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Coniston Old Man – 5 ways to walk this iconic fell


Many visitors to Coniston want to walk to the summit of the iconic Old Man  – for some it’s their main reason for coming. And it’s easy to understand why – with stunning views of Coppermines Valley, Coniston Water and the surrounding fells throughout and several dramatic mountain tarns to visit en route plus the feeling of accomplishment (and excellent selfie opportunities on the summit) Coniston Old Man is simply a must-do for those who love being active outdoors.

We often get asked “what is the easiest way up Coniston Old Man”. Well, while no routes to the top of this famous fell can be described as “easy”, we’ve compiled some of the most popular and lesser-known ascents so you can choose the route which best suits you.

Coniston Old Man can be walked direct from the village, so if you’re staying in one of our Coniston village cottages and want to give your car a holiday too, all the routes below can be adapted to start and end right here in Coniston.

1. Direct route from Coniston village via Low Water

The simplest and most direct route begins in Coniston village. Starting at The Coppermines Office and Hidden Treasures Gift Shop, take the lane adjacent to The Old Post Cottage leading up the Sun Inn. At the Sun take the lane to your right – you’ll pass Dixon Ground Cottages on your left and Bend or Bump (looking adorable) on your right. As you leave the village buildings behind you begin to gently climb within Coppermines Valley with Church Beck below you on your right. At Miner’s Bridge don’t cross but continue up ahead into The Coppermines Conservation Area.

Stay on the main path as it climbs before reaching the old slate quarry complete with some huge cables to climb over / duck under. 

After the quarry you’ll reach Low Water – a jewel-like mountain tarn nestled amongst the crags – the perfect spot for a mid-hike picnic or to dip your toes into on a hot day.

From Low Water the path rises then zigzags above the tarn as you begin to climb in earnest. The views open up and you’ll be treated to incredible views of Coniston Water and down to Coppermines Valley.

Before long you’ll reach the summit. After taking in the views and posing for several summit selfies, you can either descend the way you came or just one of the alternative routes below to walk in reverse – we recommend descending via route 2 – down to Goats Water.

2. Via Walna Scar Road and Goats Water

Another classic route this one takes in the dramatic Goat’s Water nestled beneath the imposing Dow Crag.

This walk starts at the Walna Scar car park just outside Coniston village but can also be walked from the village itself – either by walking to the car park along the lane or via the first part of route 1 above – turn left as the path forks towards Walna Scar Road instead of continuing the direct path up.

The Walna Scar Road is an ancient road built to connect Coniston and the Duddon Valley — and includes. The rocky mountain road is easy to follow as it gradually gains height towards Dow Crag. At the obvious junction turn right to take the path leading up to Goats Water. This impressive mountain tarn features dramatic slopes stretching from the tarn to the top of towering Dow Crag and is popular with rock climbers. No ropes are required however for the pitched path that takes you from the tarn up to Goats’s Hawse.

At Goat’s Hawse you can pause and enjoy the dramatic view down to Goat’s Water, before heading east to take the path up to the summit of Coniston Old Man.

3. Via Dow Crag from Torver

This route starts from the village of Torver (and if you’re lucky enough to be staying in Cragg Cottage then you can walk this route from your front door).

Leaving Torver, heading towards Coniston take Scarr Head Lane on the left just before the bridge.

Follow the lane past the houses as it bears right and turns into a track. Stay on this path as it heads north towards Coniston Old Man which soon comes into view. Continue on past Banishead Quarry. After the quarry several paths weave though the bracken and join on to Walna Scar Road. Once you hit Walna Scar Road turn left to head westwards towards Walna Scar. Near the summit of Walna Scar a four-way junction leads to Walna Scar summit on your left and Duddon Valley ahead. Here, turn right to take the steep path up to Brown Pike. At Brown Pike it’s a spectacular ridge walk along to Buck Pike then on to the compact, rocky summit of Dow Crag beyond, from which you will be treated to breath-taking, far-reaching views north towards the Scafell range.

From Dow Crag, drop down to Goats Hawse while you’ll pick up the path coming up from Goat’s Water. Continue ahead on the path up to Coniston Old Man summit.

4. Via Lever’s Water, Swirls Hawse and Swirl How

Another stunning walk, this route takes in the third of Coniston Old Man’s mountain tarns; Levers Water. For Wainwright baggers it also takes you to the summit of Swirl How. At approximately the same height as Old Man this lesser-known mountain enjoys arguable even better views than its similarly lofty neighbour. You can also bag the summit of Brim Fell along the beautiful ridge walk south from Swirl How to Old Man.

From the Coppermines Office in Coniston take Coppermines Lane in between the Co-op and Black Bull. Follow the land past Gate House as it turns into an unmade road and head uphill within the beautiful Coppermines Valley.  Conitue uphill with Churcj Beck on your left. As the road begins to flatten out you’ll ses the Coppermines Mountain Cottages and waterheel ahead. Irish Row with Slater Bob’s, Fellside and No. 4 Coppermines is nestled in the hillside above you and to your right. Go past the mountain cottages and continue on the mountain road as it curves left then right then zig-zags up the hillside towards Levers Water. At Levers Water take the rough path to the right of the tarn which follows the shoreline before heading up towards Swirls Haws. At Swirls Haws your efforts so far are rewarded by an incredible view opening up before you. Turn left to take the Orison Band up to the summit of Swirl How. From the summit head south on the path towards Old Man.

5. The Coniston Round

For experienced walkers, those who like a challenge or enthusiastic Wainwright baggers, then walking Coniston Old Man as part of the Coniston Round takes in all the major Coniston fells including Dow Cragg, Swirl How and Wetherlam. Should time and legs allow, detours allow for a total of 7 Wainwrights to be climbed in one day.

Starting in Coniston Village, take the Walna Scar road to Dow Crag as detailed above then on to Old Man via Goat’s Hawse before heading north to Brim Fell, and on to Swirl How.  From Swirl How a detour to Grey Friers and/or Great Carrs is optional before returning back to Swirl How then continuing east onto your final summit of Wetherlam via Swirl Hawse before heading back down into Coppermines Valley and Coniston village.  A long but stunning day’s walking incredible with varied and breath-taking views throughout and, very importantly, an excellent supply of pubs in Coniston once completed.

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