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Tarns Walk: Innominate Tarn

Old road signpost in Buttermere village (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
South-eastern end of Buttermere (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Pillar reflected in Innominate Tarn on Haystacks (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Looking down Black Beck to Buttermere and, in the distance, Crummock Water (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Looking into Warnscale Bottom and across to Buttermere on the path down from Haystacks (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Walks to Tarns by Vivienne Crow
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Old road signpost in Buttermere village (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
South-eastern end of Buttermere (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Pillar reflected in Innominate Tarn on Haystacks (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Looking down Black Beck to Buttermere and, in the distance, Crummock Water (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Looking into Warnscale Bottom and across to Buttermere on the path down from Haystacks (Credit: Vivienne Crow)
Walks to Tarns by Vivienne Crow

Distance/time: 12.4km/7.7 miles. Allow 3.5-4.5 hours

Start: Lake District National Park pay and display car park behind the Bridge Hotel in Buttermere (grid reference NY174169)

Ordnance Survey Map: OL4 The English Lakes North-western area

After the walk: Croft House Café, Bridge Hotel and Fish Hotel, all in Buttermere

What to expect: Lakeshore paths, stony bridleway, rocky clamber, fell paths

Walk outline

The easy walk beside Buttermere makes for a gentle warm-up for the climb on to Haystacks. After ascending to Scarth Gap, the route clambers up the fell’s rocky western ridge. On the summit, a well-used path keeps to the northern edge of the fell, passing Innominate Tarn along the way. The descent uses a relatively quiet path on the southern side of Warnscale Beck and then returns via the lake.      

 Vivienne Crow)

Innominate Tarn

This pretty, reedy tarn is one of many bodies of water hidden among the maze of crags and heathery knolls that make up Haystacks (597m). Viewed from the west, it reflects the iconic Great Gable; and, from the east, craggy Pillar. A favourite with guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright, it was here that his ashes were scattered after his death in 1991. Although the route description keeps close to the northern edge of Haystacks, it is worth taking your time and going off-track occasionally to explore this complex but wonderful landscape.

The Walk

1. Heading away from the main car park, turn right to follow the public bridleway to the left of the Fish Hotel – towards the lake. Passing through several gates and ignoring a path to Scale Bridge on the right, keep to this wide track as it winds its way to the lakeshore. After going through a gate providing access to the lake, turn right, soon crossing the outlet stream via a bridge. Cross a second bridge, go through the gate and then follow the lakeshore path. Whenever the route forks, keep left to enjoy spectacular views across Buttermere.

2. As you draw level with the SE end of the lake, leave the main path by bearing right to head towards a small conifer plantation. You are soon on the bridleway to Scarth Gap, linking the Buttermere valley with Ennerdale on the other side. As you ascend, don’t be tempted to stay on the right-hand side of the wall that comes snaking steeply up from the valley below; you need to go through a gap soon after first encountering it. The path gets steeper and rougher underfoot as you toil uphill, until you finally reach Scarth Gap.

3. Turn left at a large cairn to the left of the path in the pass. This marks the start of the climb on to Haystacks – a stony staircase that winds its way up the fellside. It becomes increasingly steep and rocky, and you may need to use your hands on the more difficult sections.  

4. The first tarn you come to after the main climb is truly ‘innominate’, in that it is not marked and therefore remains unnamed on most maps. The actual Innominate Tarn lies a further 600m to the SE – in a depression between rocky, heathery knolls. To reach it, keep to the path along the northern edge of the fell. After passing to the left of Innominate Tarn, the path swings left to descend slightly. It then cuts beneath a dark crag before crossing Blackbeck Tarn’s outlet stream.

Looking down the gully on the left here, there is a spectacular view to the green valley below, including Buttermere and Crummock Water. 

Beyond the outlet stream, the path climbs again and then passes round the side of Green Crag. It is soon joined by another path and then crosses some damp ground. Before long, you will see a less well-used path to the right, heading off at a right angle to the main track. Our route swings left here, aiming, it seems, directly for the quarry workings on Fleetwith in the distance.

5. When the track then swings right again, leave it by turning left along a narrow path to begin the descent. This winds its way steadily to Warnscale Bottom, passing Warnscale Bothy along the way and cutting beneath Haystacks’ dark, northern cliffs. Cross the sturdy bridge over Warnscale Beck and follow the faint path up to a clear bridleway, along which you bear left.  

6. Turn left at the road, soon passing Gatesgarth Farm, one of the largest, privately-owned farms in the National Park. When you reach the lakeshore again, take the gravel path off to the left. This makes its way along the lakeshore, back towards the village, passing through a short, dark tunnel cut into the rock along the way.

7. On reaching the western end of the lake, go through a small gate and keep straight ahead. The path goes through a series of gates and passes between the buildings of Wilkinsyke Farm – including a popular ice-cream shop – to reach the road just below the tiny church in Buttermere. Turn left and then left again at the Bridge Hotel. The car park is on the right.

This walk appears in Vivienne Crow’s Walks to Tarns book. This is just one of the books in the popular Top 10 series published by Northern Eye Books, priced just £4.99. For more details, visit the Top 10 Walks website here


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Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.