Wild camp at Blea Tarn above Eskdale

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A seven mile circular walk from Eskdale stopping overnight for a wild camp at Blea Tarn

Blea Tarns in the Lake District

The word ‘blea’ is derived from an old Norse word for ‘blue’. Its therefore hardly surprising that there are a number of tarns in the Lake District called ‘Blea Tarn’.

Probably the best known are those above the Langdale and Borrowdale valleys, however there is a much quieter one on the moors above Eskdale. A few years ago I walked past this Blea Tarn on a Saturday evening in summer to find find number of tents pitched nearby. I had never considered this as a decent site to wild camp but maybe it was worth a go? There’s only one way to find out so I hatched a plan to do so. I picked a midweek night in summer though, to ensure it was a bit quieter.

Overnight Parking in Eskdale

I decided to use a route I normally use to get there: an anti-clockwise seven mile walk from the small car park at Trough House Bridge in Eskdale. However, having arrived at the starting point, I noticed a sign saying that no overnight parking was allowed and that this ‘was enforced’! Oh dear. A quick glance at my map and a Plan B was quickly formed.

After a short drive I started again having parked in the small lay-by a mile or so further up Eskdale near Christcliff Farm.

lay-by on eskdale road near christcliff farm
Lay-by near Christcliff Farm

It was late on in the afternoon as I wanted to be at Blea Tarn for sunset but thankfully I had allowed for a few delays.

Walking back down the valley road towards Boot I turned right at the old school house to Trough House Bridge and Dalegarth Hall.

old school house in boot now a holiday home seen from trough house bridge lane
Looking back along the lane towards the old school house in Boot
small country lane leading over trough house bridge to dalegarth hall
The lane heading towards Trough House Bridge car park

And about thirty minutes after I had intended to start my walk I reached the car park at Trough House Bridge and the walk proper started.

Walking along the River Esk from Trough Bridge

The walk down the Esk Valley from here first leads past Dalegarth Hall.

dalegarth hall a sixteenth century grade 2 listed manor house in eskdale
Dalegarth Hall and its impressive chimneys

The current building dates from the 16th Century although there has been a building here since the 14th. The hall is Grade 2 listed and its not hard to see why. Just look at those chimneys for starters!

After a bite to eat, I walked on along the path running parallel to the River Esk through verdant Low Wood, the river being somewhere off to the right.

footpath running through verdant low wood in eskdale in summer
The footpath through Low Wood

About a mile further on the river and path run next to each other. Not far beyond this point a path off to the right leads over the river via a suspension bridge and up to Fisherground Farm.

suspension bridge over river esk in eskdale near fisherground farm
Suspension bridge over the River Esk

Climbing up to Blea Tarn above Eskdale

Having walked round through the farm the next obstacle is the Eskdale Railway line.

eskdale railiway line between dalegarth and the green stations
Crossing over the Eskdale Railway line near Fisherground Farm

The Eskdale and Ravelglass Steam Railway, known locally as L’al Ratty, is a narrow gauge railway that runs for seven miles from Beckfoot in Eskdale down to Ravenglass. It doesn’t run all year round but times can be found on their website.

Taking heed of all the warnings, I looked both ways a number of times before taking a photo and crossing the line. The path leads through a cracking little marshy silver birch woodland via some duck boards to reach a crossroad of footpaths. Turning right here leads to Blea Tarn and pretty much the only climb of the walk.

It was a warm day but fortunately it was so late in the day that the climb was in shade.

footpath leading up onto eskdale moor lined by foxgloves
The footpath leading up onto the moors above Eskdale

Its not a long climb but there was no rush so I took my time. And when near the top it was worth a break to enjoy the views back down Eskdale.

peat house above eskdale with muncaster fell in background
The view from a peat house near the top looking over Eskdale towards Muncaster Fell

After an undulating walk over the upland of Sineytarn Moss, Blea Tarn eventually popped into view.

approaching secluded blea tarn above eskdale under blue skies in summer
The first view of secluded Blea Tarn

At this point I couldn’t tell if there were any tents there but as I got closer I found out the exact number: zero. Great!

Wild camping at Blea Tarn

Ok, so I had walked past here on a summer’s evening before and seen numerous tents near the footpath around the tarn so I knew there were places where a tent could be pitched. I couldn’t seem to find them though! I’ve never had to wander so far and wide to try to find somewhere dry and flat enough for a comfy night’s sleep!

What I tend to do in this situation is lay my groundsheet down and lie on it, to test how comfy places are but everywhere I tried was as lumpy as hell! At one point a man turned up for a wild swim in Blea Tarn. I’m not sure what he thought I was up to.

Eventually, I settled on the best place I could find so pitched my tent as the sun was setting.

wild camping tent pitched on shore of blea tarn under bleatarn hill
Looking across Blea Tarn to Bleatarn Hill from my tent

The rest of the evening was spent clambering around the crags overlooking the tarn, trying to see if there was a good vantage point for either sunset or sunrise. As I suspected, this was a location that is purely for the wild camper and not really the photographer. The main reason for this is that the tarn is located in a dip surrounded by bigger fells on the horizon. The only long distance views from here were down Eskdale and during the summer the sun sets well to the north of the valley.

I knew from looking at a map beforehand that this was probably the case so wasn’t too disheartened. It was a new camping spot for me and that was the main thing.

Even so, I still grabbed a couple of shots. Firstly a view from the crags overlooking the tarn looking down Eskdale.

summer sunset overlooking fells of lower eskdale from blea tarn
Sunset over the fells surrounding lower Eskdale

And secondly the view looking over Eskdale towards Harter Fell and Green Crag as the sun set.

harter fell and green crag illuminated by setting sun above eskdale in summer
Sunset over the fells surrounding lower Eskdale

Returning to Eskdale from Blea Tarn

In June, the sun rises at the stupidly early hour of just after 04:30 in Cumbria. To be fair though it never really gets dark and I barely ever need a torch. As it also starts getting light well before dawn proper I was packing up my tent around 3am. I had woken up as it wasn’t the most comfy spot and couldn’t get back to sleep so why not?

Consequently I ended up sitting on top of Bleatarn Hill overlooking Blea Tarn to have breakfast as the surrounding landscape gradually got lighter.

blea tarn seen from bleatarn hill during blue hour pre dawn
Looking over Blea Tarn from Bleatarn hill

Not a bad way to start the day.

It was going to be another warm day though so having eaten all my food I set off again along the path running along the top of Boot Bank. Ahead of me I could see sunrise was getting close but it was sadly obscured by the small matter of the Scafell massif.

sca fell kirk fell and great gable from cairn on eskdale moor at dawn under pink skies
silhouetted sca fell at dawn from eskdale moor

Ah well, someone somewhere was possibly witnessing the great dawn from a decent vantage point but it wasn’t me. Even so, the light was superb.

Further on, as the path descends, a line of ‘peat houses’ popped into view.

peat houses atop boot bank looking avoer eskdale to distant green crag
View over Eskdale from peat houses on Boot Bank

Peat houses were used to allow freshly dug out peat to dry before it was carried by packhorses down into the valley where it was used as fuel. The buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

I think the view from peat houses over Eskdale in autumn is better as it is more colourful. Even so the view on this morning was worth a stop as it was so peaceful and quiet.

The track from here drops down Boot Bank into the Whillan Beck Valley and eventually arrives in the small hamlet of Boot.

eskdale mill in boot village from other side of humpback bridge over whillan beck
Eskdale Mill in a very quiet Boot

Nothing was stirring in Boot as I walked through the village, not surprising really considering the time was about 05:30am. I tiptoed by the houses to the main valley road and turned left for the short walk back to the lay-by and my car.

small road in eskdale with hollinghead bank in the background
Looking down Eskdale from the lay-by

So there you go: a wild camp at a tarn I’d never camped at before. Maybe not the best location for a wild camp but certainly very quiet plus the weather stayed dry. If only for those two reasons I’m not going to grumble!

My pictures from this area of the Lakes are all in the Eskdale gallery within my collection of Lake District photography.

Wild camp at Blea Tarn above Eskdale was last modified: August 17th, 2023 by Gavin Dronfield

Further reading:

  • Brim Fell wild camp
    July 2022 : Climbing up onto the Coniston Fells from Wrynose Pass for a wild camp on Brim Fell in very hot weather!

  • Lake District Wild Camping
    July 2023 : A list of wild camping locations in the Lake District National Park tried and tested out by yours truly, including tips and advice

  • Great End wild camp in summer
    June 2016 : The tale of a nine mile walk from Seathwaite Farm at the head of Borrowdale in the Lake District to the summit of Great End for a great night’s wild camping

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