Coniston Old Man & Dow Crag Walk

Coniston Old Man

Coniston Old Man is one of the most popular mountains in the Lake District National Park. At eight hundred and three metres above sea level The Old Man of Coniston is the highest of the Coniston Fells. Hidden behind its bulk is the awesome Dow Crag above the beautiful Goat's Water. Dow Crag seen from Coniston Old Man is a foreboding hundred metre tall rock face. Its summit is a fantastic place - unlike most mountain summits it has escaped human interference and is just exposed natural rock. This walk ascends the popular route from Coniston Village via Low Water and the slate mine ruins. The route then crosses Goat's Hawse to reach Dow Crag before descending the Buck Pike and Brown Pike ridge to meet the Walna Scar Road that will take you back to Coniston Village. This is a fantastic walk that shows you two very different mountains. The walk back along the Walna Scar Road is fairly rough and lengthy.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the centre of Coniston Village at grid reference SD 301 975. There is plenty of parking around the village in various car parks. On quieter days, you can often find free roadside parking. The village has excellent public transport routes provided by local bus services from Ambleside and Ulverston.
  2. From the bridge over the Church Beck in the centre of Coniston Village, take the road that ascends away from the village in a north west then westerly direction. You will pass the Sun Hotel & Inn before reaching the small hamlet of Dixon Ground.
  3. At Dixon Ground turn right on a signed footpath that heads behind a few small cottages and through a farmyard. Follow the track through the farmyard to open land then cross a small bridge over a stream.
  4. The path will then steadily climb as a cobbled track. It eventually joins the valley of Church Beck with its fast waters and waterfalls below to the right. After a while you will reach a point where the path splits; one way heads over the gorgeous little stone bridge known locally as the Miners Bridge, the other past the Coppermines Valley.
  5. Here do not head over Miners Bridge over Church Beck, instead carry on ascending the path in a north-west direction as it edges the Coppermines Valley. As the path climbs above the valley the remotely located Coniston Coppermines Youth Hostel will come into view to the right and the full aspect of the Coniston Fells will open ahead.
  6. Continue ascending the obvious path as it rises above the valley and heads towards The Old Man of Coniston. The path passes through two walls and continues on for another four hundred metres until it turns left then joins a wide track coming from the south.
  7. Turn right on to this wide track. After forty five metres there is a track to the right, ignore this and continue on the same wider track. This wide track then snakes its way up the fell passing the many interesting relics of Coniston's industrial mining past.
  8. The mines are a fascinating place. The old Blondin cables from the mines runway are still present. At grid reference SD 279 980 the main engine room building is still in a pretty good state considering just how long ago it was shut down, and the engine case itself is still standing. There are a few rail lines from the old mine trucks.
  9. The Coniston fells were mined for Copper in the middle of the 19th century. The veins of copper hidden thousands of feet below the fells contained a copper ore called chalcopyrite; a mix of copper, iron and sulphate. As the veins were so deep underground, the miners worked extremely hard in horrendous conditions, often using huge unstable wooden ladders to reach their workplaces.
  10. Getting the ore from those huge depths up to the tramways was no easy task. The mines went into decline in the late 19th century and were then abandoned. The machinery and buildings lie derelict today and have become a fascinating feature of this landscape. The mines gave birth to the village and gave hundreds of men and their families a living. Coniston owes its existence to the copper mines.
  11. The path continues to snake its way up the mountain beyond the mines and after a few hundred metres reaches the small ampitheatre of Low Water, surrounded by the Old Man's huge crags. This is a beautiful small tarn that can look incredible during winter months when iced over, against the backdrop of the steep snow covered cliffs.
  12. Continue on the ascent of the path which now zigzags its way up the north eastern shoulder of the Old Man. The summit is only a few hundred metres away but the path is steep. The zigzags do take away the steepness but also add a little distance.
  13. The views on a clear day from the north eastern shoulder of Coniston pan out over the full length of Coniston Water and out to Morecambe Bay. The path will reach the summit sooner than you think.
  14. The summit of The Old Man of Coniston has a standard trig point and an impressive stone cairn on a large slate platform. The views include the Scafell's, Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea. On a clear day the Isle of Man can often be seen and gives the impression it is a lot closer that it actually is.
  15. Over towards the western side of the mountain you will see your next objective. Look directly west and you will see Dow crag across the way. From here the foreboding hundred metre tall rock face looks stunning as it falls down in to the beautiful Goat's Water.
  16. From the summit follow the obvious path that heads north-west for two hundred metres then turns north. After following the path north for fifty metres a smaller path leads off to the left again in a north-west direction. Follow this path and ascend to Goat's Hawse, the col between the ridge and Dow Crag.
  17. At Goat's Hawse a footpath heads south off the col to Goat's Water. This path leads to the Walna Scar Road and can be used as an escape route in bad weather or to create a shorter route for anyone not wishing to climb Dow Crag.
  18. However to climb to the summit of Dow Crag head straight on in a westerly direction. The path rises then turns left and heads south towards the summit of Dow Crag. The summit of Dow Crag is definitely one of my favourites. It is a huge and gradual point of large boulders, quite difficult to get to, and not at all people-friendly.
  19. Unlike the flat and often popular summit of The Old Man of Coniston, Dow Crag feels airy, exposed and isolated and has no trig point, cairn or other sign of human intrusion, which is very rare these days. Standing on this summit makes you feel like you are on a proper mountain. Carefully take a look down over the daunting drop of the crags to Goat's Water for a leg trembling view.
  20. Leaving the summit the path now descends south down the ridge passing over the two bumps of Buck Pike then Brown Pike, keeping to the crest of the ridge most of the way. The path leads south west off Brown Pike on a steep descent to reach the Walna Scar Road.
  21. Turn left to head east when you reach the Walna Scar Road. The route is now very obvious as Walna Scar Road skirts the south side of The Old Man Of Coniston and leads east back towards Coniston Village.
  22. At the end of the Walna Scar Road simply follow the minor roads downhill back into Dixon Range and then back into the village centre. The village of Coniston has numerous places for you to eat, drink and socialise. There are many places to stay too and Coniston is a great base for a weekend in the Lake District.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL6 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 96 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland West Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.