Coniston Caper

Swirl How, Brim Fell & Coniston Old Man 

I never normally win competitions. Even a couple of weeks after winning a weekend at the lovely Coppermines Youth Hostel, I am convinced that there must have been an error about the winner. Anyway my answer to the quiz question was deemed to be the winning entry and the prize was a trip to walk this very fell.

It was a complicated journey by public transport, which only seems capable of transporting people north-south rather than east-west. My journey involved a bus, a metro and two trains followed by three buses to be precise! Were it not for the kindness of a driver who phoned ahead to ask my bus to wait for me at Windermere, I would have  missed the last bus from Ambleside to Coniston.

Coniston Coppermines

Coniston Coppermines youth hostel

Walking a mile up a dark road from Coniston to Coppermines YHA hostel was more than my cheap head torch could cope with, so I was glad when another person headed for the hostel stopped to offer me a lift. Coppermines is a lovely, unpretentious hostel beside a working quarry. It has wonderful views from every window in daylight, a nice big kitchen and a coal burning stove in the lounge. I spent a great evening meeting the other people on the hike.

I felt this opportunity would be a good start to my Cumbrian fells, as well as a chance to stretch my boundaries as a walker. Next morning a group of us set off alongside the waterfall towards Levers Water. Apart from the fact that I kept veering off the scree and onto familiar grass, I coped with the climb up to Prison band where we sat down for a brief lunch.

Prison Band

Lunch at Prison Band

At this point we put on warmer layers in preparation for the cold winds on the ridge path which connects the 3 fells; Swirl How, Brim Fell and the Old Man. I was glad of the guidance I got for the next section, which involved more hands on scrambling and precise footwork than I am used to. Once we reached the summit cairn at Swirl How, it is an easy but lunar looking walk along the ridge path over Brim Fell (which is easy to miss) to the Old Man.

I felt elated once we made it to the ridge. To the west we could just make out the Isle of Man and to the east was a great view of Coniston water and the village with Lake Windermere in the background.


View of Coniston from Coniston Old Man

As a trail bagger I have sometimes wondered what summit bagging was all about, but I can understand how rewarding it is on trips like this. With a group as famous as the Cumbrian fells it is very hard not to start a list of the ones you have done or to resist the temptation of doing more.

Waterfall Coniston Old Man

Waterfall on Coniston Old Man

I felt a great sense of accomplishment about climbing the Old Man of Coniston and I can see the allure of this lovely part of the Southern Fells. I would like to thank the company involved for a great day out.

Coniston Old Man

Coniston Old Man route courtesy of Large Outdoors, Viewranger and Ordnance Survey ©

Tarn Hows circular walk

Walking on my own again, this route was a fairly gentle 8 mile, low level, circular walk with lovely views of the surrounding fells and of Coniston water. I chose the route partly because I have fond memories of visiting Tarn Hows as a child, and partly to get an impression of some of the Cumbria Way which I hope to walk later this year.

Tarn Hows

Tarn Howes near Coniston

The route I had planned took the Cumbria Way northwards to Tarn Hows and followed the scenic National Trust walk around the tarn before returning to Coniston by different lowland footpaths.

Path to Coniston

Path back to Coniston

When I arrived back into the village of Coniston, I went to a local cafe for some tea. Once I had finished I wound my way back up the lane to the hostel, where I spend a tranquil night, curled up in front of the fire which the warden had lit.

3 Responses to Coniston Caper

  1. rucksackrose says:

    Follow up: I am pleased to say that I completed the Cumbria Way in May 2013 pausing by the lovely Tarn Hows for lunch and an ice cream. This epic walk included my fourth Wainwright (High Pike in the Northern Fells) and was a stunning introduction to many parts of the Lake District National Park. The write up can be found under Trails on this blog.


  2. rucksackrose says:

    Thanks for the suggestion Linda. I am looking forward to doing the Cumbria Way.


  3. Linda says:

    Hi Rose
    found your video of walk from copper mines to Tarn Hows on Twitter and enjoyed it, you picked a nice route; found your website here. Our South Lakes National Trust team looks after much of this Coniston/Tarn Hows area; you might be interested in their weekly blog or follow them and others in the NTsouthlakes team on twitter . Good luck with the Cumbria Way this year. Linda.


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