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back to Wainwright Classics

Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag
by Pete Hardy - member no. 9

The village of Coniston has a dominant presence overlooking it in the form of Coniston Old Man, a fell that is an obvious and enticing challenge to those who
lift their eyes from Coniston Water, the stretch of water made famous by the exploits of the late Donald Campbell in his rocket powered Bluebird.

A less obvious presence than the Old Man, but one with a personality of its own
is Dow Crag which, in the words of AW, is a ‘imposing precipice towering above the stony hollow of Goat’s Water’. To get up close and personal with Dow Crag you
have to take a different route to those who follow the direct route up through the mineworkings to the top of the Old Man.

You can start walking from down in the village - this of course has the added bonus of allowing a visit to the Black Bull Inn on your return!


The path heading towards Goats Water


The Walna Scar Road is followed initially before turning off right before Cove Bridge to take a path that rises and skirts the rocky shore of Goat’s Water. Here you can look up at the soaring rock and maybe admire the gymnastic exploits of climbers who cling like flies as they make progress up the five buttresses of Dow Crag - photo opposite. Also, take a minute to consider the bravery of the pioneering climbers of the last century, such as The Coniston Tigers, who climbed these same rock faces shod in nailed boots, cloth caps on heads and placed their faith in hemp ropes! Then shudder at the thought and keep to the path as it rises up to Goat’s Hause.


An obvious path heads up to Coniston Old Man where you can admire the view down to the Duddon estuary, Black Combe and, on a good day, even Blackpool Tower. In the opinion of Wainwright however, fellwalkers will prefer an alternative view and will ‘gaze across the gulf of Eskdale to the natural and unmarked grandeur of the Scafell group’. After taking the obligatory photo by the impressive summit cairn, steps are retraced back down to Goat’s Hause.


View to the North from the summit of Coniston Old Man

Dow Crag is the next objective via a steep climb, and then an airy walk along the ridge leads on to Buck Pike and Brown Pike. At one time there were discussions about the spelling of Dow Crag, or Doe as some suggested – and bearing in
mind the close proximity of Buck Pike maybe they had a point?


Path leading to summit of Dow Crag

The Walna Scar Road is then rejoined for the walk back to Coniston. On the way you can admire the craftsmanship that went into building Cove Bridge which
spans Torver Beck. Also, and possibly of interest to honeymooners according to AW, you might spot a small stone shelter east of Walna Scar Pass.

For more information see Book Four of the Pictorial Guides – The Southern Fells. 

This route is about 9 miles long with 2400ft of climbing and is justification for the reward of at least one pint of Coniston Bluebird Bitter!    

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