The Coniston Heights: The Old Man to Swirl How

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Coniston Old Man has long been a popular ascent and still is, judging by the numbers going up there. Yet go a mere five minutes beyond the summit and the crowds vanish. Carry on towards Swirl How and if you do see anyone they will have boots and rucksacks, unlike the sandals and carrier bags on the Old Man. The Old Man is a great walk, but the extension to Swirl How makes it even better.

This route starts at the car park at the end of the Walna Scar Road, but can also be started in Coniston Village. From the car park, the route follows what is best described as the 'Tourist Route', the good track that winds up through the old quarry and mine workings. After passing Low Water the path continues up to the summit.

The broad ridge running north is followed to Swirl How, with outstanding views over most of the tops of the Lake District. The descent from Swirl How is down the East Ridge, better known by the ominous name of Prison Band; a good path then descends from Swirl Hawse to Levers Water. From here there are alternatives, but my route is under Kennel Crag towards the youth hostel at Coppermines Valley. From here the Coppermines track is followed down as far as Miner's Bridge, before branching off for a short and gentle ascent back up to the start.

England - North England - Cumbria - Lake District - South West


Cafe, Food Shop, Gift Shop, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Lake/Loch, Museum, National Trust, Pub, Public Transport, Restaurant, River, Tea Shop, Toilets, Waterfall, Wildlife, Woodland
30/03/2022 - Marie Eperson

We did this walk end of March & it is a fantastic walk but I would agree with previous comments that it's not a moderate walk. The climb down from 5 to 6 is difficult going, picking your way down through the rocks & boulders (perhaps we should have done the route in reverse as suggested on another comment). Also the track below the tarn before point 7 was hard going - it has been re-gravelled - but the stones are very large & very awkward to walk on, we gave up just over half way between the tarn & point 7 - we saw a path to the left which took us into the next valley & down to join back up before point 10. It also took us 6.5 hours - some of that was me slowing down due to problems with my knee towards the end, but even without that I think it would have still taken an hour longer than stated.

29/09/2020 - Patricia Daw

We completed this fabulous walk on the last Tuesday in Sept 2020. A moderate walk it says, that's us never doing a challenging one! ?? It was tough going up. We walked from our holiday home rental in Coniston village. The toughest bit though was the going down from 5 to 8. It was either awkward boulders or too big steps to take. Anyway for us two late 50 year olds used to walking in Surrey it was hard but gave us a real sense of achievement. One thing to note though is that both our phones clocked the walk as over 12 miles!! It took us 6.5hrs.

16/08/2017 - Ian Cutler

Just done this walk 15/08/17 For whatever reason my satmap reversed the route starting at W.P 11, this made the walk more of a longer climb up past the copper mines and the weir taking an anti-clockwise path, on reflection it proved better this way as the ascent between Scar Hawse and the ridge must be a difficult descent, easier to come down from the Old man which is obviously easy steps for the most part. The views from the ridge, breath taking, if you have any left that is. You must do this one.. (In reverse)

20/08/2015 - Paul Shorrock

Re-walked this route on 8 August 2015. The route is still very much as I first described it, the only noticeable change being that one of the rusty metal poles at Waymark 7 has been broken off! Paul Shorrock

11/05/2015 - Peter Duke

Did this walk in May 2015. Although very enjoyable, I would say the descent from Swirl How could be categorised as 'strenuous as the path is at best 'vague' so you pretty much need to find your own way down (although the direction is clear as you can see the path you are aiming to join)

22/06/2014 - Robert Hughes

This is tremendous walk providing stunning views across the Lakeland fells that you don't get simply by sticking to the Old Man. The 'tourist route' is fine during the week and does have the added interest of all the old mine workings and excellent views to the east. The best is to come on the summit of Swirl How and the descent to Swirl Hause. Views of the Scafell range, Crinkle Craggs, Bowfell and the Langdale fells, all viewed from the south are superb. The directions were excellent - accurate and clear and all on good paths.

21/05/2010 - Roger Middleton

Did this walk in May 2010. Path up Old Man very good underfoot, and once on top, you maintain altitude on a broad, easy path along a wide ridge to Swirl How. Stunning views to Blackpool in the South, Isle of Man in the West, across the Solway Firth in to Scotland and to Cross Fell in the East. Ideal introduction to walking the higher fell tops. The group I took unanimously agreed that it was easier than the shorter climb up Haystacks. Fantastic walk - just do it!

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26.1 Miles
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