We have enjoyed the Tarn Hows circular walk as a family since the children were very small. It is a beautiful loop around Tarn Hows, with a path all the way round suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. With a beautiful natural backdrop and plenty of places to stop and play, Tarn Hows circular walk is perfect for any time of year.
Where is Tarn Hows?
Tarn Hows is an area west of Lake Windermere, close to Coniston. By car, it is 20 minutes from Ambleside, 25 minutes from Windermere, 40 minutes from Kendal and 1 hour from Penrith.
The History of Tarn Hows
Tarn Hows is actually a man made area of beauty. Three smaller bodies of water originally made up the site, but in the 1860s the owner of the Monk Coniston estate set about creating one big tarn. He also planted many of the surrounding trees that you see today. Since 1930, the area has been looked after by both the National Trust and Beatrix Potter, with Potter ultimately passing her share on to the National Trust when she died.
For more information on the site’s interesting history, you can read more about it here.
How do I get to Tarn Hows?
Tarn Hows can be accessed from either Ambleside along the B5286 or from Coniston along the B5285. Both of these routes take you to Hawkshead Hill, an uphill road that leads you all the way to the National Trust Tarn Hows car park. Be prepared for narrow sections along this road; you may need to slow right down in places.
At the very top of Hawkshead Hill, there is a car park on your right. This is suitable for the many walks that can be done in the area, but for the circular loop ignore this and keep going, the road will start to go downhill.
You will soon come to the National Trust Tarn Hows car park, which has is well signposted with a one way system. As it is National Trust, members can park for free, although non-members will have to pay for parking.
An attendant is usually on site to answer any queries too, which is helpful. Also helpful are the toilets, which I personally think are the best looking car park toilets in the whole of England!
How long does it take to walk around Tarn Hows?
The circular walk is 1 and 3/4 miles round, and depending on how fast you and your family walk, it can be done in just over an hour, or you might take 3 hours! We visited recently and we were lucky enough to find the tarn frozen over, so we stopped and played for ages in lots of different spots. We also had two snack stops, and in total it took us 1 hour 45 this time.
Once you have reached the National Trust Tarn Hows car park, the circular route itself is very easy to find and follow. Walk to the opposite end of the car park to the toilets, cross the road and you will be able to see the tarn infront of you.
You can walk in either direction around the tarn (lake); we generally go clockwise but that does leave a little bit of an incline towards the end so be ready!
Walk down the hill towards the tarn, go through the gate which is visible from the road, and you’re all set to go. Follow the wide path as it leads you around the tarn, end enjoy all the nature the area has to offer! There are lots of areas where you can get up close to the tarn, with rocks to climb on and to sit on for those all important snack breaks.
Dogs: This is a dog-friendly walk. However. at times there are Belted Galloway cattle and Herdwick sheep grazing so dogs need to be kept under close supervision, and placed on a lead if the cattle or sheep are close by.
For the circular loop route, simply stick to the path all the way around the tarn. You will see other signposted walks; these are for another day.
Continue on around the loop until you come back to the road that separates the tarn from the car park. You have completed the Tarn Hows circular walk!