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Coniston Water

Nestled snugly to the west of Windermere, Coniston and its namesake lake, Coniston Water, is one of those little towns which 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 here is just as enjoyable as everything that’s on offer upon arrival.

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

The Ruskin Museum

Campbell’s legacy – along with the complete and fascinating history of Coniston, is chronicled at the brilliant Ruskin Museum, which also delves deeply into the work and life of influential writer John Ruskin: One of the most influential figures of the Victorian age, who lived at nearby Brantwood for the final 28 years of his life. On the eastern side of Coniston Water, Brantwood is now a historic house and museum where you can find out more about this fascinating man’s life. The house isn’t open just at the moment, however one can explore the beautiful gardens as well as enjoying a delicious lunch in Brantwood's Terrace Coffee House & Restaurant. 

The Terrace Coffee House at Brantwood

Coniston is also home to the area’s world-famous copper mining history, with the Coppermines Valley located just above Coniston dotted with the remains of the mines and quarries that used to be the focus of the village’s workforce.

Upon arrival, you cannot help but spot the famous fell, The Old Man of Coniston, looming above the village like a watchful guardian. At 803 metres tall, it is the highest of the Coniston fells and makes for a popular walk with great views of Coniston Water. Bookworms may also recall it from the novel ‘Swallowdale’, the sequel to Arthur Ransome’s classic tale of adventure, ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

Steam Yacht Gondola and Brantwood on Coniston Water

Another way to explore Coniston Water is on the Coniston Launch or the National Trust-operated Steam Yacht Gondola, with an opportunity to sail around the novel’s ‘Wildcat Island’, inspired by the lake’s peaceful Peel Island. The Steam Yacht Gondola option is perfect for those who fancy a more Victorian-style sailing experience. Alternatively, you can hire your own boat from the Coniston Boating Centre.

No trip to Coniston 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. 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. Surrounded by trees and gentle hills, is a firm favourite for those who enjoy short walks or just a good old picnic on a blanket. Exciting and tranquil in equal measure, it is an unbeatable family-friendly day out.

Tarn Hows

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! Inside the cavern itself, it is virtually impossible to resist shouting “hello” at the top of your voice, to enjoy an impressive echo. The central pillar before you is mighty, the fallen rocks to your right look heavy; and the pool in front of you is deeper than it looks. Above, a gaping hole allows daylight to flood the cave, with dreams of treasure and adventure sure to be sparked.

Hawkshead

Just a short journey from Coniston is the village of Hawkshead, where you can enjoy an insight into the life of the creator of Peter Rabbit at the Beatrix Potter Gallery* – in a building which was once the office of William Heelis, Beatrix’s husband, which now 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. Hawkshead is also the home of poet William Wordsworth’s old school*.

On the eastern side of Coniston Water is Grizedale Forest, where there are plenty of outdoor activities on offer. 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.

The Coniston Inn

After all this adventure, you are sure to be ready for some good food and drink and comfortable bed for the evening. Well, from rooms offering spectacular scenery of the surrounding mountains, fells and lake, to full Cumbrian breakfasts, hearty lunches, evening meals and small plates and snacks in between which proudly showcase local produce, The Coniston Inn is the perfect place to relax and recharge ready for another day of explorations.  

The Coniston Inn

Located on the shores of Coniston Water, this classic Lakeland slate building has undergone an exciting refurbishment ahead of its reopening just this summer. So, if you’re looking for a place to escape the crowds, then The Coniston Inn is the perfect base from which to explore the magnificent landscape and wealth of nearby visitor attractions set within the Lake District National Park World Heritage Site.

To book your break at The Coniston Inn, visit https://www.inncollectiongroup.com/coniston-inn/

*At the time of publishing this blog, due to Covid 19, this venue is currently closed. Please make sure to check with individual venues before making your visit.

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