A Guide to Blea Tarn, Ambleside, The Lake District
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
I first visited Blea Tarn in December last year and was instantly mesmerised by its beauty. As that was a fleeting visit on a day tour around The Lakes I promised to go back.
This image was taken with a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone at 07.24 on the 17th April 2022 - An hour and a half after sunrise
With any location that includes water and mountains the first thing a photographer is looking for is reflections. So with a little bit of weather watching and with 4mph wind forecast I planned my second visit. However with a 06.05 sunrise and a two hour drive it was a 3.30 alarm for me!
Why Blea Tarn?
Blea Tarn sits in a hanging valley nestled between Little Langdale and the larger Great Langdale whilst flanked by Wetherlam and Swirl How on the South and Lingmoor Fell and the Pike of Blisco to the North.
The area provides a unique vista for photography and a beautiful small walk that was frequented by Wordsworth. The tarn can also be used for longer walks to take in the surrounding hills and mountains.
The area is best visited early in the morning or an evening when the rising/setting sun illuminates Langdale Pike whilst casting shadows across the valley. The light that can be obtained is incredible however catching it at the right time is a different story.
That said a moody cloudy day will provide plenty of drama for day time photography.
Where to park?
Blea Tarn is located in Ambleside not far from Grasmere in the The Langdales. It’s a two hour drive for me but always worth it.
Parking is provided by The National Trust. Members can park for free, so don’t forget to take your card which you can scan at the machine.
This is a remote area but is regularly visited and checked by rangers. Firstly as a National Park all monies go to maintaining the environment so we can continue to enjoy it. If your not a member pay the car park fee, it’s not expensive and every penny counts!
You can find the car park by using the post code LA22 9PG.
The roads to Blea Tarn are B roads and whilst there are passing places it’s not wide enough for motorhomes. You’ll be ok with a VW Transporter sized van.
The carpark has no overnight parking, if you stay be prepared to move on if requested by a Ranger.
The car park is big enough for approximately fifteen cars, however if its full there are a number of lay-bys just before the car park that can be utilised.
In 1989 Blea Tarn was designated a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) due to its importance to environmental studies. It also has a fragile ecosystem and camping is not allowed.
Despite the polite request on the morning of my visit I counted at least ten separate tents dotted around the tarn and down in to the valley. If you are going to camp please be respectful of the environment.
Additional Places to Stay
There is a National Trust campsite not far from the tarn which accommodates camping, camper vans and motorhomes. But due to the narrow B roads it doesn't recommend any motorhomes over 6.5 meters.
Just be warned the Great Langdale site gets busy very quickly so booking in advance is essential.
If you are happy to walk a little further there is a National Trust car park at The Sticklebarn and Langdales that allows motorhomes to stay over for £10 per night. This location is not overly advertised but after a little research I can confirm its true. Again for obvious reasons the carpark can get busy so get there handy.
From here its about an hours walk to Blea Tarn, however if you are staying over you could always take advantage of the various walks around Stickle Tarn.
If you are planning to take a motorhome just be aware space is limited to 5 vehicles. On a positive there are public toilets, two pubs and free wi-fi from the pub. Its no often you can stay so cheaply in The Lakes!
How Long is the Walk?
The tarn circular walk is easy and slow paced, you can take as long as you want. Depending on your pace at 1.8 miles the circular walk will take approximaltey 1-2 hours.
What did I find?
The Tarn is a short walk from the car park, cross the road, through the gate and you have arrived.
The favourite shot of many photographers is the view of the Tarn with Langdale Pike sitting between the surrounding hills. This is literally the first view you will see.
This image was taken with a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone at 7.35 on the 17th April 2022 - An hour and a half after sunrise.
You will find a variety of compositions from the bank and shoreline. There are plenty of rocks in the hillside and scattered along the shoreline which are my favourite.
This shot was taken just before sunrise at 06-11, as you can see the sun had not yet penetrated the surrounding fells. This was a focus stack using a Nikon D750 with a 16-35 mm lens - ISO 100, 24mm, F9 at 1/4s
In this location there are multiple rocks along the shoreline that you can use as great foreground interest. With The Landales and Side Pike you really can't go wrong. Below is an image I took on my first visit.
This was a long exposure Nikon D750, 16-35mm leans at ISO 100, 24mm, F13 at 20 seconds.
With locations like this it’s always worth having a good roam and looking for your own compositions. However I can save you sometime; moving anti-clockwise around the tarn it’s very boggy and there is little in terms of composition.
I would definitely wear a pair of wellies, if you are only doing the tarn, the walks short so you don’t need your hiking boots. Wellies will allow you to get in to the Tarn for those low perspective foreground shots. However be careful with your footing, I nearly lost a welly. That’s how deep and soft the ground can be!
Moving clockwise around the tarn you’ll see the multiple rocks until you each a small wall and fence which leads into the water. Go through the gate and the composition from this side will provide balance between the trees and surrounding hills with nice reflections on a calm day.
Nikon D750, 16-35mm leans at ISO 100, 18mm, F11 at 1/4 second.
Moving further around the tarn clockwise will take you around the circular path. Whilst the views are amazing I didn’t find much compositionally.
However an area often overlooked can be found through a gate over a small stream and bridge (See Point 3 on the map above) This path will lead you down a small stream in to a larger valley and provides lots of opportunities with mini waterfalls looking back towards the tarn. Unfortunately you won’t see The Langdales but you will get some nice background interest from lots of trees.
Whilst there is a path is not used as much as the circular walk so won't be as busy.
What did I learn?
The best compositions are found by the shoreline looking towards the Langdales. You’ll get both landscape and portrait shots from there.
If you use a drone, theres opportunities to compose stills over the tarn itself with a higher perspective. Whilst the stream at the back of the tarn lends itself to nice footage bringing you in to the Tarn through the trees.
To complete the photography content there are plenty of opportunities to get some nice time lapses from multiple locations.
Finally don’t forget to take it all in. I can be guilty of being to driven to obtain content and don’t take the time to appreciate the scenery. Take some time to reflect it won’t disappoint!
Thanks for reading...