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Tarn Howes (Cumbria)

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3 Reviews

Tarn Howes is a mountain lake, and popular spot, in the Lakeland District.

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    3 Reviews
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      06.09.2011 16:28
      Very helpful



      A place of such beauty should be treasured for ever

      The Lake District National Park in Cumbria, UK, is a vast area of beauty, both natural and man made, containing such things as picturesque villages, gorgeous scenery, historical properties and a lot more.
      Some areas in the Lake District are owned and run by an organisation called the National Trust, who, due to such things as donations, membership fees and tourism, make sure that the places and properties they own are to such a standard that people from all over the country, even the world, will come to see them.
      The national Trust own such things as Castles, Halls, gardens, parks and several car parks scattered all over the Lake District, (and other parts of the UK as well).
      One of the places they own, and have spent a lot of time and money on, is a scenic area called Tarn Hows.


      Tarn Hows began as three smaller Tarns, those being Low Tarn, Middle Tarn and High Tarn.
      Before 1862 most of it was part of the open common grazing around Hawkshead parish, with the other parts of the land being owned by the Marshall family of Monk Coniston Hall. But after 1862 James Marshall took control of the entire area, including the Tarns, and proceeded to turn the landscape into a place of beauty. One of his first tasks being the construction of a dam at Low Tarn so that the three tarns would merge into one, creating the single Tarn we see today.

      In 1930 the Marshall family sold of 4000 acres of land to a certain Beatrix Heelis, (better known as Beatrix Potter), who in turn sold some, and bequeathed the rest, to the National Trust, on the condition that they would keep it as a place of beauty.
      In 1965 Tarn Hows was designated as a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest.

      Since the National Trust took hold of the land they have made the Tarn much more of a friendlier tourist attraction, such as making pathways easier to walk along and making the car park larger, putting it in a less conspicuous area of the wood land.
      Then, more recently, in 2008, a wooden building containing toilets was constructed at the far end of the car park, being designed to fit in with the landscape of the area so as not to spoil the beauty that Tarn Hows has to offer.

      ** WHERE IS IT..?

      It is situated approximately 2 miles from Coniston and 1.5 miles from Hawkshead, being found about a mile off the B5285, following the clearly laid out sign posts.
      There is a bus service which drops you off at mile point and then you can walk from there, following the signs.

      The roads are narrow and should be taken with some care. Especially the actual road leading to the Tarn itself, but there are a few passing places along the route.

      ** GETTING THERE...

      The easiest way to get there is by car, along the B5286 from Ambleside to Hawkshead, then turn right up Hawkshead Hill and follow the Tarn Hows signs.
      Or you could choose the cross Lakes Experience from Bowness on Windermere and Conistonor the X31 Tarn Hows Tourer from Coniston/Ambleside, (although these are seasonal).
      Or you could use the green method and use the many walking routes in and around the Tarn, you will have to find a quality OS map to find such routes but the views along the routes are beautiful, especially the one from Monk Coniston which bring you out near the car park.

      ** WHAT IS TARN HOWS..?

      It may not contain an imposing Castle, nor does it have a grand hall nestled with in the grounds of a massive stately garden, it is simply a Tarn, or a small mountain lake, which is surrounded by some gorgeous scenery for all to enjoy.
      It is simply a scenic area in the Lake District containing a mix of woodlands, marshlands, islands and a tarn, with the Tarn being just short of a 1000 metres at its longest point, 260 metres at its widest point.

      ** WHAT'S THERE..?

      Apart from the Tarn itself there is a good size car park, which is run by the National Trust and can hold approximately 60 or so cars, (that's a rough guess as I've never stopped to count them). The ground in the car park is gravelled so there's no danger of getting your car wheels stuck, even it the wet weather that the Lakes is well known for.
      The cost of parking is £3.50 for 2 hours, £4.50 for four hours and £5.50 for all day.
      Although National Trust member can park for free as long as they display the membership sticker/card in the windscreen of their car.

      At the far end of the car park there is a recently constructed wooden shed like building, this building contains a toilet block, which has male, female, disabled and even a baby changing facilities. Plus, in another part of the building there are a few information boards set up for visitors to read about the area around them.

      Near the entrance of the car park there is a place for refreshments, just on case you don't bring your own, such as a little ice cream van and a 'burger' van, (which sells more than burgers but you get the point). These are both right next to the National Trust representative who doubles as the car park attendant and will answer any questions you may have regarding National Trust matters.
      These facilities are seasonal so do take refreshments when out of high season

      That's all that's there, but, at the end of the day, that's all you need, somewhere to park your car, somewhere to grab a cold drink or ice cream and somewhere to... well, do your business.

      ** MY OPINION...

      I've been to Tarn Hows several times over the years, watching as the National Trust have set about making it more and more easy to walk around so that even those with walking difficulties can enjoy the beauty of it all.
      And the last time I visited, a few weeks ago in fact, they had finally built a toilet block, which has certainly come in handy as it saves you holding onto you 'business' until you finally reach the nearest facilities.

      The drive up to it is both stunning and beautiful, although as a driver I tend to find that I miss much of the scenery as I'm concentrating on the many bends in the road, half expecting some 'local' in their four by four to come hammering around the corner, (you know who you are????).
      When I arrived car park, quietly praying to myself that I can find somewhere to park up, due to the fact that even though it is out of the way, so to speak, it is constantly packed with tourists. Luckily a lot of them come on foot so the car park tends to have one or two spaces most times.
      Then, after parking up and grabbing the rucksack from the boot, we were on our way and ready for our gentle stroll around the Tarn, although my eldest daughter, with her pre-teen mood swings, is the first to complain about the walk ahead of us. That was until we mentioned the goodies we had in the rucksack and the promise of an ice cream.

      The walk around the Tarn is approximately 2 miles long and takes... well, it takes as long as you want it to take and depends on whether you stop and take in the scenery or not.
      Most of the actual walk is pretty gentle and should be easy for wheelchairs and pushchairs, with it's gentle ups and downs following the path through the beautifully coloured woodland, although there are a few places that can be a bit of a struggle. But it can be enjoyed by all none the less, as the majority of the surface is smoothed gravel and well maintained.
      Plus, which I find a very good idea, there is a dedicated disabled route with its own personal car park. This car park is found just before the main car park and the route is about 600 metres long, leading to a seating area so that you can enjoy the views over Coniston Hills and the Langdales.

      There are several places to sit along the circular route around the Tarn, with several benches to choose from, although in good weather I tend to try and find that many people simply set up there picnic area along any part of the grassed area.
      I personally like to sit at the little peninsula that can be found about three quarters of the way round if you go clockwise, (or a quarter of the way of you go anti-clockwise).

      You do have to show a little bit of caution, especially if taking dogs, due to the fact that there are such things as wild deer roaming around. I found this out when we had just stepped into the wooded area and I heard an almighty thudding noise, as I turned around I saw the most stunning, yet very large, deer darting from the verge near the waters edge, heading for the safety of the trees. It was so close to us that I could actually feel the ground moving beneath me and the feel the air swirling as it thundered passed. And yes, it did startle me as I had no idea it was there, it didn't even move when several dogs passed it, only thundering off when we, being the last of the people on the path, went by.

      There are a few felled trees and stumps which have a collection of coins pushed into them, one of them like a horse shoe shape. I think these are called wish trees, and look quite strange as you look up on them, but don't try to take the money from the tree as this will bring bad look to those that do.

      As for the views, well, these are breathtaking really, with a mixture of colourful flowers, even more colourful insects and a panoramic view of the hills and fells surrounding the Tarn itself, such as views towards Hill Fell, Tom Height, Sowry Ground and more.

      And remember that the area is really just for walking around or simply somewhere to enjoy the peace and quiet as you sit there taking in the vista around you. So if you are expecting a building to explore or intent on smelling a garden in full bloom to then you're in for a bit of a disappointment. But if you just want to get away from it all with the idea of enjoying the peace and quiet that mother nature has to offer then this is a place for you.

      In all, a beautiful and most tranquil day out for all the family to enjoy, maybe having a picnic after a gentle stroll around this area that you will remember for a long time to come. And for £5.50 for the whole day, it's well worth the money just to get away from it all.
      Although it can get a bit busy, especially during the sunnier seasons, so do be prepared for a bit hassle finding somewhere to park you car and don't expect it to be empty of people. It is a very popular tourist attraction for walkers and those that look for peace and quiet.


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      • More +
        03.05.2011 16:08



        I just returned from a 4 night stay at Tarn Howe's B&B. It was mostly pleasant experience (breakfast delicious, clean tidy rooms) however if you do not plan on going to sleep about 10pm I would not stay here. The sound proofing between the rooms is non existent. It was so bad in fact that it actually ruined my stay some what. I went out for a ciagrette around midnight, trying to be as quiet as a mouse, and the owner still got his back up. The lady who cooks breakfast was very friendly, however the same can't be said about her husband, who I found rude and particularly annoying. To sum up, stay here if you are very quiet, and go to bed early. If not, find somewhere else.


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        22.04.2009 09:55
        Very helpful



        Recommended to all

        We have recently returned from a week's holiday in The Lake District. We took Dave's mom with us as she was 80 in January and this was her birthday present from us. We all went to the same hotel (The Fayrer Garden) where we went for our honey moon four years ago and we all had a brilliant time.

        As Margaret (mother-in-law) had a hip replacement last year we wanted to sort out some nice walks that were fairly flat so that she could enjoy the walking without it being too much of a strain for her.

        The last time Dave and I had been up there we had visited Tarn Hows and thought that this would be a lovely walk for her to try. It was a nice, sunny day but it wasn't too warm so off we set.

        What is it?

        Tarn Hows is a large lake (or tarn) set on the top of a hill at an altitude of about 618 feet. It is partly artificial as there were originally three tarns which were joined together in the 19th century by James Garth Marshall to create a single tarn by building a dam to flood the area. He also planted the shores and the islands in the tarn with new woodlands and specimen trees. The climb up to Tarn Hows would be a stiff one if you chose to walk it, but once up there the walk round the tarn is fairly flat.
        When the Tarns and the surrounding area came up for sale in 1929, they were bought by the author, Beatrix Potter who then sold the half containing Tarn Hows to the National Trust, and subsequently bequeathed the rest of the estate to the Trust in her will.
        Where is it?

        Tarn Hows is situated in Cumbria and is roughly between Coniston in the south and Ambleside in the north. Just turn off the A593 at Coniston onto the B5285, Coniston to Hawkshead road and Tarn Hows is well signposted from there.

        How do I get there?

        Obviously you can get there by road as I have just described or you could catch the Coniston Rambler (no 505) which runs from Windermere, Ambleside and Hawkshead. You could also catch the new X31 Tarn Hows Tourer bus which runs daily from April until November 2009 between Coniston, Hawkshead and Tarn Hows. There is a timetable on the National Trust site if you are interested. You could of course walk there if you're feeling fit!

        Our journey

        We drove up to Tarn Hows and parked in the decent sized car park there. It would have cost us £3.80 for 2 hours had we not been members of the National Trust but as members the parking was free. I think the car parking fee was higher if you wanted to stay longer but I forgot to make a note of it - obviously not thinking like a Dooyooer that day then!

        First things first

        At the end of the car park there are toilets, including one for disabled visitors. They are obviously newly built and are beautifully constructed from solid wood which means that they blend well into the surrounding landscape.

        Attached to the toilet block is a room containing maps and information about the tarn and the various trees, insects, birds and animals that you may see during your walk. There is also a whiteboard where you are invited to make a note of any birds or animals that you see during your walk.

        The walk

        We walked down from the car park to the tarn and basically walked all the way round - it was that simple! No maps are needed and the track is clear and easy to navigate. There are no boulders to scramble over as there are in a lot of places in the Lake District!

        A complete circuit of the tarn is about a mile and a half on a good path which is suitable not only for walkers but for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are plenty of benches on the way round so you can sit and admire the stunning views of the Helvellyn range and the Langdale Pikes in the distance as well as the tarn and its surroundings and take as long over the walk as you like.

        There are plenty of places around the tarn where you could stop for a picnic including a lovely piece of land that juts out into the tarn almost making an island.

        The walk was really enjoyable and the views are just amazing both over the tarn and out towards the mountains. Although she walks with a stick my mother in law managed the walk quite easily stopping a few times to have a breather! Everywhere was clean and tidy and we didn't see any litter at all.

        Dogs are allowed providing they are kept on leads at all times as there are animals grazing on the land around Tarn Hows. There were notices to this effect on the gates around the tarn but sadly there were quite a few people who thought that this did not apply to them or their dogs and they were allowed to run free.

        There were plenty of people there the day that we went but it didn't seem too busy although I understand that it can get extremely busy at the height of the season.

        Monk Coniston

        There is a further circular walk through the Monk Coniston Estate down to the shores of Lake Coniston which can be taken from the car park end of Tarn Hows. It is about another 3.5 miles making the two walks together about 5 miles in total. If you are intending to do both, or just the Monk Coniston walk you could park next to Lake Coniston and start from there.

        In conclusion

        We all really enjoyed our walk. It was peaceful, beautiful and just long enough for us all to get some decent exercise. When we had finished we drove back down from the tarn to a tea room that we had spotted as we drove up and had tea and cakes - a lovely end to a lovely outing.


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