14th June 2015

Visiting the Lake District Tarns - Walk 55

Tarns around Scafell

Time 8:50am to 5:10pm
Duration 8 hr 10 min
Distance 14.5 mile
Ascent 4000ft
Walking with Rod Hepplwwhite
Jubilee Bridge - behind Brotherilkeld - Lingcove Bridge - River Esk - Great Moss - Sampson's Stones - How Beck - Foxes Tarn gully - Foxes Tarn - Symonds Knott - Scafell - Long Green - Slight Side - Quagrigg Moss - Great How Tarn - Oliver Gill - Bullatt Bridge - Burnmoor Tarn - Lambford Bridge - Eel Tarn - Stony Tarn - Woolpack Inn - road back to Jubilee Bridge
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre -
Roadside parking, Jubilee Bridge, Hardknott Pass

Hardknott Pass has got to be one of the steepest and most difficult roads in the country. In fact, many people make the effort to drive all the way around to this part of the Lake District just to face the challenge. I should point out that this road can be extremely dangerous during the winter months and is best avoided altogether if the weather is at all frosty. I was caught out myself on one occasion when using the route as a shortcut over to Cockley Beck. Just above the steepest of the bends the road turned into an ice rink and I had no alternative than to reverse back down until I reached a convenient turning place; not an experience I'm keen to repeat.

The car park has room for about ten cars, but should you find it full, there is usually room a little further along the road into Eskdale.

Route Map


Funny the way things turn out. I had originally thought I'd be doing this walk on my own, then, just as we were about to drive off from the car park at Stybarrow Crag after our Helvellyn walk a few weeks ago, Rod mentioned that one of his next walks would be Scafell from Brotherilkeld.
"Are you going up past Foxes Tarn"
"Would you fancy adding a few more tarns onto the walk"
"Yeah why not"
So, after cancelling the walk last weekend because of the gale force winds, we find ourselves behind Brotherilkeld at the start of a great day on the fells.

Looking back out of Upper Eskdale towards Brotherilkeld. Those few patches of blue looked promising at the time but sadly they failed to develop into anything more than this.

There seemed to be lots of cloud drama going on around the higher fells surrounding Upper Eskdale. At this point I thought it would either lift completely or we'd be spending hours walking in cloud. As it turned out, we spent very little time in cloud while other areas remained shrouded all day long.


Lingcove Bridge.

From Lingcove Bridge we follow the path which more or less sticks to the route of the River Esk, eventually taking us into the Great Moss area of Upper Eskdale.

Looking across to Scar Lathing.
Over on the path below the crags are three young lads walking in the opposite direction to us. When we passed them it was obvious that they had no intentions of speaking and when we offered a "hello" they looked at us as though we were a bit odd for talking to people we don't know. I find it sad that there's almost a whole generation of new adults out there that have been brought up to completely ignore everyone.


Now there an interestingly shaped piece of fellside if ever there was one. While we were here we wondered if at one time the pointed bit on the right was joined onto the bit on the left of the picture. If it was, there would have been quite a large area of water up here.

The wider area of Upper Eskdale can be split into several smaller areas all of which offer the walker a taste of seclusion and remoteness. Here we round the base of Scar Lathing to enter Great Moss. The next job for us is to cross the river before we find ourselves too far into the boggier ground.


Here we look across Great Moss, one of the most satisfying places to visit in the Lake District.


One of Sampson's Stones.

Now the hard work really starts.


We approached the cloud somewhere below the turn off for Foxes Tarn Gully. Blue sky, sunshine and a temperature in the mid twenties would have been great but we both agreed the cloud made this section of the walk even better.

We pause for a moment before beginning the walk up Foxes Tarn Gully where we're met by three young(ish) lads. One of them asks us if Foxes Tarn is up this way because he'd came here last year and couldn't find the right gully. The strange thing was, that given this was their second attempt to get to Foxes Tarn, when they did reach it they never gave it a second glance at all.
It's a steep one, and quite slippery in places but manageable enough if you're careful. Once you're above the grassy bit seen here, the only obstacles are the big rocks. I'd choose dry rocks over wet grass any day.

Looking back down Foxes Tarn Gully.

We arrive at Foxes Tarn to find is almost gone. I know it's small anyway but the grass, the moss and the stones which seem to have been washed down have almost taken away the tarn.


Now we head up the steep section of scree between Foxes Tarn and Scafell.

Foxes Tarn seen from above. Normally the area around this side of the big rock is full of water; albeit only a few inches deep.

Looking back down to Foxes Tarn. There is actually a pitched path up here but all except the very top section, the scree has completely covered it.


We certainly didn't expect this. It was brief but very nice while it lasted.

Scafell summit and a misty Symonds Knott.

Looking down Long Green to Slight Side.


Looking back up to Scafell.

We're now at the top of Slight Side and in need of something to eat. It seems wrong that we need to find a sheltered spot in the middle of June.

Lunch with a view of Eel Tarn, Great How Tarn, Burnmoor Tarn and the darkening conditions.

This is the bigger of the tarns on Great How.

Burnmoor Tarn seen from our route down the side of Oliver Gill / Bleaberry How.

Heading for Burnmoor Tarn.

No problem crossing the beck today and,

, no problem walking across the flat area near Burnmoor Tarn. Sometimes this can be extremely wet under foot.
Up there under the cloud is Scafell.

Bulatt Bridge which crosses Burnmoor Tarn's outflow (Whillan Beck). As I said at the time, for such a big tarn, the outflow seems far too gentle and more to the point it always feels like it's in the wrong place. It might sound like a daft thing to say but if you've been here you can probably understand what I'm getting at. If you haven;t been here, why not come along and take a look.

and Lambford Bridge which Crosses the same beck a little further downstream.

When we reached Eel Tarn someone turned the lights down and also turned on the sprinklers for a short time. What a shame because it's really nice around here. I shouldn't moan about the few minutes of rain we had because I've been told it was much wetter today on Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags (you know who you are).

The final tarn today is Stony Tarn.

There are a few different choices of route from here (most of them being partially off path). Today we opted to follow the outflow for a short distance before picking up the path down to the valley next to the Woolpack Inn.

On our way back to valley level we passed by the 'other' side of Eel Tarn.

and a close up of Eel Tarn.



Well, that was another great tarns walk. We enjoyed lots of different terrain, from the rocks and crags of Foxes Tarn Gully to the wide open grassy fellside around Burnmoor Tarn. And, it turns out that we were extremely lucky with the weather because only a few miles away a certain Mr Sharkey returned to his car at the top of Wrynose Pass looking, as he said, "like a drown't rat".

David Hall -
Lake District Walks