One of the most-popular tourist attractions in the Lake District, “the Tarns,” as the locals call it, is a picturesque area visited by over half a million tourists per year since the 1970s. Rightfully so: not only is this an area of outstanding beauty, but it’s also yet another gem bequeathed to the National Trust by Lake District aficionado Beatrix Potter.
A tarn is a mountain lake that was formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier, which is later filled with rain or river water. Despite being an icon of the Lake District, Tarn Hows is not typical of the region in terms of landscapes; surrounded by thick conifer woodlands, the actual tarn is partly artificial, having been created by James Garth Marshall in the 1850s. It consists of three distinct tarns, which merged in the 19th century.
Located in the low-level valley nestled between the villages of Coniston and Hawkshead, Tarn Hows is now just more than half a mile long (just under 1 km) and 820 feet (250 meters) wide, and contains five islands. It is fed at its northern end by numerous valleys and basin mires and drained by several waterfalls that cascade down the Glen Mary Bridge.
Hikers and trekkers will enjoy the accessible 1.5-mile (2.4-km) path that circles the tarn, while fauna enthusiasts will appreciate the heavy presence of Galloway cattle and Herdwick sheep.
Tarns Hows is just under two hours from both Liverpool and Manchester (via M6, A591 and B5286) and 2.5 hours from Newcastle (via A69, M6, A66 and A591). Car parking is free for National Trust members but costs a small fee to nonmembers. The Tarns are open all day, every day of the year, free of charge.