30th May 2015

Visiting the Lake District Tarns - Walk 48

Tarns between Glenridding and Helvellyn

Time 7:50am to 3:50pm
Duration 8 hr
Distance 12.8 mile
Ascent 4500 ft
Walking with Rod Hepplewhite and Paul Sharkey
Stybarow Crag - Glenridding - Greenside Road - Greenside Mine - Keppel Cove - Brown Cove - Catstye Cam north ridge - Catstye Cam - Red Tarn - Swirral Edge - Helvellyn - Nethermost Pike - High Crag - Dollywaggon Pike - The Tongue - Ruthwaite Cove - Hard Tarn - Calf Hole - Nethermost Cove - Grisedale - Lanty's Tarn - Glenridding - Stybarrow Crag
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre -
Parking spaces, Stybarrow Crag, Ullswater

If Glenridding is full, as it often is during summer, this offers a somewhat convenient alternative. Despite its usefulness in this case the car park is a nice place to begin a walk onto Glenridding Dodd and Sheffield Pike.

Parking is free.


Route Map


The rooftops of Glenridding seen as we make our way to Greenside Road.

We make our way along the track above Glenridding and enjoy some brief spells of sunshine. Directly ahead of us is Birkhouse Moor.

Once above Greenside Mines you see the profile of Catstye Cam which shows just how steep the north ridge actually is.

and again, from closer.

Keppel Cove dam is reached where conversation turned to the breach in the wall and what it must have been like in October 1927 when the dam burst after torrential rain. I've no idea what investigations would have taken place afterwards but had this happened today, it would cost millions of pounds and take years of meetings to produce a report detailing (or probably not detailing) the cause of the incident. In the meantime several highly paid executives would have resigned from their jobs after receiving huge payouts and pensions. The good people of Glenridding on the other hand would still be trying to get money from the insurance companies to rebuild their houses.


Keppel Cove, once home to an artificial tarn but now a wet and reedy spot best walked around instead of straight across.

Brown Cove Tarn.

Here's the dam in Brown Cove.



As we head across to begin the walk up Catstye Cam's north ridge I look back to Brown Cove Tarn. Above the tarn is Helvellyn Lower Man.

Looking down to Keppel Cove dam. When you view it from up here there's no surprise it gave way.

A close up of Brown Cove Tarn / dam.


Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and Helvellyn Lower Man seen from the route up Catstye Cam.




One of the highlights of today's outing was walking up the north ridge on Catstye Cam. Which, as you can work out for yourselves is quite a steep one. Steep but perfectly manageable I should add. There aren't any obstacles in the way such as crags to clamber over or edges to cling onto, the only items that slow progress here are the loose stones under foot and the obvious steepness.

I've been this way a few times in the past but by total coincidence many of those ascents were done while the cloud was well down the fellside. Walking up here in clear conditions is a pleasure from bottom to top.



A Catstye Cam view looking towards Ullswater. The path down there on he left hand side of the beck is the one we were on earlier.

From Catstye Cam our next place was Red Tarn. This meant dropping down by about 500 ft which then had to be regained. Rather then stick to the paths, it made more sense to take a more direct line down to the tarn and then follow the normal Swirral Edge path for the route back up.

Up above us is Swirral Edge but we're not heading up there yet. First we'll be visiting Red Tarn.

Helvellyn seen above Red Tarn.


As we stood looking up Swirral Edge we agree to take the less eroded rockier path up the right hand side of the ridge.

Making our way up Swirral Edge.
and now looking back down.

Here's a wider view of Swirral Edge showing Ullswater in the distance and on the left is Brown Cove Tarn where we were earlier.

It was about quarter to eleven when we got to the top of Helvellyn and while this isn't exactly the crack of dawn, we were still early enough to beat the inevitable crowds that build up on here.

Helvellyn summit cairn with a view down to Catstye Cam and Ullswater beyond.

Lots of fells in viw here from the top of Helvellyn, plus, a very small section of Thirlmere and all of Harrop Tarn.

A close up of Harrop Tarn.

Nethermost Pike summit seen in front of Striding Edge and Catstye Cam (the pointed one).

From a couple of places along the ridge you get a view of Hard Tarn. And, like so many places in the Lake District, Hard Tarn is by no means hidden but it must get very few visitors indeed. I think all regular fell walkers should make the effort to visit this spot at least once on their travels. I find it hard to believe anyone would be disappointed enough to get in touch to complain about the recommendation.

Here's another view of the tarn where is really does have the appearance of being perched on a rocky ledge; which of course it is.

Looking back along the ridge.

This is the view from Dollywaggon Pike and it's also the place where we'd be leaving the ridge to head into the coves on the east side of Dollywaggon Pike & Nethermost Pike.

After making our way down The Tongue and choosing carefully where to leave the ridge, we find ourselves in the upper section of Ruthwaite Cove.


We reach Hard Tarn and agree this is the spot for a bite to eat.


The view back over Ruthwaite Cove to Dollywaggon Pike, taken as we leave Hard Tarn and head for Nethermost Cove.

I'm glad we're down here and not up there !!

Rod and Paul look into Nethermost Cove.

As we were here it seemed rude not to do a full sweep of the cove.

Adding scale.


A view back out of Nethermost Cove to St Sunday Crag.

Should've gone to Specsavers.


Looking down to Grisedale we realise we've still got quite a distance to walk and, we've also got quite a lot of height to loose.

Here you see Nethermostcove Beck
and here, I look across to St Sunday Crag.

After about two and a half miles of wonderful seclusion and off path walking we reach the path through Grisedale where we now enjoy the walk through the lower half of the valley. Best of both worlds and all that!

Looking back through Grisedale.

The final tarn for today is Lanty's Tarn.


Within minutes of leaving Lanty's Tarn we begin our descent into Glenridding. On the opposite side of the valley are Sheffield Pike and Glenridding Dodd.

A bit further down and looking to the right, we have a view of the village and Ullswater. As I said at the time, I can't ever have walked down this path at this time of year otherwise I'd have known about all the bluebells up here.

The hustle & bustle of Glenridding confirm that we've left behind the seclusion of the eastern coves and that we're definitely back to reality.

All that remained for us was the short walk from the village to the free parking spaces found at the bottom of Stybarrow Crag. I don't think I'm particularly greedy and I don't mind paying to park if there's no alternative, but parking in Glenridding is like telling the Artful Dodger that you've got a pocket full of pound coins..

David Hall -
Lake District Walks