Walk of the week: The Old Man of Coniston circular

Length of route: 11 km

Starting point: SD 289 985
Suitable for: Walking
Maps: OS Explorer Maps OL6 and OL7 The English Lakes
Download our OS MapFinder app and record your route
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Parking is available at at SD 290 984, this parking space is along an unpaved road.  Or park in Coniston itself and walk up to the Coniston Copper Mines Youth Hostel.

This is a circular route taking in one of the best fells in the Lake District: The Old Man of Coniston. There are fantastic views to be had from the top as far as the North Wales coast and the Isle of Man on a clear day although, unfortunately when I did this walk with a group of friends, we encountered white out conditions so I cannot altogether vouch the scenery – although I doubt it will have changed considerably since Wainwright wrote it down!

Photo courtesy of Eddie Winthorpe

The walk starts from the Coniston Copper Mines Youth Hostel. Follow the track that passes in front of the youth hostel and follow for ½ km towards Levers Water. At this point the path stops and you cross a fairly new bridge across Levers Water Beck. Follow this path for 1 km until it joins up with a track again at Crowberry Haws. Look out for old mine workings on your right hand side, these are ideal for some shelter if it’s raining (although do not wander in too far for your own safety). After a coffee (and optional cake), follow the right hand track at the T-junction as it starts to zig-zag up the side of Stubthwaite Crag. This is a fairly easy path to follow as it wanders past several quarries. After 800 m the path starts to get steeper, after it skirts the edge of Low Water. Follow the path, again zig-zagging, up towards the top of the Old Man of Coniston at 803 m.

There is a large cairn at the top and a trig point a few metres further on (these landmarks were invaluable in the white out conditions we encountered). It’s always a good idea to take a bearing at this point just in case the weather turns inclement along the top to Swirl How. Follow the top of the ridge as it drops down gently to Levers Hawse (690 m). At this point the path starts to ascend gently up to Swirl How (802 m) for a kilometre. There is another large cairn at this point. The path that you need to take to your right starts just before you reach the cairn. Follow this path for 600m as it descends steeply down Prison Band. At the T-junction take the path straight ahead for a kilometre as it ascends gently along Keld Gill Head until you reach the cairn at the top of Wetherlam at 762 m.

From Wetherlam follow the path as it forks  to the left down towards Red Gill Head Moss. This path can be tricky to follow at times: I would suggest taking a bearing from Wetherlam just in case. After 2 km you reach another T-junction at Hole Rake. Take the right hand fork and follow it for 900 m back to the Copper Mines YHA unpaved road. Follow the road either up to the YHA or down to Coniston and back to your car.

There are several great pubs in Coniston: The Sun Inn, The Black Bull Hotel which brews its own beer, and my favourite: The Yewdale Hotel. I watched a marvellous game of rugby at this pub: Wales 30 – England 3. What a cracker and a great way to end a great walk.

Photo courtesy of Eddie Winthorpe

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12 Responses

  1. Dave Turnbull

    Is this coniston route a walking route , or has it got climbs in it, me and a friend are starting to try different walks and like the sound of this long as it’s just gradual inclines that’s ok but climbing may be out of our depth any advice please ??

  2. Janet

    Hi this is a delightful walk- and a joy. However at 11 miles it is long as height is gained and lost only to be regained. The description is good- but I would also draw walkers’ attention to being careful about finding the path off the ridge after Red Gill Moss. The National Trust have done some footpath work and the correct way down is very clear when you leave the ridge- don’t drop off too early- the path indicated on the map as an alternative way down I think has been closed.
    Allow plenty of time- its a full day.

  3. Jim

    Me & two friends are planning old man walk next week as I’m new to walks with only a few under my belt I’m not sure which route to take & how long the longest one would take where can I get a detailed map to download & print

  4. Andrew Vail

    I am doing this walk over Easter.
    PS – I recently watched a great rugby match where England beat Wales in Cardiff – not as one sided!

    1. Hi Chris

      Unfortunately, Gwyn no longer works for us, so we can’t ask him how long it took him, as an experienced walker on the route. It really would vary, but a walk of that length could be anything from 2-4 hours depending on fitness levels, experience on the terrain, speed, number of rest stops and so on.

      Many thanks

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