Walking with Wainwright – Old Man of Coniston

5 June 2019

Another popular route for followers of Alfred Wainwright’s footfalls through the Lake District, this walk is especially well loved in the summer for its gentle mountain tarns where you can enjoy a swim like no other. This article will show you where to park at Coniston, the difficulty of the walk and how best to plan your day around the Old Man.

Parking in Coniston

Parking at the foot of the Old Man won’t cost you anything on Walna Scar Road, but be warned that the terrain is quite rocky and some cars won’t handle it very well. There are also, understandably, no public toilets in this area so if you feel the need building before you arrive, we would suggest taking a pit-stop in one of the villages shortly before Walna Scar. After that, you’ll have to balance staying hydrated and avoiding drinking too much.

Walking to the Peak

This route is expected to take around three and a half hours, but this will change depending on your own personal fitness. Once you’ve left the car at the free parking on Walna Scar, follow the rocky grey path that snakes through the verge with a gradual incline towards the peak of Old Man. There aren’t many opportunities for you to accidentally wander off the track so it is unlikely that you will get lost on the journey up.

On the first fork in the path, you have the option between travelling left or right. Heading left will eventually bring you back around to the peak of Old Man after ascending Brown Pike and Dow Crag, but it is considered more difficult and time consuming than simply following the shorter path towards the summit of Old Man.

If you have already completed this route before, you might enjoy testing yourself by taking the path left which forces you to take the majority of this walk’s climb quite quickly near the beginning. If you would rather avoid this challenge for now, follow the route past Goat’s water where you can take your first dip of the day and a picnic if you fancy. This route is considered one of the longer routes to the summit, but it is also the most scenic and a relatively gentle ascent.

Once having passed Goat’s water, the route gets somewhat steeper and you’ll find yourself traversing hills and flats in short bursts. Eventually though, you will find yourself at the glorious peak of Coniston Old Man and know that your efforts have been worthwhile.

A Dip in a Tarn

This route is circular, and you’ll find yourself passing Low Water if you’ve followed the right path. Low water is a large tarn that is often half shaded by the slopes of Old Man, but it is also easy to approach and there are plenty of shallow areas for a safe swim or paddle. After the beautiful mountain tarn, your next stop will be at the disused quarries where you can find crumbling buildings and some rusting equipment. There are plenty of opportunities for pictures at Old Man’s various environments, making for a very interesting walk.

Following the quarries, the path continues its gentle descent through grassy terrain, finally swinging back round to the car park.

Where to Dine

Having completed your walk, it’s time to reward your hard efforts with a hearty meal. Drive carefully out of Walna Scar and head towards Coniston for a real treat at either the Steam Bistro – a restaurant open from around 6pm – or The Ship Inn for some good pub grub. If you’ve been out on a morning walk, then you might prefer to stop by Herdwicks Café and Bistro for some coffee and cake if you found your picnic atop the Old Man fulfilling.


When touring the Lake District by foot and car, you want your base to match the standards of your holiday activities. We offer luxury cottages in the Lake District for holidays which truly stand out as pleasurable and fulfilling. The Old Man of Coniston is in a beautiful area with lots of different sights to enjoy, but the walk is also somewhat difficult for beginners so exercise with care and stay in a group where possible.

If you are interested in completing other popular Wainwrights in the Lake District, please check out our following blogs:

Walking with Wainwright – Langdale

Walking with Wainwright – Red Screes

Walking with Wainwright – Easedale Tarn

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