4th April 2015

Visiting the Lake District Tarns - Walk No 30

Tarns between Honister and Kirk Fell


Walk Overview
Time 8am to 4 pm
Duration 8 hr
Distance 10 mile
Ascent 4200 ft
Walking with Paul Sharkey
Honister Pass - Honister Mines - Grey Knotts - Grey Knotts Tarn - Brandreth - Brandreth Tarn - Base Brown - Green Gable - Windy Gap - Great Gable - Beck Head - Kirk Fell north top - Kirk Fell Tarn - Kirk Fell - Beck Head - Stone Cove - Moses Trod - Drom House - Honister Mine - Honister Pass
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Honister Mines

Given the size of the car park (s) here I'm tempted to say you'll find ample parking up here. This isn't always the case though. The popularity of the mine tours and the surrounding fells make this a very busy place indeed.

You have two options here, the mines car park and the national trust car park next to the Youth Hostel. They both cost about the same, so it doesn't really matter which one you try first.


Route Map


Both Paul and myself have fell walking projects on the go this year and they're as different from each other as err , , , kippers and custard I suppose. Paul is re-walking the 27 routes taken by Harry Griffin back in 1977 which will include all the fells over the 2000 ft mark. I'm visiting the Lake District tarns by any route I fancy. The hard thing would be thinking of walks that fit in with both of our plans. As Paul's routes are already set, all I had to do was take two tarns out of one of my walks and move them into another so they would fit in with today's route. And here we are setting off from Honister to Kirk Fell via all the high fells and tarns on the way.

You know that smell of bacon & eggs cooking, the one that makes you hungry even though you're not, the one that makes you want a fry up even though you don't; well, we enjoyed that all the way through here.

We ascended Grey Knotts by the direct (straight up the fence) route today. For the time being the view is dominated by Honister Mines which is a bit of a blot on the landscape. I guess we're all used to the place now so we don't really bother much about how it looks.

Grey Knotts summit didn't give us much of a view today.

Just beyond the summit is the bigger of the tarns found in the area around Grey Knotts.


Looking ahead to Brandreth

and now looking back to Grey Knotts.

We were treated to some good cloud drama as we walked across Gillercomb Head. It's all very nice but we were hoping it would clear up by the time we were over in that area.

Almost a view of Kirk Fell summit.

Before we start the walk up Brandreth we pass by the three Brandreth Tarns.


Looking down to the Seathwaite arm of Borrowdale.

Our first out and back of the walk was from Gillercomb Head down to Base Brown (and back, , , obviously). Here we look across to the Gillercomb side of Brandreth and Grey Knotts.

As we look back for a view of Green Gable we think we're in luck and the blue sky and sunshine are about to arrive as we'd hoped for. The blue sky did arrive eventually but not quite yet.

Base Brown summit, , , , also without a view. I think our summit timings were a bit off the mark today.

Great Gable seen from Green Gable.

Turning to the left and you're looking down to Windy Gap.


Great Gable seen over Windy Gap, although today, , , , , it wasn't windy at all, far from it.

Now that's what I call a view.

Zooming in a little bit on Haystacks and the fells / valley beyond. A patch of cloud is obscuring it but you can still see Crummock from here and if you look carefully, a very small section of Buttermere (lake and village) is also visible.

Here's a picture of Green Gable, taken before we began the steep bit of the climb up Great Gable.


"nice view from up here petunia"

A close up of Wasdale Head. The car park looks very busy but never mind that; don't the walls look amazing from up here.

I'm glad those two have moved so I could get you a decent picture taken from the Westmorland Cairn.

That's Kirk Fell where we're heading next. Unfortunately the recent application to install a zip wire was rejected so we'll have to walk down to Beck Head and then up onto Kirk Fell.

To avoid the rocky step we stuck to the left side of the descent only to find an area of unfriendly scree below us. Never mind, we'll traverse across to the 'normal' route and then head down. This actually worked out really well and I'll probably try this again next time I'm up here.


Looking down to Beck Head and the head of Ennerdale.

We're at Beck Head and it's time to eat.


"do you think this is wise"
"filling our stomachs and then setting off to walk up there"
"it's too late now anyway, I've almost finished"

The water may not be very deep but it's certainly very clear.

This is the bigger of the two tarns at Beck Head.

I always think Kirk Fell offers one of the better views of Great Gable. It looses that distinctive conical shape and also removes the illusion that the fell is completely separate from its neighbors; as it looks from Wasdale. From here it seems like the top section of the fell is about to slide off and go crashing down into Ennerdale.

First of all we visited the northern top on Kirk Fell before walking between the two tarns and up to the slightly higher summit over there.


Kirk Fell Tarn my fourth and last ones of the day.



In keeping with Paul's route, we back track from Kirk Fell to Beck Head before making our way onto Moses Trod which gives a relatively easygoing walk back to the top of Honister.

Looking back along the track. Pillar can be seen on the right with Kirk Fell in the centre of the picture.

This is a great walk for surprisingly good views. Here you can look across to see Ennerdale on the left and Buttermere / Crummock on the right. The two are separated by Haystacks and the High Stile ridge.

A close up of Buttermere and Crummock

We follow the old tramway to Honister and can't help but wonder what it must have been like up here when the mines / quarries were in full operation.

Descending to Honister mines.

I don't know what it is with this place and trying to make people hungry. We set off this morning to the small of cook breakfasts, when we got back that had been replaced with the smell of food coming out of the mines cafe.
The road you see here leads down to Buttermere and from there you reach Crummock and from there, I'm not a huge distance from home. Today, I thought it would be easier to drive through Borrowdale and Keswick. It's a little bit further but it's bound to be quicker on the main roads, , , , it didn't quite work out that way. Keswick was absolutely ridiculous, it took a good half hour just to get through the town itself.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks