Old Man of Coniston Circuit

Lake District
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Old Man of Coniston Circuit

Distance: 13.2km
Elevation: 835m
Time: 4.5-5.75h

Difficulty Rating:

Walking up to Old Man of Coniston is one of the classics of the Lake District. Rather than retrace your steps back down, take this circuit and grab a few more peaks!

Getting there

Start in Coniston. We prefer the car park on Old Furness Road, just south of the start of the walk. You can also start the walk from the car park in the centre of town. Many people also meet at The Sun, a beautiful 17th Century Country Pub.


When to do

When Dry, no fog

Backcountry Campsites




Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type



Detailed Description

From the car park, walk down to the street below (Old Furness Road) and turn left. At the end of the street turn right and walk down a hill. Take your first left and you will see the Sun Hotel. Pass on the left of the hotel and you will head up a track through some other buildings.

You will pass over a small stream and walk through some woods along a broad track. Along the way you’ll pass a gate and then come to a bridge over Church Beck. Don’t take the bridge but continue uphill on the left of the stream.

Keep going uphill, ignoring paths that join from the left. As you climb you will trend over to your right. You may notice that you see some old mining entrances, definitely do not enter any old mines!

At roughly 3.2km from the start you will come to Low Water, a tarn (mountain lake) with some wonderful photo opportunities. Go to the left of Low Water and head uphill, passing stone buildings and large old cables from a cable car system that used to be used to carry slate down the valley.

As you ascend and look around you will notice that this area is heavily scarred by the historic copper, nickel and cobalt mining that took place here, particularly in the latter-half of the 19th century.

You arrive at the summit of The Old Man roughly 4.2km after leaving your car. From the summit many people return back the way they came. Provided it is not raining or icy, we suggest you continue onwards along Brim Fell to Swirl How and then out via the beautiful Levers Water instead.

To make this a circuit you can see the long track going roughly north from the summit of Coniston Old Man along the ridge past Brim Fell and Little How Crags towards Swirl How. You will also have incredible views out to your left and ahead.

Upon leaving the summit of Coniston Old Man, descend and you’ll see a path heading off to your left. Do not take this but continue roughly straight ahead. Roughly 1.4km after you leave the summit you will see a path heading down to Levers Water. Don’t take this, rather continue straight ahead, ignoring another path that comes up soon on your left as well.

Once at the cairn at Swirl How it’s easy to get on the wrong path (in fact, the GPS shows how we did!). Don’t go on the path behind the cairn. Instead, look for a broad path in front of the cairn heading to the right. Take this – you will see the path at the bottom of the saddle.

Heading down this path can require the use of hands, as it can be very steep. This can be an unpleasant descent in wet or icy conditions, and poles really help with some of the large steps.

Upon reaching the bottom of the saddle we like to head right down this lovely valley to Levers Water, though if you’re feeling strong you can continue up Wetherlam – a fine viewpoint.

As you descend from the saddle, the trail starts out easily visible. However, over time going down the valley it becomes less obvious. Stick left and aim for the left-hand side of Levers Water and you’ll be ok. If the path is a bit boggy the left hand side also has some rocky ground.

Once at Levers Water the route back to town is clear. Continue straight and do not take the left-hand turn immediately after passing Levers Water. Farther down is another left-hand turn you should ignore, continuing ahead. You will see a road running to your right to a mining operation – don’t take that road. Continue ahead, passing yet another path going left that you don’t want to take.

You eventually come to a stunning large home, known as Coppermine Cottages. Go past here and follow the road down to the bridge you didn’t cross at the start.

Along the way you will pass a YHA, a great option if you want to shorten the walk. Continue on the path you ascended on back into Coniston and past the Sun Hotel.

Insider Hints

  • Coppermine Cottages has a stunning position and one of the outdoor hot tubs allows you to savour the stunning views right from the fizzy water!

  • Stay away from the various mine entrances you will see. People want to explore these mines, however they are not safe.

  • You can get to Coniston on the #505 Bus, the Coniston Rambler, that goes from Kendal to Coniston.

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