A Walk to Bowscale Tarn

Walking to Bowscale Tarn – an easy morning’s walk from Mungrisdale, in glowering weather. Still a dry day in the north Lakes, but the knowledge that rain was on the way in. In fact, just now and again, you could feel the moisture in the air.


Mungrisdale Church (c) John Bainbridge 2016


Very different from the warm day we recently spent on Bowscale Fell itself. We didn’t see the tarn that day, so we did this walk to include it, returning the same way.

We had a brief halt at Mungrisdale Church, dedicated to Saint Kentigern, or Mungo – hence the name of the village. A charming little building dating from 1756, though on the site of a much earlier church. Particularly outstanding is the three-decker pulpit, one of the best examples I’ve seen.


Three-Decker Pulpit at Mungrisdale (c) John Bainbridge 2016


On along the lane then to the hamlet of Bowscale – or rather, as a sign indicates, a township, a reminder that this was once part of Scotland.

Then a rough track up to Bowscale Tarn itself, the path winding high above the valley of the River Caldew. This was a popular excursion in times past, the Victorians loved the wild aspects of Bowscale Tarn, the ladies making the journey on the back of ponies.


The Track to Bowscale Tarn (c) John Bainbridge 2016


Not least, of course, because it’s a setting for a poem by Wordsworth “Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle”, where Lord Clifford comes here and lives in wildness:

To his side the Fallow-deer
Came, and rested without fear;
The Eagle, Lord of land and sea,
Stoop’d down to pay him fealty;
And both the undying Fish that swim
Through Bowscale-Tarn did wait on him,
The pair were Servants of his eye
In their immortality,
They moved about in open sight,
To and fro, for his delight.

The immortal fish are supposed to be there to this day, though some have commented that the tarn may be too cold. The suggestion has been made that the fish in the tarn is the Schelly, a rarity that leaves in just a few Lakeland waters, a relic left trapped after the ice age. They certainly exist in Red Tarn, by Helvellyn. If anyone has proof that they’re in Bowscale Tarn as well please do let us know.


Bowscale Tarn (c) John Banbridge 2016


The tarn is a dramatic place, the sort of water where you might expect a hand to arise bearing a sword. A place where the heroes of old come to die.


4 thoughts on “A Walk to Bowscale Tarn

  1. Haven’t been up that track to Bowscale Tarn for a while – time to go again I think. There’s a fun steep rake up onto Bowscale Fell from there too. Haven’t ever been in that church – must have a look.


    • From memory although there’s a good track some of the way, I think there’s still be a couple of hundred yards to walk. Not sure about the legality of using a landrover without the landowner’s permission. It might be worth talking to the national park authority, regards John B


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