The Old Man mountain reaches 803 metres above sea level. Being the highest of the Coniston Fells, it offers some great views over the village of Coniston and a lake of the same name.
Awaiting us on the top of the Old Man were gales and gusts. We hurried towards the stack of slates in the middle, the only available shield against the freezing wind. Also, I was worried that I would be blown off the mountain if I hung out near the edge. That would not be fun!
While others took selfies and photos of each other on the top of the mountain, we sat down and dug deep into our bag for spare warm clothes. Ian found an extra scarf and a pair of socks. I didn’t waste a second to put my hands, unfashionably, inside the socks as my fingers started to become numb. His experience of hiking in the Lakes had saved me (and my hands).
From all directions the gusts came at me, my ringing ears and my watering eyes, yet it was only noon on an October’s day. What would it be like in the winter? I tried not to imagine it.
Eventually, another hiker offered to take some photos for us. I was glad to have something to commemorate our hike, though I was even happier when we started to descend.
The climb, both up and down was physically challenging and not without many precarious spots, though it was exhilarating all the same.
Near the foot of the mountain, the path is mostly even and more obvious. Closer to the top, hikers just have to go with whatever they can find. It means gravel, loose stones and unstable steps made up by broken slate. Once or twice, one might even need to use her hands.
The side of the mountain is bare, leaving hikers fully exposed to the strong winds. About halfway from the village to the mountain top, you can drop down to a secluded lake and its basin for a break from the cold and exhaustion.
On our way down, we saw some children on a school trip. The guide gave instructions as if he was a sergeant but some of his soldiers looked like they wouldn’t be able to make it any further. Having fallen at the rear end, a boy lay flat and pale on the big stone. Ian wanted to give him the battered Mars bar we had been carrying around, but I thought that would single out him and his weaknesses. He looked like he was too exhausted to care about anything else but getting off the mountain, though.
We also met other people, who were full of doubts when they saw their distinctive path turn into zigzags among scattered slate piles. We assured them with big smiles and pointed firmly to the windy peaks.
We made it down to the village just after 3 pm. Five and a half hours of hiking left us craving some hefty pub food like gammon steak or sausages and mash. We got into the closest pub and were told that they had just stopped serving lunch. Google said the same thing about the other two pubs in the village. It’s the village life for you, my friends. I would never be able to get over that. Where I am from, you can always get food no matter how late - or how early.
When the pubs are open in Coniston though, you can get decent food and enjoy some tasty local beer. The Sun Inn was our favourite.
Coniston Water is the third largest lake in the English Lake District. You can have a pleasant stroll or bike ride in the green areas around the lake. There are also boat services.
How to get there
In general, it’s not easy to get the Lake District on public transport. If you want to go to Coniston, you can get the train to Windermere, then take a Stagecoach bus from there. There are 4 buses a day when it’s not on a Sunday or during public holidays.
Driving is a much more common choice for the convenience and the amazing views around the area.
You might also be interested in other hiking posts on this blog: