Lake District – Day 4: Coniston and Keswick

Coniston

We decided to head to Coniston to try and climb the Old Man of Coniston.

Once again we used a walking route we found on the web to guide us on our way. We lost faith in the directions pretty quickly after getting lost almost before leaving the town.We parked in a pay and display car park at the tourist information office, to explore a bit around the town first. We headed down to take a look at Coniston Water. It was reasonably nice there. There seemed to be plenty of activities to do there, but nothing for us, so we headed back up to climb the hill.

From the ground, we weren’t sure which hill it even was. We were hoping it was the closer, shorter one without any snow on it. As we walked, it slowly dawned on us that it was in fact the further away, taller one, with lots of snow on it.

But there is no point in getting halfway up a hill only to turn back. So on we went. And what a fascinating walk it was.

On the way up the Old Man of Coniston

The fell is 2,634 feet high. Considering that I am a relatively inexperienced hillwalker, this was a major undertaking, especially since I thought walking up Wansfell (1,597 feet) the previous day was quite a big deal.

The walk begins on a very steep public road, Walna Scar Road. This was actually the most tiring part of the walk, and going down was agonising. We were gutted to discover that at the end of the road was a free car park! This is where the real hillwalk begins. But given that we had walked all the way from the lake, at least we felt like we were doing a full experience.

Quarry on Old Man of Coniston

This is the view from the car park, so there was still plenty of the journey to do. By the time we were here, we were already quite tired, and it felt surreal. We were in a truly unique place that feels like it should be on another world.

The road becomes a restricted byway which leads to the quarry. We witnessed the incredible sight of a rusty truck driving up to the quarry. We were going to try to go further, without the aid of a motor.

The footpath starts off being relatively easy and clear. But after a while it got confusing. There are lots of disused quarries around the area, and it was unclear what was the path to the top, and what was just an old path to a disused quarry, or a path to somewhere different entirely.

Disued quarry on Old Man of Coniston

The path we took eventually led to a disused quarry. There it was very icy, and we had clamber over abandoned machinery to continued. The footpath that was so clear to start off with seemed to just fizzle out into a pile of slate.

I got this far to see if I could work out if we were going the right way. It seemed close to the top of the hill, but it was difficult to tell if this was the right way, or if we had just reached the end of a path to the quarry.

Disued quarry on Old Man of Coniston

The terrain wasn’t particularly inviting. We felt lost, and what little of a path remained was just covered in ice. Given that we also had to climb over old cables, it felt too treacherous.

We were also running out of time for our car parking, which was annoying given that we had passed a free car park on the way.

Sheep on Old Man of Coniston

Reluctantly, we made our way down, stopping off to eat our sandwiches on the way. We had to be careful though. The walking guide we read told us that the sheep up here are renowned for stealing walkers’ sandwiches, and this one was looking right at us as we ate.

Keswick — The Puzzling Place

Our hard-going walk up the Old Man of Coniston came after two other days of near enough solid walking. It was high time we did something a bit more relaxing, so we decided to drive to Keswick to do some stuff in a town.

Anti-gravity stepladder

The drive took longer than we anticipated, so by the time we got there we only really had time to do one thing. We opted to go to The Puzzling Place, a sort of museum of optical illusions. At £3.75 for an adult entry, it is relatively inexpensive. A fun way to spend an hour or so.

The highlight is the truly mind-bending ‘anti-gravity’ room. It’s not really anti-gravity, but the entire room and everything in it is at quite a steep angle. Frankly, it breaks your brain.

There I am attempting to stand straight on a stepladder in the anti-gravity room. The look on my face tells you how unsettling the experience is!

The anti-gravity snooker table was more fun.

We rounded off the trip to Keswick at the Wild Strawberry cafe. On the way back to Ambleside, we stopped off at the Traveller’s Rest near Grasmere. It has a similar vibe to the Kirkstone Pass Inn, but without the big climb towards it.

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