The Old Man of Coniston

We got lucky with the weather on the day we made one of the biggest hikes of our trip: to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston, also known as Coniston Old Man or simply The Old Man, England’s 12th highest peak and a popular destination with its many routes up, spectacular terrain, and extensive views in all directions. It was a day we reached five peaks and bagged three Wainwrights!

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Another Travel Day, to Coniston

After our fill of Buttermere, it was time to load up the car and drive again. Just as we had done a few days before, we took a route out of the Lake District National Park and played tourists as we drove to our next base back in the Park at Coniston Village, alongside Coniston Water. We had some fun along the way at a castle, watching birds of prey, and getting over a couple of white knuckle mountain passes in our rental car obviously not designed for those conditions.

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Rannerdale Knotts Circular

For many years, it has been our practice and preference to start our hikes in the morning – it’s usually cooler, with fewer people on the trails, and it allows us time later in the day to take care of our other tasks. This routine didn’t always serve us well in the Lake District – but it was a hard habit to break. It was particularly tough when we awoke to this views like this…

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Wasdale Head and Loweswater

Having decided not to backpack to our next base, we loaded up the car and drove instead via a much longer route that took us out of the national park, then back in, to reach remote and rugged Wast Water. This lake and area have many claims to fame: the deepest lake in England, surrounded by some of the highest fells and spectacular crags in England (Scafell Pike – the highest, Scafell – the second highest, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Lingmell, and Pillar), the 2,000-foot Screes, the smallest church in England, and the self-proclaimed historical center of British mountaineering.

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Scarth Gap to Haystacks

The small village of Buttermere is a popular Lake District tourist spot, and also home to a few working farms. On our next hike, to Scarth Gap and Haystacks, we saw a lot of evidence of the active dairy and sheep farming in the area.

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Scale Force and Windermere

The area around Buttermere Village has long been my favorite in the Lake District. I have visited its two adjoining lakes, Buttermere and Crummock Water, many times over the years, but have never stayed for more than a quick day visit. I was determined that we would spend ample time to explore it well, and even planned to come here twice on this trip!

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and Honister Slate Mine

Our long day climbing Helvellyn was also the last of our days on Ullswater, and it was time to drive to our next base at Buttermere. Good timing! The weather had turned overnight, so we took a leisurely route to visit a couple of places that have withstood the cold and rain for millennia: the Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick, and the Honister Slate Mine on Honister Pass.

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Helvellyn via Striding Edge

Helvellyn is the third highest peak both in England and in the Lake District (don’t worry, I’ll name the two higher mountains in a later post – we tried to climb those as well!). It can be reached from many directions along numerous trails, but the most famous, interesting, and exciting route is from Glenridding via Striding Edge: the knife-edged scrambling trail, or arête. (Note: Helvellyn is a big mountain – it deserves a big blog post. You have been warned.)

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Fell Pony Adventures

It is common for many visitors to England’s Lake District to walk beside the lakes or hike in the fells – alone, with special companions, or in a group. What is less common is to do it alongside creatures that have been specifically bred to work in these hills. We spent a day with Tom Lloyd, owner of Fell Pony Adventures, and two of his ponies, Lucky and Prince, for a hike along the country lanes and through the woods above the villages of Lakeside and Newby Bridge on Windermere. It was a day of hiking as we’ve never had before!

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Aira Force

The weather gods delivered excellent conditions (cool, overcast, and dry) for us to hike up into the nearby hills, so we set our sights on Ullswater’s famous waterfall, Aira Force. Most people in Glenridding walk to and back from the waterfall along the lake, on the Ullswater Way. But to get more distance and elevation, we found a nice loop away from the water and around the peaks of Glenridding Dodd and Sheffield Pike.

We were finally fell-walking!

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