Walking The Old Man Of Coniston
The Old Man of Coniston is one of the most popular walks in Cumbria. While it is a substantial climb at 800 metres, it’s actually one of the more accessible walking routes in the lake district. That said, don’t attempt it without decent walking gear. You’ll want some sturdy walking boots, waterproof clothing and plenty of drinking water. The paths up the Old Man are generally well trodden, so navigating your way up is relatively simple.
The 'Alt Mean'
The name ‘Old Man’ comes from ancient Celtic ‘Alt Mean’ which means ‘High Stone’. The town of Coniston, which the 'Old Man' towers over, comes form ‘Konigs Tun'. which means ‘King’s Farm'. The old man and surrounding area bear plenty of scars of the copper and slate mining which were once the most important industries in the area. Look out for abandoned mine shafts and machinery as you make your way up.
Head To Walna Scar Road
The best place to start your climb is the car park on Walna Scar Road (use LA21 8HD in the Sat Nav). This takes you north out of Coniston, past ‘The Sun’ a 17th Century country pub and a great choice for post-walk refreshments. There are 2 car parks at the top of Walna Scar road. Both are pay and display (these use to be free, so some older walking guides may not mention that you need to pay). The first you come to on the right is about 1km up Walna Scar road and is pay and display. This is the quietest car park but does not accept cards.. The second is at the end of the road behong the gate. Cards are accepted in this car par but the car park can get very busy at weekends and bank holidays in good weather.
If there’s no space in either of these, the next option is to park down in Coniston itself, while there’s plenty of parking in the village, you will need to climb up Walna Scar Road, which adds an extra kilometre to the journey and is surrounded by trees, so not particularly rewarding. The road is narrow but there are plenty of passing places. MAny walkers choose to start the walk in Coniston so you won't be alone walking up the road, and it is a good way to get the blood pumping at the start of the walk!
The Route Up
One you reach the car park there are a few different options. The most popular route is north straight up the mountain then down and round the other side. This gives you the steepest ascent, and is the quickest route to the top, and means the route back down is longer but gentler. From the car park, head north (right turn directly after the main car park gate), and follow the path. This leads you on a relatively gentle climb along a gravel path. One of the reasons this is a good route is it starts off easy.. but be warned it does get tougher!
Continue on this path and eventually you will get a good view over the coppermines valley to the right. A walk through the coppermines valley from Coniston is another shorter walk option, you could even get it done in the same day. From here, you want to keep left and head up the path. It starts to get a little steeper here but should still be perfectly manageable for most people. From here you could also opt to head down into coppermines valley and back into Coniston by heading right in the direction of the lake, or head straight ahead and down into the valley and you'll cross miners bridge, where you can head up the gravel path to Levers water. Assuming you still want to carry on to the old man and you head left, the path will start to get a more uneven after a while and you'll soon be walking through 'coniston quarries' where you'll see the remnants of the old slate mines. It can get a little trecherous with alot of loose slate underfoot. As you continue up the path gets steeper still and you'll be happy to arrive at low water, which gives you stunning views across the quarry towards levers water.
This is where the views start to get spectacular and on a clear day you'll be able to see right out to see towards wales, the Isle of Man, and Scotland. Next the only way is up and this is where it gets really steep. Take it slowly if you're not used to climbing. You may need to scramble over a rock or two but it really isn't that bad, and it's well worth it because after a few minutes of brathlessness you'll hit the top, and the views really are stunning. Look north west and you'll see Scafell Pike just a few miles away, tempting you towards her. Maybe next time?
Congratulations, you made it to the top. sit, relax, enjoy the view and take a few selfies and get ready for the walk back down!
...And Back Down
Once you’ve enjoyed the amazing panoramic views across the fells and out towards the coast, you want to continue north along the ridge. You'll see the path clearly worn into the grass, and probably alot of walkers going back and forth. This nice flat path will be a welcome relief from the climb up . When the pah forks, hed to the left and you'll start a descent. There are some steps carved into the hillside which can get wet and icy in the winter so be careful as you come down.
After a while you'll see low water to the left. There's two choises here, carry on straight up towards Dow Crag (778m) - it's another climb but a good extension to this walk if you've still got the legs for it. Alternatively (and usually the preferred option by this point), head down to the left and skirt the banks of low water. Youll see the path to the left which is easy to navigate. You will need to clib oer a few rocks towards the end but after the climb you've just done it'll be a cinch.
From here just follow the path down. You'll eventually join a larger gravel track, head left and this wil take you back to the car park at the to pof Walna Scar Road. The whole circular walk fro the car park is around 9 kilometres (or 12-13 if you start in Coniston village), and most people will complete it in around 3 hours. It's a local favourite, and a very rewarding walk without being too strenuous.
One your climb is over, there's a great choice of pubs in Coniston to sit, relax and enjoy a well earned drink! For a slightly less strenuous walk, consider walking the Coppermines Valley, an easier option if you have a few hours to spare. If you're looking for a good holiday cottage in coniston check out our top 10 for a variety of options.
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