What To Do

Coniston Water

Map based on Ordnance Survey mapping by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. © Crown Copyright.

Summary: A circular walk beside Coniston Water, through glorious woodland and over delightful open fell.
Length of Walk: 5 miles.
Start/Finish: Park in the national park car park’s small layby on the A5084, just below Hadwin’s gorge, a mile south of Torver.
Terrain: Easy going along clear paths.

Leave the layby by a path through bracken, signposted Coniston via Lakeshore. Climb the slope for your first glimpse of the lake. Pass through a kissing gate and descend steadily to come beside a wall, over which lean some fine larch trees. Follow the clear path (Cumbria Way), watching for a glimpse of the long slim Gondola.

The steam yacht, a mixture of a Venetian gondola and an English steam yacht, was originally launched from Coniston Hall for service on Coniston Water in 1859. In 1937 her boiler was sold to power a saw mill and the hull became a houseboat. In 1963 she was stranded ashore after being washed in during a storm. In 1977 the National Trust began the long task of rebuilding her. Three years later the yacht re-entered service on Coniston and now carries 86 passengers in an opulently upholstered and heated saloon. It was on Coniston Water, in 1967, that Donald Campbell, in his boat Bluebird, tried to break the water speed record. At great speed the boat somersaulted and disappeared into the lake’s very deep water. Campbell’s body has never been recovered.

The path continues beside the lake and its pebbly shore. Sit on a seat on a rocky outcrop, below birch ~ a good place from which to enjoy the extensive view of the lovely lake. Follow the path as it climbs above the shore, passing through oaks and birch and then a large area of juniper. Step across the small stream issuing out of Moor Gill and move onto the shore to look for pieces of slag.

This is probably the site of an old bloomery. Iron ore was brought by barge from Nibthwaite at the foot of the lake to be smelted, using charcoal obtained from the coppiced woodland. It was easier to transport the ore than the enormous quantity of charcoal required for smelting.

Climb the next slope and follow the clear path to pass through a gate and then follow it as it drops down beside the lake to pass through another gate. Beyond, walk on to take the continuing waymarked path. Pass the end of a wall and go on into a grassy clearing. Fifty yards along, take the track leading left, away from the lake, signposted Torver.

Stride the good path, ignoring any side turns, through more woodland. Go through a gate and saunter on, with Coniston Old Man ahead. Pass through the next gate to walk a walled track. Climb the stile and continue along another wide track to pass some lofty beeches on your left. Stroll on to cross a narrow lane and take the stile opposite. Beyond follow the path as it meanders a little, with Torver church away to your left, to a ladderstile to the trackbed of the old Furness railway.

In 1859 Coniston village was linked by rail to Foxfield. This enabled large quantities of slate quarried in the fells to be carried away for processing. In 1958 this delightful nine-mile line, which also carried goods, tourists, school children and many passengers, passing through glorious countryside, was closed.

Go up the opposite side of the track and walk ahead to pass through a gap in the fence and on to a kissing gate to the A593. Turn left, cross the bridge over Torver Beck and take the narrow lane on your right. After 75 yards, climb the sturdy stone-stepped stile on the left. Walk ahead on a walled grassy track. Climb the next stile. Fifty yards along go through the easy-to-miss gap stile on the left and then straight ahead across the pasture to another stile beneath a tall ash. Pass through a gap ahead and walk on with the wall to your left. Follow it to a step-stile beside the churchyard and opposite Church House Inn.

Walk right to pass the Wilson Arms and take the quiet lane that runs parallel with (to the right of) the busy A-road. Take the signposted gate on the left, beyond the last cottage. Stride ahead to a gate to the busy road. Cross to take the stile opposite. Walk ahead to cross a footbridge and a stile. Walk on to the right corner of the pasture to take a gate onto a narrow lane. Bear left and immediately walk right along another narrow lane. Where it swings sharp right, go through the well waymarked gate on the left. Continue on the clear way until you reach Torver Mill (a three-storeyed dwelling) on your left.

For several centuries there was a corn and fulling mill (or walk-mill) at Torver. In fulling, the woollen cloth was walked upon or pounded by hand and then stretched out on sunny banks to dry, held in place by pegs.

Do not cross the bridge but turn right to walk another walled track. Pass through the gate onto the common and go ahead along the track following the overhead power lines. Stroll on with the attractive disused reservoir to your right.

When the path comes to a small dam, on your right, and before you cross the small beck issuing from the reservoir, turn left and descend for 150 yards beside the tree-lined gill now on your right. Turn left and dawdle along the good track that goes downhill, steadily, through the lovely Mere Gill to a footbridge over the Torver Beck. Beyond follow the path up the slope. Cross the road to rejoin your car in the layby opposite.

From Walks Around Coniston & Hawkshead by Mary Welsh

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The information given in this walk has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a general guide. Whilst all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that details were correct at the time of publication, the author and Country Publications Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies. It is the responsibility of individuals undertaking outdoor activities to approach the activity with caution and, especially if inexperienced, to do so under appropriate supervision. The activity described in this walk is strenuous and individuals should ensure that they are suitably fit before embarking upon it. They should carry the appropriate equipment and maps, be properly clothed and have adequate footwear. They should also take note of weather conditions and forecasts, and leave notice of their intended route and estimated time of return.