During the Coniston Walking Weekend 10-12 March 2017, it was wonderful meeting new guests coming on their first Country Adventures guided walking holiday, together with people on their multiple Country Adventures walking trip. That’s what always makes our waking tours special, the chance to introduce new walkers to some magical places, and seeing good friends from previous tours.
The Old Man of Coniston was our first mountain guided walk of the weekend. Standing at 803 metres above sea level, Coniston Old Man is as synonymous with the history and heritage of the Lake District, as Kendal Mint cake is. Alfred Wainwright said it best (1958), “Best known of the Coniston fells is the Old Man, a benevolent giant revered by generations of walkers.”
Wainwright was absolutely right, and whilst there are higher and more strenuous Wainwright Lake District mountain summits to tackle, Coniston Old Man is a classic walk, with waterfalls, hidden mountain tarns, remnants of the famous Coniston Copper Mines and stunning viewpoints.
And in spite of not having clear blue skies for the day’s hike, there is so much to enjoy and see at close hand on this walk, on good mountain footpaths and trails.
It’s a pleasant, steady walk from the centre of Coniston village, up alongside Church Beck where you’ll occasionally find Country Adventures groups gorge scrambling and canyoning down waterfalls. The walking route reaches the Miners Bridge and from there, the old copper mining landscape is laid out in front of you with distinctive slate quarry houses and mounds of slate deposits. It’s a tranquil setting, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, all very different activity from the 16th and early 20th century when it was a working landscape, as miners mined the rich deposits of copper deep in the mountains.
The beauty about the walk, is that you get to see dismantled machinery and tunnels in the mountainside, reminding all that see it, that this is the heritage of Coniston and an important time in the history of Cumbria.
Reaching the summit of Coniston Old Man required the last uphill push on this day’s route, with plenty of smiles of accomplishment from the group when we stood beside the Ordnance Survey trig point that highlight’s the top.
From the Old Man summit, the footpath levels out across the top before gently descending along various routes from the top, some more obvious than others. We like to take walkers along the less obvious path, as it’s usually quieter and a good route to reach the stone steps at the top of the footpath that leads down to the picturesque tarn of Goats Water.
Goats Water is a nicely secluded mountain lake, a wonderful reward after reaching the summit of Coniston Old Man and making your way downhill when you think you’ve seen all the best viewpoints on the walk. Goats Water is a great place to stop and take stock of the day’s walk thus far, and if you’re in luck, you might just see a rock climber scaling the side of Dow Crag on the opposite side of the lake.
The route from here is relatively flat with the landscape changing from rock and grey slate to a flatter greener view on the return to Coniston village just a few easy miles away.
On Sunday, for the weekend’s second day guided walk, we headed for the popular beauty spot Tarn Hows, once owned by Beatrix Potter. A scenic woodland trail from Coniston village provides the ideal contrast from the previous day’s walk and a perfect opportunity for the walk leader to talk about the valleys of Lakeland which introduces the valuable contributions from the likes of William Wordsworth, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.
Many people flock to Tarn Hows especially in the summer months. At this time of year it makes for the perfect Sunday walk, completely peaceful and a rich forest landscape around the tarn to wander through as you indulge in a leisurely hill walk in a very scenic landscape complete with a mountain backdrop.
A further highlight of this walk is reaching Coniston Water, one of the 16 major lakes of the Lake District and well known for the setting of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, Malcolm and Donald Campbell’s water speed record attempts, and Brantwood, the home of art critic and social thinker John Ruskin.
We absolutely love this lake, full of history and charm and a great place to end a walking weekend at, finishing with refreshments at the Bluebird Café – Bluebird being the name of the speedboat piloted by both Malcom and Donald Campbell.
Read customer tour reviews of the tour.
Photo album from the Coniston walking weekend.
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