18th January 2015

Visiting the Lake District Tarns - Walk No 5

Tarns between Grasmere and Nab Scar


Walk Overview
Time 11:10am to 3:20pm
Duration 4 he 10 min
Distance 5.3 mile
Ascent 1800 ft
Walking with Jennifer
A591 - Dove Cottage - How Top Tarn - Whitemoss Common Tarn - Coffin route to Rydal - Nab Scar - Dockey Tarn - Alcock Tarn - How Top - A591
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Parking Spaces, A591 outside Grasmere

When Grasmere is very busy and parking is a problem, this would be a good place to try. It may be outside the village but it's only a 5 minute walk to the village centre. From the south end of the lay-by cross straight over the road and follow the signed footpath to Millennium Bridge and the church.


Weather Readings

The Gadget
All readings were taken using a Kestrel 2000 Weather Meter
Live temperature recorded at the time I press the hold key
Maximum Wind Speed Maximum wind speed since the weather meter was turned on at each location Average Wind Speed
Average wind speed since the weather meter was turned on at each location
Wind Chill
Combination of wind speed and temperature. The gadget does the calculations not me.

Route Map


It was forecast to be an improving day today with rain and sleet in the morning and the sunshine turning up during the afternoon. This bit they got spot on but what I hadn't expected was for it to be quite so windy as we gained height. But that's something to deal with later in the walk. After a careful drive over a very icy Dunmail Raise we parked up and set out on what can only be described as your typical cold and frosty morning. Here I look back along the main road outside Grasmere.

As we walked past Dove Cottage I couldn't help but listen in on the conversation those two kids were having. After telling each other how fast they'd sledged down the hill, , , ,
the Girl said "I want to go and play in the deep snow on the fields again"
then the Boy said "I wish it would snow like this every single day"
the Girl told him "If we wish hard enough maybe it will"
Brilliant, if only life really was that simple !!

The first tarn today was How Top Tarn which is found only a short walk up from Dove Cottage. This is a lovely spot so I always think it's a shame someone doesn't tidy the tarn up a little bit.

Then we pass by Whitemoss Common Tarn.

I'm not sure why I've never tried it but you can get up to Alcock Tarn that way.

Loughrigg Fell seen from the Coffin Route between Ambleside and Grasmere.

At last, the sunshine begins to put in an appearance.

Here's Loughrigg Fell again, this time seen behind Rydal.

I think Jennifer may have just had one of those 'get rich quick' ideas.



Standing here and looking up to Nab Scar you'd be forgiven for thinking it looks nice, sunny and calm up there. And although it may have been nice and sunny; calm it certainly wasn't. The higher we walked the wilder it got and had we planned to walk any higher than Nab Scar, I suspect we'd have turned back. Anyway: enough of that for now.

Turning around for a view towards Ambleside and Wansfell Pike.

Up the steps we go.

"Look at the cloud blowing across there" I said. "It doesn't look like cloud to me. It could be the snow blowing about".

If only a photo could show how the conditions really were. Between Rydal and this point we'd passed 3 couples who all told us how wild it was higher up and that they'd turned back because of it. Despite me saying "we're only going as far as Nab Scar and then we're dropping down to Alcock Tarn", they still seemed to be looking at us with judging eyes and I suspect they thought we shouldn't have been going any higher up. Had we not known about the 'escape route' down to Alcock Tarn they'd probably have been right.
Thinking about it, I suppose there's a lesson in there for us all (myself included). If we don't have all the facts about a persons experience, knowledge of a place or where they are actually going, we shouldn't assume they're making a mistake or walking into conditions they can't deal with. I've often looked at people myself and wondered "why they were going up there at that time of day" or "don't they realise what it's like higher up". As I say, perhaps there's a lesson in here for us all.

Here's where we leave the ridge but first, , , ,

, , , , a picture looking back to Nab Scar summit.

It was like stepping into a different world once we got onto the western side of the fell. Within minutes of leaving the main ridge path there was hardly any wind at all, the sun came out and that calmness I mentioned earlier finally arrived.

Here we are at Dockey Tarn. It's off the beaten track, it isn't easy to spot from the ridge above, and it dries up in summer. However, should you take the time to visit on a decent day when the tarn is full, you can't help but realise this is such a lovely little tarn in a truly hidden corner of the Lake District.

Jennifer waits as I nip around the tarn to take a few pictures. Over there on the left hand side of the photo is Steel Fell.

Central Lakeland under snow.

A final picture of Dockey Tarn.

A close up of Bow Fell (left), and the Langdales. The slight haziness here and there will be the spindrift blowing about.

We're on the final approach to Alcock Tarn now and after being pretty sheltered for a while we seemed to be walking back into the wind.
"Okay, we'll cancel having something to eat next to the tarn and wait till we get to one of the seats further down the path"

High tide at Alcock Tarn. That's an icy wind blowing across the water.

A close up of Steel Fell.


I always enjoy this view across Grasmere to the central fells. Today, we had the added bonus of snow on the tops and frost in the valley to turn a good view into a great view.


Helm Crag and Steel Fell seen between a gap in the trees.

The sunlight was brightening the place up nicely, we were sheltered from the wind but more to the point, hunger was getting the better of us so, this was as good a spot as any to stop for something to eat.

Before it disappears from view altogether, I take a picture looking back up to the Nab Scar ridge high above us.

Jennifer walks right in front of the camera without even noticing I'm standing here, , , never mind, , , I know it wasn't deliberate but I'm still only giving you 1 out of 10 for observation.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks