It should come as no surprise that Coniston Old Man is one of the Coniston Fells, and the largest of them too. This group is part of Wainwright's Southern Fells, North West of Coniston Water. The Coniston Fells are separated from other fells groups by Coniston Water, Walna Scar Road, Duddon Valley and the Wrynose Pass, giving them an independent feel, despite their traditional Lakeland landscape appearance. This Wainwright fell has been extensively worked for copper over the centuries, with numerous tunnels and shafts riddling the mountainside. Slate has also been cut away from the mountainside, but Wainwright was able to see past the scars, describing Coniston Old Man as retaining 'a proud and dignified bearing, shedding his tears quietly into a lovely tarn at the base of the summit escarpment'.
Most Coniston Old Man walks are started from Consiston village, while another direct route is available from the Walna Scar Road via Goat's Water. Commonly, the fell is included in a Coniston Round, of which there are a number of variations. Wainwright's Coniston Round begins in the village and follows the Walna Scar Road before arriving at Goat's Water and then on to the first Wainwright fell of the walk, the impressive Dow Crag. The path continues along the col to Coniston Old Man, where the view over Morecambe Bay is often being enjoyed by fellow walkers trying to spot Blackpool tower - a practice Wainwright seemed at best ambivalent towards. After the Old Man, the next objective is Brim Fell, followed by Swirl How and Wetherlam, before descending back to Consiston by way of a path alongside Church Beck.
After completing a Constion Old Man walk, hikers will be treated to excellent views, and not just of the distant Blackpool Tower. The Helvellyn Range and the Scafells are both easily spotted and beautiful, while on clear days there are also good views across to the Yorkshire Dales and Snowdon.
Further reading on Coniston Old Man walks and others in the area can be found in Book Four, The Southern Fells of Alfred Wainwright's Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.
Coniston Old Man Summit - Photograph by Stewart Smith Photography