Quite a short walk this at just over 3 miles and just over 320m of ascent. The tarn itself is situated halfway up Heron Pike, and provides a decent vantage point for views westward into Langdale. There are options to vary the onward route once you’ve got to the tarn. One day I intend to use this walk as a start to a walk over Heron Pike, Great Rigg and Fairfield.
What this walk means to me
On a wet day after a couple of heavy walking days, I decided to spend the morning in Grasmere, and see how things went. After a while, I started to feel bad about wasting a day, and looking at the map spotted the footpath curving up across the lower slopes of Heron Pike past Alcock Tarn. So I did it, and surprised by the view I got I lingered at the tarn for quite a while, not even moving when the rain started. I sat there and reflected on my trip in a place of relative calm that’s still quite handy for civilisation. The approaching storm drove me down, but later that day I bought both volumes of John and Ann Nuttalls “The Tarns of Lakeland”. So much had I enjoyed the tarn that I wanted more. Alcock Tarn remains one of my special places in the Lake District to this day.
From the centre of Grasmere (a) walk along the main B5287 road with Helm Crag to your left. The road joins the A591 Ambleside-Keswick road opposite the Swan Hotel (b). Walk down the lane at the side of the pub, bearing round to the left until you reach a public footpath on the right. Take this path (c) which takes you up onto the hillside climbing alongside a stream. At (d) another path splits off left to climb up across the flank of Stone Arthur, which is a good viewpoint to see the tarn from, but not part of this walk. Continue on the right of the stream climbing up next to the wood on your right.
At the top of the wood (e), branch off to the right and climb up to the tarn (f). Linger a while and take in the views, especially to the west. Then if you’re feeling energetic you want to complete the climb of Heron Pike (g), either directly from the tarn or by retracing your steps to where the path split at (e).
Assuming a return to Grasmere, there are three main routes down – back the way you came, or two options by continuing past the tarn and climbing down to the south (h). Follow the path down and eventually you will have a choice of taking a right (i) to join a permissive route through the woods back towards Michael’s Fold, or continuing on the main path towards White Moss Common and How Top (j). When I did this walk, my descent was accompanied by thunder and lightning and whilst I wanted to get down quickly, I also had to take care in places where it was slippery. Watch out, especially if it’s rained recently, as you descend through the tree cover.
Reaching the road, turn right and walk past (or stop if you want!) Wordsworth’s former home at Dove Cottage (k) to join and cross the A591, taking the B5287 back into Grasmere.