I don’t know what the locals thought on the
4th January 1967 when Donald Campbell started up bluebird K7. As
they finished the last of the Christmas turkey and welcomed in the
New Year, they probably thought that the world was about to end.
As the Metropolitan Vickers turbo jet engine catapulted the brave
Campbell to the edge of 300 mph, the small village of Coniston must
have held its breath as the sounds of thunder reverberated around
Today Coniston and the lake hold no such sound, but the memory
of that fateful day holds fast in this area, and Donald Campbell
and his courage will for ever be part of Coniston, and rightly so.
After his body was exhumed from the depths of the lake in 2001,
he was buried in the area. His memory lives on in a dignified and
graceful way. The café that bears the name of his craft on
the shores of the lake is subtle and well laid out and caters for
the hungry and thirsty masses that flock to the cooling air of the
lake in the barmy summer months.
The village itself is small but an ideal base for starting out
on some of the many walks that flank the village; or a base for
tours of the lake or somewhere to get lunch, tea or an evening meal.
Perhaps you may want to spend a few days or a long weekend in the
area, exploring and enjoying the scenery. The village is simple
and its layout is quickly taken in and has all of the things that
you could need.
Another legend and a name that you will see repeatedly around Coniston,
perhaps even more so than Donald Campbell, is that of John Ruskin.
Artist, critic, radical thinker, revolutionary economist, pioneer,
conservationalist, genius. All of these tags and more have been
applied to the man who called Coniston his home. For 20 years of
his life, this was on the hills over Coniston water in the famous
Brantwood, now a tourist hotspot and a must see for anybody with
an interest in beautiful gardens.
Of course, for all its history and famous alumni, it is the Lake
that holds the charm and tranquility and is most probably the reason
for your visit. And what a lake it is. It is one of the longest
lakes in the Lake District so there will always be somewhere you
can find quiet time on your own and enjoy the lake that inspired
Arthur Ransome to pen Swallows and Amazons. Maybe you would like
to tread the steps that they did. Kachenjunga, wild cat island and
Pigeon Post are all taken from the landscape and add to the romance
and beauty of an area touched by greatness.
Coniston and the lake has many guardians watching over it, but
The Old Man of Coniston, at 2600 feet, is by far the most grandiose
and from every angle and location it washes down over the village.
Many a strained neck has been obtained looking up and many a memorable
view has been obtained whilst looking down from its summit.
“mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural
scenery” John Ruskin.
The tourist information office in Coniston is very well stocked
with all manner of guides and walks and information on local attractions
and shows and festivals in the surrounding area. It is in the centre
of the village where the main car park is. Walk past the church
and it is on the right hand side.
The Ruskin Museum
Completely re-furbished in 1999, the Ruskin Museum is a shining
beacon of all things Coniston. It is a memorial to Ruskin and a
celebration of the great heritage of the area. There are exhibits
on the slate and copper mines that brought the initial wealth to
the area as well as the lace and farming industries, both of which
have interactive computer displays and hands on exhibits. New this
year is the tale section of the tragic Bluebird K7 which was taken
from the lake in 1967 and is the jewel in the Donald Campbell section
of the museum.
The museum has guided walks and audio tour guides and has wheelchair
Family £11.00 (2 adults & 2/3 children)
Open daily March 11th – November 5th
10.00am until 17.30. (last entry 16.45)
This is the abode over Coniston water that Ruskin brought in 1871
to realize his dream and build the perfect house. It is now open
to the public and a viewing is strongly recommended. The rooms still
contain original furniture form his days in the house but it is
the gardens that most guests come to see, especially on sunny summer
days. There are 8 different and varied garden themes, all kept to
Ruskin’s ideals where possible. With fabulous views over the
lake and fells and 250 acres of woodland, pastures and ancient woodland
to walk in you can be lost for hours.
Open daily mid-March till mid-November
11.00am until 17.30pm
Mid-November till mid-March
Open Wednesday till Sunday
11.00am until 16.30pm
Coniston water has served history as fishery, highway and carrier
of goods, now it is enjoying its retirement. The third longest lake
in the county, there is perhaps too much to see and do in one visit,
which is why you will no doubt come back again and again, but for
most, the cruises are a good starting point. The Steam Yacht Gondola
claims to be “the unrivalled cruise experience of the Lakes”.
It is a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht with velvet seats,
brass fittings and a history that the informed crew will delight
in telling you about. Why not stop of at Brantwood and then sail
back home of an evening?
The yacht departs Coniston Pier 5 times a day in summer.
Now if steam power is not environmentally sound enough in this
age of dissolving ozone layers then how about the solar powered
option? Coniston Water Sunshine cruises run services up and down
the lake up to 8 times a day in summer (less in winter, check the
timetable for up to date times) and stop at jetties all over the
lake for easy access to walks, places to eat, places to explore,
Brantwood and other areas of interest. For an extra £1, travelers
on the sunshine cruises can take bikes and dogs with them.
Again, the cruise leaves from Coniston Pier.
Or, why not hire your own small boat from Coniston Pier? You can
do this from the rotunda next to the Bluebird café. They
offer a choice of boats and facilities including hire of rowing
boats, sailing dinghies and electric launches, public slipway and
Boat Storage facilities.
Coniston Sailing Club.
Tel: 015394 41580
Formed in 1967 over drinks in the nearby Ship Inn, Coniston sailing
club has cemented itself on the west side of the lake, a stones
throw from the town itself and watched over by the Old Man of Coniston.
There is racing throughout the year (check timetable for dates)
which could be entertaining to watch, or why not get down there
and have ago yourself. Do not be deturbed by pre-conceived opinions
on sailing clubs, although Coniston does have yearly member ship,
it also realises the importance of tourists in the region and so
offers day membership from as little as £1.50. With a 10mph
speed limit on the lake, it will not be graced with the speeds of
Howard’s Way but the wind can rush down the lake and make
Coniston Brewing Company
Anyone who is familiar with the Lake District and probably most
that aren’t will have at one point or another have had a pint
of Blue Bird Ale. It is one of the most famous ales in the area
and it is brewed here in Coniston, so why not go to the brewery
and watch the magic happen, there may even be a taster available.
Old Man Ale and a whole host of other interesting and delectable
beers are brewed here, all using only natural products and more
importantly, available to buy and drink at the Black Bull and The
The brewery is hidden away behind the Black Bull pub.
Views and trips around the brewery are available on request.
The Forge, Coppermines Road, Coniston
Tel: (015394) 41133
Spoon Hall trekking centre is the ideal starting point for some
horse action. Half a mile beyond Coniston they welcome beginners
and experienced riders on their own unique routes across Coniston
fells with stunning lake views.
They offer 1 hour and 1 ½ hour rides and supply hats.
Tel: (015394) 41391
Tel: +44 (0) 15394 41825
WALKS AND BIKE RIDES
The main obstacle that you are going to face when it comes to walking
in Coniston is choice. Where oh where do you begin? The two obvious
destinations that you will be confronted with are the mountains
to the one side and the lake to the other; would you like to walk
along the beach or in the high mountains and fells that surround
The Coniston Old Man Trail
If you are serious about walking then the Coniston Old Man Trail
should be the first port of call. It is a 6 mile walk up the Old
Man mountain over some rugged, steep and challenging terrain. It
is perhaps the most famous walk in the area but should only be attempted
by relatively healthy and fit people. You are advised to leave 5
hours for the walk and be sure to take the appropriate clothing
The route starts above the centre of the village and head up towards
the Walna Scar Fell Gate (cars can be taken this far if you want
to cheat a little and save the legs for the climb ahead). From here,
head right and don’t forget to check the summit, if it is
covered in cloud then do not attempt the summit.
Altitude reached: 2600 feet.
Alternate route: Brim Fell is a gentle, curving hill that
links the popular summit of Coniston Old Man with Swirl How and
its ridges. On a sunny day, Brim Fell’s grassy slopes are
perfect for a stroll, a picnic, or a sunbath and its delights are
always felt the more keenly for having escaped the crowds on the
Old Man. If starting out from Coniston, a circular walk can be made
by continuing north to Swirl How and then descending via Swirl House
and Levers Water.
Around the Coppermines
This walk is planned for visitors to the Coniston area who wish
to learn something of its past mining history and to find out what
there is left to see of it. This walk skirts the old coppermines
and you are advised not to enter any of these, to go into fenced
off areas or to throw stones down shafts. These are serious warnings
as they old mine shafts can be very dangerous if not shown the respect
Again, as with The Old Man, head to the road behind the Black Bull
Hotel and head left. The Coppermines Valley is a wash with views
and fells and becks and waterfalls, so don’t forget your camera.
Raven Tor, Brim Fell, Tongue Brow, Kernal Crag, Red Dell Beck, Irish
Row and more. Don’t forget you are in Poet country, and the
names will come thick and fast.
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: 3 hours
Altitude reached: 1500 feet
Disabled route with no stiles
There is more information available from the information office
but there is a walk that starts off in Coniston that has had all
of the stiles and
Torn how bridleway
2 ½ miles, flat
If you pass the church on the right-hand side and follow the road
around, over a small bridge you will come to this walk, clearly
signposted. It is flat and easy and ideal for people with buggies
or prams that need to be pushed.
Around the lake
Whether you want to walk the entire circuit of the lake of merely
enjoy the peace and tranquility of the ancient mountain water lapping
at the marble finished stones that line the shores of this fantastic
lake, then just head to the edge, choose a direction and walk. There
is no right or wrong route to take just enjoy it.
There are many bridle ways and high road passes to enjoy on your
mountain bike. Whether you are a serious adrenaline seeker or a
family looking to ride away from the madding crowd, then there is
plenty more to wet your appetite here than you could possibly do
in a morning or afternoon. The tourist office has many such rides
but for the hardened few I will mention the tour of Coniston, a
53km ride around the lake.
has more details and a map.
Coniston bike hire
Summitreks Adventure Services
Tel: (015394) 41212
This shop also offers action sports and training, whether is be
paragliding, mountain biking, sailing, canoeing, all can be arranged.
TEA ROOMS AND PUBS
Like all good places, there are plenty of cafes and tea rooms and
bars for you to sample. The Lake District is second only to Devon
for the sheer audacity, volume and popularity of tea rooms. Whether
they are of a higher quality? Well….there is only one way
to find out and that is to eat cakes, drink tea and coffee in some
of the most beautiful inspiring landscapes anywhere and discuss
this highly important matter until the sun sets on the far end of
the lake sending the sky into fits of pinks and orange.
Whether it is real Lakeland ales, quiet country pubs, carling and
football, secluded farmhouse tea rooms, Coniston and the nearby
villages of Ambleside, Broughton or torero offer the whole range.
Yew Tree Farm
In 1933 Beatrix Potter help set up a tea room. With all the original
features, donated by Beatrix herself, the yew Tree still offers
tea and cake to passing walkers and cyclists.
At the centre of an excellent network of footpaths between Ambleside
Grid Reference: 31945 99867
Tel: (015394) 41433
The Bluebird Cafe
Situated on the shore of Coniston water, the inevitable named Blue
bird café is a favourite with the tourists, not just for
its perfect location but for its mouth watering cakes and summer
salads. It will be busy in summer, especially on the barmy sunny
It is also a licensed bar and has many gifts and memorabilia of
bluebird and the many record breakers that have been on Coniston
The Ship Inn
A cosy oak-beamed bar that offers real ales and home cooked food
on the edge of Coniston
Tel: (015394) 41224
Sun Hotel and Inn
Family run hotel close to centre of the village which is open to
INTERNET AND EMAIL FACILITIES
If you are in an emergency to touch base with work or check for
email and myspace updates then there are a couple of places in Coniston
where you can access the internet, and get a cake whilst doing it.
The Village Pantry on Yewdale Road
Lakeland House on Tilberthwaite Avenue
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