Whilst climbing The Old Man of Coniston have you looked over to your right and noticed that Wetherlam throws out two southerly ridges. One passes over Lower Howes to Hole Rake and is generally known as Lad Stones. The other heads directly south from the subsidiary top of Black Sails and falls over numerous crags ending abruptly at Kennel Crag.
These two ridges make for a surprisingly easy and pleasant walk from Coniston given their distant impression. The gradients are never too severe to be problematic, nor so gradual as to be tediously drawn out. Rough mountain paths, with a minimum of stone pitching, encourage you aloft - and so inevitably into the clouds.
Coniston is closely associated with two people. John Ruskin lived at Brantwood on the eastern bank of Coniston Water which is now owned by the National Trust and Donald Campbell who died on Coniston Water whilst trying to set a new water speed record on 4th January 1967. The Ruskin Museum in Coniston house the remains of Bluebird K7 in a dedicated wing built specially called of course the Bluebird Wing which was opened in 2008.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Wetherlam, Lad Stones, Kitty Crag, Kennel Crag, Erin Crag, and Black Sails; and includes 1 Wainwright, 3 Birketts, 2 Hewitts, 2 Nuttalls, and 1 HuMP.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Return to the entrance beside the Tourist Information Centre and turn left back to the main road opposite the Black Bull Inn. Turn right, and then bear left into the lane between the Black bull and the Village Co-operative shop, signed to Coppermines YHA. Follow the road behind the Inn and shops. Church Beck is soon over the wall to your left as the road climbs gently and passes a few houses. Soon it becomes a gravelled track.
Although Church Beck can be heard, complete with children and the not so young enjoying an afternoon of ghyll scrambling. The beck itself is rarely seen. Just below the Miners Bridge you do get to see one of the waterfalls. Do not cross the bridge, but continue up the gravel road. You soon reach the Coniston Hydro intake dam. About 100m (110 yards) after the hydro, as the valley opens out, bear right up a track. Gently at first but it soon climbs more steeply above Coppermines Cottages. Ignore the track going off left at the sharp right hand corner.
In only 50m (55 yards) from the corner, just before the old mine workings, turn left off the track onto a rough path climbing through the bracken. This junction is easily missed.
Climb steeply up through summer bracken, soon crossing a stone footbridge. Higher up it crosses a number of shallow ghylls. After a couple of zigzags you reach the ravine of Hole Rake. As the gradient eases just before the crest of the pass, bear left on a narrow path to cross the ravine and climb out the other side. The fellside above is now a little boggy and the path widens to try to avoid the worst of it. Keep right for a few metres, then bear left skirting boggy hollows and make for the ridge to the NNW.
Reaching the ridge line bear right. The path improves becoming much easier to follow as it climbs steadily. Wetherlam is not yet in view. The path is clear and unambiguous until nearing the top of Lower Howes, where the ground becomes steeper and more rocky. Only a few, occasional cairns confirm the route to the observant walker. Even when reaching Lower Howes the cairn you think might be the summit of Wetherlam across a shallow depression, is not. The summit lies a little further beyond it.
A precarious cairn sat on the highest rocks at the summit when we visited, but its unlikely to stand for long last unless some bright spark has glued the stones together!
From the summit cairn of Wetherlam head left, westwards, to pick up the path towards Swirl Hawse. Red Dell Head is the small top to your left with Black Sails behind it.
After passing a deep peat hag and the worst of the moss, bear left on a very faint path heading to Red Dell Head. On a clear day the view from this minor top is fantastic.
Bear right dropping down from the top, avoiding the few boggy hollows here. Then climb through the rocks of Black Sails eastern face. A small summit cairn is perched on an outcrop of rock.
From Black Sails bear left, dropping from the immediate summit area. A complicated ridge is presented to you heading roughly southwards. If you find yourself on the right hand side of a shallow gully, bear left to cross it and join the main ridge descending steadily.
Levers Water is way off in the distance to the right of the ridge. Our narrow grass path materialises just to the right of the crest of the ridge and makes for easy walking. Beware of descending either side of the ridge early as after an innocuous beginning there is steep, unforgiving ground below.
As you approach Levers Water the path meanders from one side of the ridge to the other to find an easy way through the crags and rocky steps. Some clambering down is inevitable, but there is nothing that could be classed as adventurous.
At the bottom of Erin Crag the ridge is wider, the dam visible on your right. Turn right and drop down to end of the dam, there is a path if you manage to spot it starting about 20m (22 yards) from the ridge path. Otherwise just make for the dam, off piste.
Cross the dam, preferably with dry feet*, and at the far end turn up left beside fenced off stope and mine entrances. A path firming up on the col leads to a wider path where you bear right. Follow this down to Boulder Valley, and a footbridge over Low Water Beck with the massive Pudding Stone beyond.
Cross the footbridge and follow the path bearing left beside the Stone, and then right to join a terrace above the only working quarry in Coppermines.
Keep on the terrace above some lovely old juniper bushes, to join the main Old Man of Coniston path. Here turn left and then within a few metres as the track swings right, bear off left on a descending path. Go through two gates, and you come out at the Coniston Hydro intake again. Follow the path down alongside Church Beck. Cross at the Miners Bridge to take the track back into Coniston.
* If Levers Water is spilling over the dam turn left and follow the very rough track, zigzags and all, down into Coppermines Valley, and hence back along the track to Coniston.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Tarn Hows from Coniston||58m (64 yards) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston, from Coniston village||85m (94 yards) away|
|Cumbria Way - Coniston to Dungeon Ghyll||140m (154 yards) away|
|Coppermines Valley above Coniston||150m (165 yards) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston||1.5km (0.9 miles) away|
|Dow Crag and Goats Water||1.6km (1.0 miles) away|
|The Old Man of Coniston, Brim Fell, Swirl How, Wetherlam||1.6km (1.0 miles) away|
|Walna Scar, White Maiden, White Pike, with a visit to Blind Tarn||1.6km (1.0 miles) away|
|Tarn Hows, Black Fell, Holme Fell||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|A stroll around Tarn Hows||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|A visit to Cathedral Cavern from Tilberthwaite||3.4km (2.1 miles) away|
|Steel Edge and Wetherlam Edge, from Tilberthwaite||3.4km (2.1 miles) away|
|Carron Crag||4.7km (2.9 miles) away|
|Latterbarrow from Hawkshead||5.0km (3.1 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011