In Explore

Coniston Water

Nestled snugly to the west of Windermere, Coniston and its namesake lake, Coniston Water, takes a little longer to get to when you’re travelling into the South Lakes from the east, but the long and winding road to get there is just as enjoyable as everything that’s on offer upon arrival.

At more than 800 metres tall and looming above the village like a watchful guardian, The Old Man of Coniston is the highest of the Coniston fells and makes for a popular walk with great views of Coniston Water. Bookworms may also recall it being used as inspiration in the novel ‘Swallowdale’ - the sequel to Arthur Ransome’s classic tale of adventure, ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

Perhaps most famous for the record-breaking exploits of Donald Campbell, Coniston Water was the scene of his untimely death while trying to break his own water speed record in his world famous, iconic ‘Bluebird’ craft.

Campbell’s legacy – along with the complete and fascinating history of Coniston, is chronicled at the brilliant Ruskin Museum, which dives further into the history of the village and also delves into the life and work of John Ruskin - one of the most influential figures of the Victorian age, who lived at nearby Brantwood for the last 28 years of his life.

Brantwood

On the eastern side of Coniston Water, Brantwood is now a historic house and museum where you can find out even more about Ruskin’s life. While there, why not enjoy a delicious lunch in Brantwood's Terrace Coffee House & Restaurant, where everything is cooked on-site with fresh ingredients? The house isn’t open yet, but all outdoor areas will be open from July 27 – including a chance to enjoy al-fresco dining.

Explore Coniston Water onboard the Coniston Launch, which takes passengers around Peel Island – the inspiration behind Swallows and Amazons’ ‘Wildcat Island’. There are also special cruises on offer where you will either discover the places that inspired these stories or learn about Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbells’ speed record attempts. Small, private boats can also be hired from the Coniston Boating Centre.

Coniston Coppermines

Coniston is also home to the area’s world-famous copper mining history, with the Coppermines Valley dotted by the remains of the mines and quarries that used to be the focus of the village’s workforce. Most recently, a giant waterwheel has been re-installed in a restored sawmill, which is now used as a popular holiday cottage for visitors in the valley itself thanks to the Coppermines & Lakes Cottage company.

Tarn Hows

No trip to the Coniston area would be complete without some exploration of what many consider to be among the Lake District’s most beautiful and secluded smaller bodies of water, Tarn Hows. Surrounded by trees and gentle hills, this picturesque tarn – complete with a circular walk that the children will love, is a firm favourite for those who enjoy short walks or just a good old picnic on a blanket. This stunning man-made tarn is part of the Monk Coniston estate purchased by non-other than a certain Beatrix Potter in 1929 and is the result of three tarns being joined together in the 19th Century. If you’re a National Trust member, parking is free.

Further adventure comes in the form of Cathedral Cavern - but be warned – extreme care must be taken here. Part of a former slate mine quarry site, the impressive cave is accessible via a series of tunnels – one of which is 100 metres long and requires both a torch and some nerve!

Hawkshead Village

Arguably one of the most beautiful villages in the Southern Lake District, Hawkshead is steeped in history and beauty, a day out in the village is quite simply, an essential part of any Lake District experience. Hawkshead is easily accessible from Coniston by car and also by bus, thanks to the reliable and regular ‘Coniston Rambler’. Seven daily services operate from Monday to Saturday, with four on Sundays, giving visitors an easy way to explore.

Bring spending money, as shops are plentiful - along with quirky attractions like the Chocolate Factory, where visitors can create their own confectionary during special (and wonderfully messy) sessions. The village is also the home of the famous Hawkshead Relish shop, so make sure you stock-up on a few jars of relishes, jams and chutneys!

Historic buildings aren’t in short supply either – take a look at the village church and grammar school for examples of classic British architecture. Hawkshead is also the home of poet William Wordsworth’s old school.

When re-opened on a date still to be confirmed, visitors can also enjoy further insights into the life and work of Beatrix Potter at the Beatrix Potter Gallery. Situated inside what was once the office of William Heelis, Beatrix’s husband, the attraction showcases her artwork and explores her love of the Lake District. You can also visit her ‘Hill Top’ home at Near Sawrey, which is just also just short drive away, whilst the house is closed at the moment, the garden, shop and pop up cafe are now open. Meanwhile, Esthwaite Water is the setting for her story, ‘The Tale of Jeremy Fisher’.

The mighty Grizedale Forest is also nearby, where there are plenty of outdoor spaces and activities to enjoy. There are walking and cycling trails through the forest, sculptures and wildlife to admire, and Go Ape have a tree top adventure course or Segways to explore the woodland on two wheels. Covering almost 25km² and managed by Forestry England, Grizedale also features a visitor centre and is used for the Malcolm Wilson and Grizedale Stages rallies.

Claife Viewing Station

Also between Hawkshead and Windermere is the Claife Viewing Station: A Victorian building built in 1790, rewarding visitors with stunning views of Windermere and a chance to rest those feet at the Café in the Courtyard, which is now open.

Just remember, book your stay in advance, plan ahead as many attractions will need to be pre-booked, and discover this essential Lake District location for yourself.

Related

The Ruskin Museum
Museum

Meet Coniston's heroes, John Ruskin, artist, radical and seer and Donald Campbell, speed ace, and discover the mineral wealth of the fells, all at 'the most thought provoking museum in the Lakes', Rough Guide - all editions.

Brantwood, Home of John Ruskin
Historic House
Brantwood, Home of John Ruskin

Brantwood, the former home of eminent Victorian John Ruskin and a treasure house of art and memorabilia. The 250-acre estate comprises 8 unique gardens, ancient woodland, high moors and meadows.

Coniston Launch Boat trips and tours
Sightseeing Attraction

Enjoy cruising aboard 1920's launches with solar-electric power. A unique and environmentally friendly way to enjoy beautiful Coniston Water. A personal commentary by our crew complements your experience of this wonderful area.

The Coppermines & Lakes Cottages
Self-catering

Many of our cottages are over 100 years old; and most have been sympathetically restored and refurbished to a high standard. Many have outstanding views, log fires, exposed beams, antique furniture, quality and great character

Hawkshead
Village

The pretty, narrow cobbled streets, squares, courtyards and whitewashed cottages of Hawkshead make for an idyllic Lakeland setting.

The Chocolate Factory
Food & Drink
The Chocolate Factory

A unique and interactive experience for children that is truly unforgettable. Childrens chocolate workshop with a retail store selling a large range of chocolates.

Hawkshead Relish Company
Shop - Food
Hawkshead Relish Company

Home of the award-winning makers of relishes, pickles and preserves. There are over 100 hand-made products available to taste before you buy. Hampers made up whilst you wait.

Beatrix Potter Gallery
Museum
Beatrix Potter Gallery

This charming 17th century building, which served as the office of Beatrix Potter's solicitor husband, now houses an annually changing exhibition of Potter's original artwork.

Grizedale Forest & Visitor Centre
Visitor Centre
Grizedale Visitor Centre

Grizedale Forest has activities for all ages from mountain biking to relaxing walks, Go-Ape to sculpture in the forest. The Visitor Centre includes the Forest Shop, Cafe in the Forest and shop.

Claife Viewing Station
Viewpoint/Beauty Spot
Claife Viewing Station

There is a charge for parking but National Trust members park free.

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