Coniston Old Man : The Lake District

by | Feb 9, 2020 | Go Outside, The Lake District, Walking

Route Information

An out-and-return circular walk via Swirl How & Levers Water

Route Difficulty: Medium

Distance: 11.41 km ( 7.13 miles)

Route Elevation: 803 m

Route Ascent: 877 m

Route Time: 3-5 hrs

Start and Finish: Old Station Car Park, Old Furness Road, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8HU

Depending on the featured walk and especially in mountainous areas, you may need to Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in to your own pace.


There are toilets at the Tourist Information Centre in Coniston and also next to the garage on the Main Road

Coniston has a variety of choices for food and beverages. For more information have a look at the TripAdvisor Website 


Climbing to the summit from Low Water winds its way up South Eastern side of the mountain and the path can be strenuous. The descent from Swirl How involves minor scrambles and down climbs along the Prison Band

The Urban Ranger Website cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent, and to be able to read a map and use a compass. Plan your route properly with the latest advice from the AdventureSmart website

Public Transport

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Weather Forecast

MWIS Lake District Mountain Weather


A Classic Lake District walk from the centre of Coniston, taking in Swirl How and Levers Water.

Last summer i took a trip to the popular village of Coniston in the glorious sunshine to take on the Old Man of Coniston. With the weather being so good my day was spent on the fells with hundreds of like-minded people. The lakes can get busy at times and especially in the middle of a heatwave.

I have walked this mountain 3 times in the last 9 months, twice in summer and once this winter. I have walked two different routes but the one i am covering on the website is via levers water because in my opinion it offers better views and slightly longer, so you can make a day of it.

Standing at 803 meters (2,634ft) The Old Man of Coniston is a fell which is part of the Furness Fells in the English Lake District.

Situated to the west of the village of Coniston and Coniston Water, The Old Man has seen over 800 years of slate mining and the remains of disused mines and spoil tips are a significant feature of the north east slopes. It is the twelfth most prominent mountain in England.

The walk starts just after the Sun Inn pub on Sun Hill, and can be reached from basically anywhere in the village. If you are travelling in just for the day there are different car parks dotted around the village and one just around the corner from the pub, mind it is not very big so you would have to be early to gain a parking space.

Turning right up a lane just after the pub you will see a marker pinned to the wall signalling the start of the walk. You will walk up the lane and through what looks like a builder’s yard before taking a path to the left-hand side of Church Beck. As you continue you will pass Coniston Waterfall before walking into more open land which will give you great views of the disused mines and quarries as well as Swirl How.

The path bends slightly to the left as you head up to Crowberry Haws where you will reach a little crossroads. Carry on over the crossroads which will then start to wind its way through Stubthwaite Crag and past the remains of the disused mines. this is very prominent due to the old cables tossed across the landscape which even causes a navigation under the cables.

You will continue a steep incline before finally reaching Low Water which appears out of nowhere. This is a great little place to take a break and especially in summer and i enjoy taking five here because i know the next part of the walk is the most demanding. Right above Low Water is the summit of the Old Man, and to the left of the water is the winding path that will take you up to the trig.

As you climb the last leg it zig zags, around the fell and it is at this point if the weather is good you will get great views of Coniston Water to your left. One last push up the fell which involves a middle scramble in places will reveal the trig. On my visit it was very busy and one of the busiest cairns i have had the pleasure reaching apart from the usual suspects of Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike. This proves that the village of Coniston caters for many people during the summer months and The Old man is a popular destination for many.

At the summit on a clear day you will get an impressive 360 and one of the best views in the lakes. From here the next leg of the walk takes us northwards towards Brim Fell which is easy to navigate because the ridge is so wide and there is a well-defined path and cairns. Below you to the right you will see Levers Water which will then give you an idea of the circular loop you will be taking.

After passing Brim Fell you will head towards Great How Crags before finally reaching Swirl How. The path fluctuates up and down and there are bolder fields at times and great vantage points. Swirl How is only 2 meters less in height than the Old Man and as you head right down Prison Band there again is a scramble involved and a steep decent in places but nothing dangerous.

Just before Swirl Hawse you will take the path to the right which will lead you down to Levers Water. The path is defined in places and then leads on to grassland which i guess can get boggy in wet weather. You cannot get lost even if the path does become invisible because Levers Water is right in front of you and if you want to deviate to the right there is a nice waterfall cascading down from Swirl Hawes Beck.

Once you reach Levers Water you can’t help but be impressed of your surroundings and on my visit i stopped for at least an hour and did some sunbathing whilst dipping my feet in the waters. Total bliss i must admit and it gave me time to chillax.

The path down from Levers Water annoyed me if i am honest because it was a mix of scree, stones and pebbles which is obviously man made. Very tough on the tired feet and i was glad when i reached the bottom where the old slate mine is. You will find yourself to the left of YHA Coniston and follow the path back down until you reach a bridge. At the bridge cross over and you will now be back on the path from where you first started.

This will lead you back out to the Sun Inn and having been in the pub it offers a very big beer garden and nice food. Alternatively, there are 3 or four nice pubs in the centre of Coniston if you fancy a celebratory drink.

Verdict on the walk? it was pleasurable and also a little demanding initially, but once on the plateau it’s a great walk with views of the Langdale Pikes and many more, so keep your eyes peeled. Great walk and i would recommend this to everyone.

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