The area around Coniston Water and its namesake village are truly spectacular. As well as famous mountains such as the Old Man of Coniston, the countryside is dotted with tarns and industrial heritage, and Grizedale Forest stretches along the east shore of the lake. As a result, there are several wonderful walks near Coniston that offer plenty of interest.
Don’t forget to book your perfect holiday cottage in Coniston, where you can enjoy lots of walks from the door.
Coniston Old Man
Approximate distance: 10km/6 miles
Start and finish: Walna Scar Road Car Park
Perhaps the most famous of the Coniston Walks, a hike up the Coniston Old Man (with the right precautions, as always) is a must-do when you’re visiting the area! From the top, there are amazing views of Coniston Water and Windermere Lake, as well as the mountains of the Eskdale and Duddon valleys. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Morecambe Bay and Blackpool!
There are lots of different routes up the Coniston Old Man but details of one of the best is in our guide to the easiest way up the Old Man of Coniston.
Coniston Lake Circular Walk
Approximate distance: 25km/15.5 miles
Start and finish: Varies
There are all sorts of walks around Coniston and a full 15-mile circular route will take you right around the lake. It follows the Cumbria Way long-distance footpath and gives you a bird’s-eye view from the top of Beacon Fell. You’ll pass through Grizedale Forest, close by Brantwood House, and alongside tranquil Beacon Tarn. Note that this does not follow the lakeshore for the whole route.
If you have the fitness and the time, this is a wonderful option with lots to see. But you can also break it down by hopping on a Coniston Launch at one of the numerous jetties around the water.
Cathedral Cavern and Hodge Close Quarry
Approximate distance: 4.8km/3 miles
Start and finish: Car park near Bakestone Barrow Wood
Industry can be seen as a blight on the landscape, but at Cathedral Cavern and Hodge Close Quarry, the remnants of the old mining works are as iconic a part of the Coniston scenery as the Old Man of Coniston and the Langdale Pikes. This walk is a fun one, with awe-inspiring caverns to explore, lots of historical interest, and excellent views of the Langdales.
The route starts at an unnamed car park just north of Bakestone Barrow Wood. Walk north to Hodge Close Quarry before following the path left and in a clockwise direction, past quarry tips and fields. Before crossing the river, take a slight detour into Atkinson Coppice, where you’ll also find the spectacular Cathedral Cavern. After taking in the sights, cross the river and circle back to your starting point. Read the full route guide from the National Trust.
Coniston Copper Mines walk
Approximate distance: 8km/5 miles
Start and finish: Coniston village
The area around Coniston was, for a long time, a working landscape, with copper mines in operation for hundreds of years. The remains can still be seen on the surrounding mountains, and this walk is perfect to get a sense of history.
Follow the old railway line out of the village before turning right to follow the path up to Levers Water. You’ll pass by Levers Waterfall as you circle back around the fell and head down to the copper mines proper. Look out for the youth hostel, which used to be the manager’s building! It’s then back on down into the village. The route offers a fairly easy - though sometimes steep - walk with excellent views of the Coniston fells and plenty of interesting historical artefacts.
Coniston to Torver walk
Approximate distance: 7km/4.5 miles
Start: Coniston Boating Centre
Finish: Torver Jetty
The Miles Without Stiles walk from Coniston to Torver Jetty is rated as a ‘route for all’, meaning it’s fully suitable for wheelchairs and prams. The route is linear, and you can catch a boat back to your starting point from the end. However, if you’re looking for a Coniston to Torver circular walk, you can continue beyond the jetty, up to Torver Low Common, through Torver village and back to the lakeshore. Please be aware that this extension beyond the jetty is not part of the Miles Without Stiles route.
This easy walk, though relatively long, is very enjoyable and is one of several walks around Coniston Water. There are views over the lake towards Grizedale Forest and Brantwood House, and the Old Man of Coniston rising up on your other side.
Tarn Hows Circular Walk
Approximate distance: 3km/2 miles
Start and finish: Tarn Hows Car Park
Tarn Hows, though man-made, is still one of the prettiest tarns in an area jam-packed with lovely waters. This is a short, easy and scenic route that’s ideal for families with young children and those with reduced mobility. You’ll pass right by the water and through coniferous woodland. Look out for the docile Belted Galloway cows, used by the National Trust for conservation grazing.
From the car park (free for National Trust members), all you need to do is follow the well-signposted path around Tarn Hows. There are a couple of alternative routes depending on your interests or abilities. Take a look at the full walking guide.
Coniston to Hawkshead walk
Approximate distance: 8km/5 miles
Start: Coniston village
Hawkshead is one of the prettiest villages in the Lake District, and a walk there from Coniston takes in varied scenery including open fields, hillsides, tarns and woodland. There’s a regular bus service between the two villages so you can comfortably complete a linear walk here. However, we’d recommend spending some time in Hawkshead first, which has fascinating connections to William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.
Setting out from Coniston village, you will once again follow the Cumbria Way towards Tarn Hows. You can add in a full loop of the tarn if you like, or else keep to the south shores in order to turn right at Rose Castle Cottage and into Hawkshead Hill. After a short bit of road walking, you’re back on the footpath that cuts right over to Hawkshead.
Monk Coniston lakeside walk
Photo credit: Cumbria Tourism
Approximate distance: 3.5km/2 miles OR 5.5km/3.5m
Start and finish: Monk Coniston Car Park
If you’re looking out for Coniston Water walks but don’t want to do the whole loop, then this ‘there and back again’ walk from Monk Coniston is perfect. It gives you the chance to gently stroll along the beautiful shore at the north of the lake and then wander into and through Coniston village. It’s great for wheelchair or pram users, though a slightly longer route offers more lakeside walking and a circular option. This second section is still a Miles Without Stiles route but will not be as accessible to most wheelchair users.
From Monk Coniston Car Park, simply follow the lake anti-clockwise along the well-marked route. You will follow the road for a while, but the path is set back to keep you away from any passing traffic. Read the full route description.
Coniston to Ambleside
Approximate distance: 16km/10 miles
Start: Coniston village
For a wonderful trail through the beloved South Lakes countryside, a walk between Coniston and Ambleside will do you wonders. This is a linear walk, but there are plenty of buses to take you between the start and finish points. We recommend getting a bus at the start of the walk, but if you choose to take one at the end, you can always pop into one of the many Ambleside pubs while you wait for your ride!
From Coniston village, follow the Cumbria Way towards and around pretty Tarn Hows until you cross the River Brathay. From here, you’ll continue towards Loughrigg Tarn (covered in lilies in summer), skirt Loughrigg Fell, and head on into Ambleside.
There are lots of walks in Coniston, all with interesting history or stunning landscapes. The Old Man of Coniston is a popular mountain walk, while an easier path follows the lake towards Torver Jetty. There are also walks to many popular destinations including Cathedral Cavern, Hawkshead, and Tarn Hows. The Cumbria Way passes through the area.
The walk up the Old Man of Coniston is a mountain walk, and so requires a certain level of fitness, sensible preparation, and an understanding of fell walking. There is an easy-to-follow walk from Walna Scar Car Park, just outside the village. There are several steep sections and other routes are more challenging.
A full circuit of Coniston Water covers around 15.5 miles, or less with a lot of road walking. There are also shorter options, including a Miles Without Stiles route from Coniston village to Torver. Alternatively, you can walk along the shores as far as you like and then catch a boat back to your starting point.
After you’ve finished walking in the Lake District, you’re going to want a cosy and welcoming cottage to come back to. Have a look through some of our self-catering cottages and get your walking holiday sorted today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.