The Lake District Guide

Lake District Mountain and Fell Walks 19

See also: The Twelve Best Walks In The Lakes

The Old Man of Coniston and Brim Fell


Start / finish: The small car park on the north side of Torver Church (donation of £2 towards the upkeep of the church is welcomed), grid ref 286943
Distance: 9 miles/14.5km
Time: 5-6 hours
Height gained: 2400ft/730m
Terrain: Paths and tracks, many reinforced but stony. Take care on the path by Goat’s Water as it weaves between boulders
Refreshments: Two inns in Torver serving good food
Toilets: Nearest at Coniston village
Map: OS Explorer OL 6
Public transport: Traveline 0871 200 2233

Most walkers aspire to reach the summit of the Old Man of Coniston some time in their walking career. Over the centuries it has been quarried, mined and scarred but this does not detract from its dignity, it remains a gloriously inspiring mountain. Brim Fell as a top is quite insignificant but the stroll along the ridge is delightful and the cairn rather splendid.

The Walk

1 Cross the road from the car park, turn left and walk past the little cemetery. Immediately beyond, take the step stile over the wall and head up the pasture beside the wall on your right. Climb a step stile to a fine gate giving access to the next pasture. Walk ahead past the waymark, which stands in the middle of the field, to go through a gap in the wall ahead onto a walled way. Turn right, climb a stile and walk on to a step stile onto a narrow lane and ascend left. Follow the winding lane, left and then sharp right, noting the small signposts that direct you towards Walna Scar.

2 Carry on along the pleasing track where quarrymen used to urge their ponies to work. Go past a barn, ignore a left turn, and continue along the gated track. After passing away on the left, Tranearth climbing hut, cross the wide, flat bridge over Torver Beck. Follow the waymarks, right and then left, through the disused Eddy Scale quarry in the shadow of huge heaps of slate spoil. Continue on the track, with the beck to your left, to pass several more spoil heaps on your right, now with Dow Crag seen ahead. As you leave the waste heaps behind, go ahead to a fence, wind right and then left to pass the ‘big hole’ to see its fine waterfall. Keep on the main track with the beck in its gill to your left and climb the steepish slopes for just over 1/4 mile to reach Walna Scar Road – a stony track, once the old road between Coniston and the Duddon Valley.

3 Turn left and walk on to cross the delightful stone Cove Bridge over Torver Beck after it has tumbled down the slopes from Goat’s Water. Remain on the long stony track for 3/4 mile, passing a tiny stone shelter on the right and a path leading off right towards Blind Tarn – it has no visual outlets. At the cairned brow (Pass) turn right to begin your steepish climb up Brown Pike At the top enjoy the magnificent view over the Scafell range, down into Torver valley and out to the estuary.

4 From the cairn, the path winds north onto Buck Pike and then to Dow Crag. There is a path of sorts through the crags and it comes very close to the edge of the great gullies from where you can peep down the seemingly endless chutes for almost a thousand feet to Goat’s Water. If this is not for you then there is a little path that takes you along behind the crags, both paths bringing you to the top of Goat’s Hause, the narrow col between Seathwaite and Goat’s Water, left by an ice-age glacier.

5 Descend the path to the hollow and then climb up again, following the rough way round boulders, bearing slightly right. Soon it becomes a very wide track, taking you unerringly to the Old Man’ s summit cairn and shelter (2663ft), with breathtaking views and possibly many other walkers! To visit Brim Fell leave the summit, north, by the gently descending wide track along the high-level ridge. After less than half a mile walk right to the beautifully constructed Brim Fell cairn.

6 To return drop down, south- west, along another distinct track to join the main track to the Old Man, taken earlier. Go on down to Goat’s Hause overlooking Goat’s Water. Turn left and descend the mainly stepped way. Then a little path winds through and over the rocks close to the water. Pause here where you might spot climbers ascending one of Dow Crag’s buttresses. The path then begins to climb and there are more rocks and boulders. Soon it winds slightly left through more outcrops and along little gullies between them. Eventually you descend to the more level path that crosses The Cove, keeping the scree slopes of the Old Man to your left. Much of this path has been reinforced. Finally you descend rock steps to Walna Scar Road.

7 Turn left, and in a few steps descend a large ‘roughed’ rock between two small crags, and turn right to start your descent over the grassy swathe through bracken, taken earlier. Retrace your route round the ‘Big Hole’ and through the waste tips. Cross Torver Beck and go through the two gates and carry on along the walled way to return to the parking area.

Copyright Mary Welsh, © 2008. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.