The Old Man of Coniston Walk
The Old Man of Coniston walk is a Lake District classic, offering fabulous views and a satisfying day out on the fells. There are many ways to conquer the Old Man, but whichever route you choose, you’ll enjoy splendid mountain tarns, sweeping valleys and quintessential Lake District scenery.
The Old Man of Coniston walk starts in the town of 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
The Old Man of Coniston Walk
Old Man of Coniston Walking Route
To start the Old Man of Coniston walk,walk down to the street below the car park (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 drift 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 of Coniston 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.
The Old Man of Coniston Circular Walk
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 The Old Man of Coniston, 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.
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 may 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.
Walking Route Highlights
Old Man of Coniston
The looming presence of the Old Man of Coniston casts a tall shadow over Coniston Village and Coniston Water. Standing at 803m above sea level, the Old Man is one of the taller peaks in the Lake District, and is a peak that all hikers want to tick off their list. The name ‘Coniston’ has Norse origins, from ‘konigs tun’, meaning ‘king’s farm’, and the appellation ‘old man’ comes from the Celtic ‘maen’, meaning stone.
The views from the summit take in some of the most iconic peaks in the region, including the Langdale Pikes, Scafell, and the Coniston Fell Ridge. At the peak you’ll find a slate platform and cairn, and on a clear day you can see all the way to the Isle of Man!
The Coniston Old Man was once an important site for mining, and for hundreds of years people dug deep into the hillside to mine copper and slate. The mines here date from at least the 1500s, but they closed in the early 20th century. You’ll see many of the abandoned mine entrances during your hike.
More Facts about The Old Man of Coniston
- The ascent of the Old Man of Coniston is a moderate hike, that can be completed by most fit hikers. The terrain is a little rocky in places, and there are some steep ascents and descents, but this is a manageable hike.
- The circular route of the Old Man of Coniston is 13.9km and takes approximately 4.5-6 hours.
- The Old Man of Coniston is a relatively dog-friendly trail, although remember to bring plenty of water. Your dog will need to be fit and used to hill walking, as the trail is long and steep in places. There are herds of sheep grazing on Coniston Old Man, to make sure to keep your dog on the lead and under control.
- The name Coniston Old Man comes from the Norse ‘konings tun’, meaning ‘king’s farm’ and the Welsh ‘maen’, meaning ‘stone’.
- Many peaks in the Lake District are known as ‘fells’, but not many people really know the difference between a mountain and a fell. Technically, a mountain is defined as a large mass of land that rises significantly higher than the adjacent terrain. A fell, on the other hand, is a high, barren landscape feature, that may encompass a range of mountains and peaks, or high moorland. In northern England the term fell was traditionally applied to high, uncultivated land above the tree line that was used for grazing. However, in practice, ‘fell’ is often used interchangeably with ‘mountain’ and ‘hill’.
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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