innominate Tarn, Buttermere
Fans of Alfred Wainwright and his walks absolutely must tick this one off the list. The tarn, whose title means 'without a name', was a favourite of the author, and his ashes were scattered there after his death in 1991. It sits towards the summit of Haystacks above Buttermere, with spectacular views towards Pillar and Gable.
If you’re after a moment of quiet contemplation, this is the ideal place for it.
Red Tarn, Helvellyn
For those who love a challenge, then Red Tarn offers just that! The highest tarn in the Lake District at 2,356 feet, it’s tucked away between the looming Helvellyn ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. Once a dam, it’s home to the endangered Schelly fish, so keep your eyes peeled while looking into its depths!
You can enjoy Red Tarn on a popular walk up towards Striding Edge, stopping before you ascend the ridge. Experienced and competent hikers may wish to continue onwards and upwards for a fabulous birds-eye view.
Start your route up from one of our cottages in Glenridding or Patterdale.
Loughrigg Tarn, near Ambleside
A favourite with William Wordsworth, Loughrigg Tarn is surrounded by lush scenery and covered in water lilies in the summer. The poet himself described it as “round, clear and bright as heaven”, so what more encouragement do you need to visit?
There’s a wonderful walk from Ambleside to the tarn, which doesn’t traverse any fells, yet benefits from many excellent views. It’s a circular route, though we think you’ll be so enamoured by Loughrigg that you won’t want to go any further!
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Blea Water, Haweswater
Not to be confused with its similarly named cousin in Ambleside, Blea Water is the deepest Lake District at over 200ft. The only Cumbrian lakes deeper than that are Windermere and Wastwater!
Remote and dramatic, to reach it you must park at the car park at the end of Haweswater and head towards the High Street Range. The raindrop shape of the water is best viewed from above, though the dramatic impact of its amphitheatre-like location is really appreciated from below.
Blea Tarn, the Langdale Valley
Nowhere in the Lakes quite does natural drama like the landscape of the Langdale Valley! Enjoy the towering mountains from this beautiful tarn, which itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Providing a stunning backdrop, the popular tarn nonetheless manages to create a true sense of seclusion. There’s a handy National Trust car park nearby, and pleasant walking to be had along the water and through the woods.
Enjoy the scenery from a cottage in Langdale.
Easedale Tarn, Grasmere
With a delightful waterfall walk from the village of Grasmere to the top, Easedale Tarn was once a popular destination for Victorian tourists. In fact, you may even spot the rocky remnants of an old refreshment stand at the tarn if you look carefully!
Its popularity remains to this day and, though the path up is a little rocky, it’s a relatively straightforward route that will be a pleasure for kids and adults alike. Browse self-catering cottages in Grasmere.
Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in the Lake District
Before you set off and go touring the tarns of this beautiful region of England, take a look at our range of self-catering holiday cottages throughout the Lake District. Find the perfect holiday property to provide the right backdrop for your Lakeland adventure. Search our collection today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.