The Old Man of Coniston

The Old Man of Coniston is a fell located in the Lake District, Cumbria, UK. Cumbria’s famous landmark is one of Wainwright’s Southern Fells. This famous fell is the highest point in the Furness Fells, often called the Coniston fells. The Old Man is positioned to the west of the Village of Coniston and the famous Coniston Water lake. As a result, seasoned walkers label it as one of the most popular fell-walking destinations in the Lake District National Park. The Old Man of Coniston walk has multiple routes to the summit with varying difficulties, such as Goat Water, Torver, Dow Crag, Church Beck and Brim Fell. On a clear day, hikers can witness the stunning views and see the Pennines, Blackpool Tower and Scafell Pike.

How high is the Old Man of Coniston?

The Old Man of Coniston is 803 metres or 2632 feet high. It is the highest peak in the Furness Fells.

Why is it called the Coniston Old Man?

The Coniston Old Man got its name from both Celtic and Norse. ‘Old Man’ is taken from the ancient Celtic, ‘Alt Maen’, meaning ‘high stone’. Whereas, ‘Coniston’ is taken from the Norse words ‘Konigs Tun’, which translates to ‘King’s Farm’. Roughly, the whole name can translate as the ‘Old Cairn of King’s Farm’.

Alfred Wainwright Fell

Very few people can describe the beauty of a picturesque landscape quite like Alfred Wainwright did in his book, ‘A Pictorial Guide to the Lake Lake Fells, The Southern Fells’. Wainwright personified the landmark, commenting on the ‘Old Man’ being abused, “cruelly scarred and mutilated by quarries”. Furthermore, the adventurist celebrated the fell retaining its dignity as ‘he’, “raises his proud and venerable head to the sky. His tears are shed quietly into Low Water and Goats Water, two splendid tarns, whence, in due course… find their way into Coniston’s lake, and there bathe his ancient feet.”

Low Water on Coniston Walk

Old Man of Coniston Walk

The Old Man of Coniston walk has a number of routes to the summit from multiple directions, most are navigable with an ordinance survey map. Depending on time of year, some routes are very busy. However, some of the alternative routes have less tourist foot traffic. It is one of the most popular walks in the lake district, due to its stunning view of its powerful ridge that zig zags across the horizon. The summit overlooks many meres and Low Water corrie – an undeniably beautiful tarn that glistens in the belly of the hill. In addition, the summit gives walkers views of iconic peaks in the region, including Scafell and the Langdale Pikes. Finally, at the peak you’ll find the famous cairn of the Old Cairn of King’s Town. Don’t forget to stop at the The Shires Inn for a well deserved pint!

The trail is relatively dog-friendly, although dogs will need to be fit and generally used to fell walking

How hard is it to climb the Old Man of Coniston?

People often ask, ‘How difficult is the Old Man of Coniston walk?’. As mentioned, there are multiple routes which can be taken to reach the summit. Generally, the Old man of Coniston walk is considered a well established and easy to follow route. The ascent of the lakeland fell is a moderate hike with some steep ascents. On the other hand, the descent has rocky terrain in places. Walkers are advised to be careful of slate quarries and copper mines on the route. Nevertheless, the walk can be accomplished by most fit hikers.

How long does it take to climb?

The Old Man of Coniston walk takes 2-3 hours. The Jack Diamond path is the shortest and quickest route to the summit taking only 2.5 hours. Whereas the longest route is a Circular Route taking approximately 4.5-6 hours.



Old Man of Coniston Walking Routes

Coniston Old Man From Coniston

Time: 2.5-3 hours
Distance: 4.7km
Parking: There are numerous car parks near Coniston; Monk Car Park LA21 8AA and Brown Howe Car Park LA21 8DW, Boating Centre Car Park LA21 8EW. Alternatively, tourists park at Walna Scar car park, which is located higher up the path.

The direct route from Coniston most popular walk, and subsequently the busiest. This route takes approximately 2.5 hours and covers a distance of 4.7km. Starting from near the village, the road takes you a long stretch before arriving at Walna Scar car park. From here, the track ventures over Big Hill and The Bell before passing through the disused quarries. The path then steers left to the tarn of Low Water before a sharp climb to the summit of the Old Man.

The Old Man of Coniston Circluar via Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag

Time: 3.5-4 hours
Distance: 9.9km
Parking: Walna Scar road Car Park, LA21 8HQ

This route is a circular route starting from the car park on Walna Scar road, near Coniston in the Lake District. Starting on the track along Walna Scar road, travelling in a westerly direction before turning northwards to starting the real climbing over Brown Pike, Buck Pike and Dow Crag. Hikers venture down the Goat’s Hause pass to view Goat Water tarn on the slopes of Dow Crag before heading to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston

Many walkers talk of the panoramic views from the summit of surrounding hills like Black Combe and the Pennines. Additionally, the Scafell group can be seen to the North and Isle of Man to the West. On descent from the summit, the walk zig-zags down to Low Water before returning to the parking area.

Brown Pike is one of the smaller fells on the route, peaking at 682m high. Hikers then explore the grassy hills of Buck Pike which is 744m.  Finally, near to Walna Scar, Dow Crag peaks at 778m. Dow Crag is one of the more famous Lake District National Park fells on this walk. Dow’s eastern face allows walkers to peer down to Goat’s Water tarn.


Dow Crag


Jack Diamond Path Route

Time: 2-2.5 hours
Distance: 4km
Parking: Walna Scar road Car Park, LA21 8HQ

The Jack Diamond Path route is one of the few walks in the Lake District that is named after a person. Jack Diamond was a teacher from Coniston who was renowned locally for his role in the Coniston Tigers climbing club. Sadly Jack Diamond died at the very early age of 45 in February 1956. The route is shorter and quicker to ascend and is usually far less busy. Jack Diamond’s route takes walkers over the southeast ridge and joins the main path near to the summit. After crossing Buck Pike and Brown Pike, the descent takes hikers across the Walna Scar Road.


Walking Challenge!

Do you want an even bigger walking challenge? Walk Wainwright’s coast to coast with the Packhorse team. We provide bespoke walking holidays for hikers wishing to explore the famous Alfred Wainwright Coast to Coast.

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