Coniston inhabits some of the finest walking country in the Lake District, and the surrounding fells are well known to walkers and climbers. Coniston Old Man dominates the skyline behind the village, and also nearby are Wetherlam, Dow Crags, and Swirl How. Beatrix Potters extensive Monk Coniston Estate, lying between the lake and Skelwith Bridge, contains superb countryside for ramblers, and further to the south and west the land is more gently appointed, with many excellent picnic and bathing spots at the far end of Coniston Water. We suggest the purchase of a good map and guidebook for anything more than the simplest rambles. Here we list a few of our own recommendations:
A mostly level, wide, and well laid path runs by the side of one of the prettiest tarns in the Lake District. Tarn Hows is delightfully set amongst trees on the high ground above Coniston, and offers an easy circular walk by the waterside. The beauty spot is part of the Monk Coniston Estate, donated to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter, and a walk here ranks as one of the essential things to do near Coniston during your stay. There are also several routes that take in the tarn as part of a longer, more rugged ramble. Park at the large National Trust car park near the tarn. 1 hr.
A short distance from Coniston on the A593 towards Ambleside, you will see a turn for Tilberthwaite. The car park towards the end of this delightful little road allows you to start an ascent of Wetherlam through the former mine workings near the small Hamlet of Tilberthwaite, but it also marks the start of a lovely lower-level walk to one of the Lake District’s gems, the valley of Little Langdale. You can make a circular walk, incorporating stops at The Three Shires Inn for refreshment, and at Cathedral Cavern, a spectacular product of slate quarrying with tunnels through the hillside that will fascinate children and adults alike. This walk provides tremendous views of the Langdale Pikes. 2 – 3 hrs.
Head for the marina by the lakeside, but deviate onto the Cumbria Way path running south. You can make a circuit through woodlands and walk on wide level paths through the grounds of Coniston Hall and the associated campsite, taking in lake and mountain views. Suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. 1 hr.
One of the most popular fell walks in the whole Lake District, and with good reason. There are several routes to consider, and we recommend making this a circular route. One of the main track runs up through the old mines, but you may prefer to continue on the Walna Scar Road and start the ascent further on, before descending this way. The views are stunning, especially if you choose to include Dow Crags, high above secluded Goatswater, in your plan. There is a car park on the fell side at the top of the steep lane climbing up from the village. 2 ½ – 3 ½ hrs.
This wide bridleway runs beneath the slopes of Coniston Old Man and provides an excellent route for walkers and mountain-bikers. You can start from Coniston village, or cut out some steep ascent by driving to the top of the little road up to the car park on the fell side. As well as acting as part of a circuit taking in Dow Crags and Coniston Old Man, the track can take you to Walna Scar itself and nearby White Maiden. Mountain-bikers may wish to create a circular ride including Seathwaite and Torver, and this is often done with the Walna Scar Road as part of the return leg.
Some excellent walking is to be found amongst the trees of Grizedale Forest, and you can start at any of the forestry commission car parks, or at the main visitor centre. Several marked trails run from here, and look out for the sculptures dotted about the woodlands. This is a good choice on rainy or windy days, too, as the trees give some valuable protection from the elements. The trails are perhaps most suited for mountain biking, and you can make a great ride or walk of any length here. Head to Hawkshead village and then towards Satterthwaite to find the forest and visitor centre.