Walk: Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar, a magical slice of the Lake District

Lace up your hiking boots and hunt out a perfect, panoramic view of the Lake District on this beautiful walk in the fells above Grasmere.

Walk Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar in the Lake District Cumbria map route

‘The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.’

Alfred Wainwright’s musings on the glories of the Cumbrian hills always make me desperate to plan plenty of long walks whenever I find myself in the Lake District. I’ve been on many a ramble in the national park, but I think the hike up to Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar from Grasmere might be my absolute favourite. This would be where I would take someone new to the delights of the Lake District, to feast their eyes on rolling fells and glassy bodies of water stretching out for miles.

This walk takes you high into the hills above Grasmere, and even when the village is bustling and busy at Christmas or in the summer, the high fells above are the perfect peaceful escape.

Walk Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar, 7km, 2.5 hours

Start at The Swan Hotel (their cosy bar is the perfect place for a pint after your walk, not that I’m getting ahead of myself) and follow the narrow tarmac road next to it that winds up towards the hills. After a mile you’ll reach a post marked ‘Greenhead Gill and Alcock Tarn’. From here, a footpath crosses a stream and then hugs a stone wall on a steep incline up the hill.

It’s a bit of a climb, but totally worth it for the views at the top, I promise. Keep following the path – it’s a narrow and boulder-strewn at times but not hard to keep to. If you need a breather, turn around and admire the ever-expending views over now-tiny Grasmere (from here it’s easy to emphasize with William Wordsworth when he called the town ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’) and across to the tall peaks of Helm Crag.

Walk Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar in the Lake District Cumbria map route

Walk Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar in the Lake District Cumbria map route

When the trail flattens out you’ll reach the mirror-like surface of Alcock Tarn, a great place for a quick dip in the summer or for a lazy picnic lunch. Walk to the other end of the tarn – from here you can start to descend back to town via the path that snakes down to the right, but I like to take the higher track to the left, up to Nab Scar about 500 metres away, where there’s a rocky cairn to stand on. From here you get an incredible, panoramic view of the Lake District, including Grasmere, Rydal Water and far-off Derwentwater. This astonishingly beautiful view is, for me, the perfect slice of Cumbria.

Walk Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar in the Lake District Cumbria map route

Follow the path back down to the edge of the tarn. You’ll see a gap in a wall ahead of you and a path leading down the mountainside. Follow this as it descends and enters a lovely little woodland, passing a fairy-like stone pool. When you reach a junction, turn left and go through a metal gate to end up back in the bottom of the valley. Turn right and follow the road past Dove Cottage, once home to Wordsworth. From here, you can amble into Grasmere along Stock Lane for a coffee (I like popping into Stock Lane Kitchen for a doopstop-sized piece of cake) or walk back along the main road to The Swan for that well-deserved pint.

Walk Alcock Tarn and Nab Scar in the Lake District Cumbria map route



  1. Tim Mellor
    November 27, 2017 / 5:54 pm

    The Lake District would be good if it didn’t rain ALL the time. Like last time when we lugged all our climbing gear up to Napes Needle, only to have the heavens open just as we reached it.
    Are you coming to Basecamp again next year? On my way to 500 blog followers now tdan050456.wordpress.com

  2. December 2, 2017 / 7:21 am

    It’s great to walk in ALCOCK TARN in the fall season. I will visit it when possible.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. February 22, 2018 / 7:01 am

    Thanks for great information . I will come here

  4. March 22, 2018 / 4:54 pm

    The footbridge which crosses the stream a mile from the start is missing. You will need to find a safe crossing point across the beck to continue on the footpath.

  5. April 25, 2018 / 3:52 am

    Walking is a great way to enjoy outdoor! I am glad to be here once and I will surely go back here another time. Thanks for your sharing!