Park in Coniston village car park, in the centre of the village, grid ref 303975.
1 Leave the car park, left, and turn left onto Yewdale Road. Pass the church on your left. At the junction of roads, walk right for a few steps and then cross the road and continue up the lane between the Black Bull Hotel and the tiny supermarket. Carry on to pass Coniston Museum on the your right and walk to the end of the pleasing tarmacked lane. Go on ahead up the continuing rough wide track below Mouldry Bank. Follow it as it winds right, with Church Beck and its many delightful waterfalls beside you on the left, deep in its narrow ravine. Pass Miners Bridge and beyond, part of the unobtrusive hydroelectricity scheme.
2 Carry on along the wide track, into the Coppermines Valley. Go by the miners’ cottages, away to the right (Irish Row), and keep left of the pristine-white youth hostel. At the United Utilities site, where the wide track goes off to the left, take a track to the right, which leads to a T-junction and continues left over a wooden bridge. Follow the track that winds right and then curves, left and upwards. Go past Levers Waterfall soon to reach tranquil Levers Water set in its mountainous hollow.
3 Keep to the right side of the reservoir and then begin your first really steep climb. At times the path gets lost but try keeping to the right where it is marginally drier. Eventually the path becomes more distinct as it moves away from Swirl Hause Beck. Head on up the now obvious way to reach the saddle with its large cairn ahead, and pause to enjoy the view. To the right is the path up to Wetherlam and to the left the steep path, Prison Band, leads on to Swirl How, and this is the direction you take. As you go, pause often to enjoy the views of the Helvellyn massif and the Scafells. And then you arrive at the summit of Swirl How, where you will want to pause again and if the weather is kind, enjoy your packed lunch.
4 Then head south along the splendid ridge – a bit like a gentle roller-coaster ride. It is flat at first and then descends a little, with a great view down to Levers Water to the left and to Seathwaite Tarn on the right. Ascend steadily towards Great How Crags, almost a fell top in its own right. Descend and climb again over Little How Crags to reach Levers Hause. Carry on towards the Old Man, passing Brim Fell’s well made cairn on the left and go on towards the Old Man. The path disappears here as you go on over a wide flat area. Then wind up, slighty left, to the summit of the Old Man with its shelter. Again enjoy the splendid views from the top.
5 Begin your steepish descent, in the direction of pleasing Low Water, leaving in a south-easterly direction.
Very soon the way turns east and then zig-zags north to come down to the side of the tarn. The path takes you on down through the old slate quarries, past collapsed buildings, by an arch and a tunnel. Continue on down the quarry ‘road’ until it begins to wind right (to a car park). Here look for a path going off left. Follow the latter as it curves steadily right, bringing you down through gates, with the distant youth hostel away to your left. At one point you have a choice of two paths and here it is better to take the right one which leads down to the west side of Church Beck. Cross Miners Bridge, turn right and retrace your steps to the village.
- Start/finish: Car park in the centre of coniston village, grid ref 303975
- Distance: 7 1/2miles/12km
- Time: 5-6 hours
- Height gain: 2450ft/750m
- Terrain: Wide tracks and paths, many stony and well used. Indistinct and rather wet above Levers Water, at first.
- Refreshments: Wide choice in Coniston village
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Please read Mary Welsh's Golden Rules for good, safe walking before setting out.