Located in the heart of the Lake District national park, Tarn House is just two miles from the market town of Ambleside yet also delightfully secluded on the fellside of Loughrigg and a five minute walk from the peaceful gem of Loughrigg Tarn – framed by the Langdale Pikes, pictured above.
Tarn House – The perfect base
One of the many benefits of Tarn House is its central location in the Lakes.
Situated in Loughrigg, a secluded hamlet on the gentle slopes of Loughrigg Fell, dozens of walks set out direct from the front door, with Loughrigg itself rising up behind the property and the Langdale valleys sweeping away to the west.
- Over Loughrigg to the north – an energetic half-hour walk away – you descend into the vale of Grasmere, historic home to William Wordsworth. A short walk down the valley is picturesque Rydal Water.
- A 15-minute drive (or 3 hour ridge-walk) northwest is the majestic valley of Great Langdale. With Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and the famous Langdale Pikes to explore, this is the heart of mountain country, with dozens of well-trodden routes to 30+ Wainwright summits.
- A 20-minite drive northeast over the Kirkstone Pass (traffic and weather permitting) – is Ullswater, a popular sailing destination with a glorious lakeside walk. It is the most popular starting point for exploring Helvellyn (via Striding Edge) and its rugged neighbours, and also the wilderness of the High Style range, with its herds of fell ponies and red deer.
- Just 10 minutes drive south is the picture-postcard village of Hawkshead, famed for its associations with Beatrix Potter.
- Southwest takes you to Coniston Water, its steam-powered Gondola doing regular trips to John Ruskin’s historic home at Brantwood. From there you gain fantastic views over the Coniston range, dominated by the fells of Wetherlam and Coniston Old Man.
- Running to an altogether gentler pace, the hamlet of Skelwith Bridge is just half-a-mile from the cottage to the west (a 20 minute walk), where the Talbot Bar and fantastic Chesters by the River serve great food and ales – see below.
- The bustling market town of Ambleside is a five minute drive away. There you will find a variety of shops, from supermarkets and bakeries to bookshops and specialist outdoor gear suppliers. Ambleside is also home to dozens of pubs and award-winning restaurants, including Italian, Thai, Indian and Chinese, as well as Ziffrellis, the five-screen cinema and jazz venue.
- At the south end of Ambleside – again, just a five-minute drive from the cottage – is Waterhead, the top-most tip of Lake Windermere and stopping point for the Windermere ferries.
Something for everyone
Whether your interests lie in the great outdoors, culture, history, nature, gastronomy – or just taking it easy – The Lakes has it all:
- Alfred Wainright’s ‘Himalayas in miniature’ are on the doorstep of Tarn House. At least 20 or more fells can be climbed from the cottage itself (more for stronger walkers), with the Central Fells, Eastern Fells and many of the Southern and Far Eastern Fells particularly accessible. As well as enchanting Loughrigg Fell (1101′) itself – its summit a half-hour evening scramble from Tarn House – popular walks among guests include Coniston Old Man, Crinkle Crags, Wetherlam, Helvellyn, Silver How, Bow Fell, Pavey Ark, Pike o’Blisco, Pike o’Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Wansfell, Helm Crag (The Lion and The Lamb), Black Fell and Holme Fell. Energetic walkers have even managed the Fairfield Horseshoe and Scafell Pike (via Bowfell) from the cottage. All of the above can either be walked directly from the cottage, or from within a 10 or so minutes’ drive from Tarn House.
- If you enjoy walking but are looking for something gentler, aside from a number of leisurely walks around Loughrigg Tarn, Elterwater and Little Langdale – which can all set off from the cottage – the less rugged countryside south of Tarn House is ideal rambling country. The quiet country lanes, secluded lakes and expansive woodland on the west shores of Windermere offer dozens of trails. Tarn Hows, with its wheelchair- and buggy-accessible lakeside path, is a deserved tourist honeypot. Or park in Grasmere and take the lakeshore paths and coffin route around Grasmere and Rydal Water.
- Watersports of all kinds – from open swimming to rowing, sailing to canoeing – can be found on any of the three major lakes – Windermere, Coniston Water and Ullswater – within a 20-minute drive of the cottage. Wild swimmers will find opportunities much closer, not only in Loughrigg Tarn itself (highly regarded among WSers – best entry point is the small beach at the south end of the tarn), but also Grasmere and Rydal Water. Lake cruises are available on all three of the above lakes.
- Cyclists have dozens of classic road and mountain-biking options straight from the cottage door. Those with the appetite and energy can wheel 50 yards down the road to join the classic 112-mile Fred Whitton Challenge road biking route. Or choose one of 14 tried-and-tested routes around Ambleside, Windermere and Coniston. For mountain-bikers, Tarn House is less than a half hour’s cycle (quiet lanes and bridleways all the way) from Grizedale Forest, with hundreds of kilometres of custom trails (you can hire bikes there too). For detailed descriptions of other mountain bike trails in the higher fells, see here. For a quick morning or evening ride, the Loughrigg Fell circular (head over to Rydal water, then back over the top) takes around an hour, with some technical elements.
- There’s plenty for kids to do in and around Tarn House. Not only can they play safely in the enclosed garden (though do keep the gate closed with the very young – or very adventurous!), there is plenty of room in the house in which to play on wet-weather days, as well as The Snug in which they (or you) can escape to watch a film or play one of the many board games on offer. Other facilities include: high chairs – in the cupboard beneath the stairs; travel cot – in the cupboard beneath the stairs; plastic bowls, plates and cutlery – in the bottom-most drawer alongside the fridge in the kitchen; games – in the cupboard under the TV in the lounge; and dozens of children’s books around the house. Local attractions / activities aimed at children that come recommended by the owner include:
- Brockhole – Gentle soft play for toddlers and a big, free adventure playground for older children. (For adult kids, there’s also the fantastic Treetop Trek and death slide).
- Wray Castle – Dozens of rooms featuring child-friendly play (dressing up, foam blocks to build castles, Peter Rabbit garden etc) in this rambling restored mock ‘castle’ – just 10 minutes’ drive away.
- Lake District Wildlife Park – Formerly ‘Trotters World of Animals’, the Lake District Wildlife Park features zebra, otters, gibbons, menurs and a range of rare-breed farm animals. A relaxed farm/zoo hybrid north of Keswick, it’s a fair trek (40mins-1 hour by car) but is worth a visit..
- South Lakes Safari Zoo – Sumatra tigers, wolves, rhino, penguins, kangaroos and many, many more in Cumbria’s foremost ‘safari’ zoo. (The ‘safari’ bit is down to the very cool wak-through enclosures that kids will love). It’s pricey, a fair drive away – south of Ulverston – and can get busy, but if your kids like zoos, they can’t really fail to have a good time.
- The World of Beatrix Potter – Jemima Puddle-Duck’s woodland glade, Miss Tiggy-winkle’s kitchen, Jeremy Fisher’s lily-pad and – best of all – Peter Rabbit’s garden (without Mr McGregor!) are all modelled in painstaking detail in this charming, if mildly eccentric, exhibit in Bowness upon Windermere, just 20 minutes away by car.
- For more ideas, check out our blog post 10 things to do with children around Ambleside & Loughrigg.
- The last decade or so has seen something of a food and drink renaissance in Cumbria, and Tarn House is lucky to have a wide variety of local pubs and restaurants.
- The ‘local’ is The Talbot Bar, part of the Skelwith Bridge Hotel (1/2 mile). Solid pub grub and local ales are the order of the day. It’s a ten-minute walk by road or half-hour stroll via Loughrigg Tarn – the latter infinitely preferable on a summer’s evening with the company of sheep, bats and occasional roe deer (just remember a torch for the journey home!)
- A little further down the road in Elterwater (2 miles) is the highly recommended Brittania Inn. A beautiful location (on the picturesque village green), fantastic beer garden, cosy interior and great home-made food (offered in generous portions), as well as a long line in local ales, make it well worth a visit.
- Gastro dining is available at the Drunken Duck in Barngate, a little way south of the cottage (2 miles). A truly local affair, with Cumbrian chef and dishes using locally-sourced ingredients, its own brewery also supplies award-winning ales.
- Three Shires Inn, on the winding road that passes through Little Langdale, is a rustic inn that welcomes muddy boots, with a large central bar, sunny outside veranda, good ales and food without pretense.
- There are restaurants in Ambleside to suit most tastes, from the Italian veggie menu of the ever-popular Zeffirellis (good pizza) to the Spice of Bengal Indian (which offers takeaway too if you fancy a Tarn House curry night).
- The Apple Pie bakery in Ambleside serves fantastic… apple pies, as well as a range of other savoury pies. Its on-site bakery offers fresh bread and a version of the Bath Bun, a sweet-dough treat that sells by the hundred.
- There are dozens of noteworthy historic houses and gardens within a few miles of Tarn House, including many managed by the National Trust.
- Probably most famous is Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home in picturesque Near Sawrey (8 miles), a time capsule of her life. Visit early to avoid the crowds.
- Her original paintings are housed at the Beatrix Potter Gallery (also NT) in Hawkshead (5.4 miles).
- The various homes of the Lakeland poets around Grasmere and Rydal Water are even more local. Newly-restored Allan Bank (4 miles) is a uniquely relaxed property on the banks of Grasmere, home not only to Wordsworth but also National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley. Make yourself a coffee, read the paper and relax in one of the many rooms-with-a-view and unwind. (There’s plenty for younger guests too).
- On the opposite shore of Grasmere is Dove Cottage (4 miles), Wordsworth’s first family home, an immaculately preserved example of a 19th Century cottage replete with stone floors, wood panelling and coal fires as well as the family’s original belongings.
- Townend in Troutbeck (6 miles) is a traditional Cumbrian farmhouse, barely changed in the 400 years of its existence.
- Wray Castle (4 miles) – which you can just see if you walk from Tarn House over Loughrigg down to Ambleside – is an abandoned mock-Gothic castle perched above Windermere. With expansive views and connections with Beatrix Potter who used to stay there, it’s not your normal ‘antiques in every room’ NT property. Instead the kids can dress up in medieval garb and run from room to room.
- Coniston Water is home to Brantwood (9 miles), the rambling home – and gardens – of painter, philanthropist and social thinker John Ruskin for the last 28 years of his life.
- The Ruskin Museum (6.6 miles) in Coniston – described by Rough Guides as “the most thought-provoking in the Lakes” – has more about the great man, as well as exhibits on ‘Swallows and Amazons’ author Arthur Ransome and Donald Campbell’s world water speed records.
- Lovers of gardens will find inspiration aplenty at Holehird Gardens (6 miles), the Lakeland Horticultural Garden near Windermere in its superb Lakeland setting.
- A little further afield, Blackwell (9 miles), is the quintessential Arts and Crafts house, “a masterpiece of twentieth-century design” that retains many of its original features and has wonderful views over the Lake.
Note: The above suggestions are taken from days out enjoyed by the owner and suggestions from the Tarn House visitor book. If you’ve stayed at Tarn House and have other suggestions, I always like to hear them. Drop me a line and let me know.