Chapel Cottage: Self Catering Accommodation in the Duddon Valley
Coniston Water nearby
     

 

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CONISTON WATER

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 the valley.

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.

ATTRACTIONS

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 access.

Admission fees:

Adults £4.25
Children £2.00
Family £11.00 (2 adults & 2/3 children)

Open daily March 11th – November 5th
10.00am until 17.30. (last entry 16.45)


Brantwood

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.

www.brantwood.org.uk

Admission fees:

Adults £5.50
Children £1.00
Students £4.00

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


The lake

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.

Fares:

Adult £5.90
Children £2.90
Family £14.50

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.

www.conistonsailingclub.co.uk
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 things exciting.


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 Sun Hotel.

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

www.conistonbrewery.com

Tel: (015394) 41133


Pony trekking.

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

Coniston Paragliding

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 town?

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 and shoes.

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 they deserve.

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.


Mountain Bikes

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.

www.offroadadventures-online.com 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 and Coniston.

Grid Reference: 31945 99867

www.yewtree-farm.com
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 days.

It is also a licensed bar and has many gifts and memorabilia of bluebird and the many record breakers that have been on Coniston water.

www.thebluebirdcafe.co.uk


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 non-residents.

 

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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Holiday Cottages in the Lake District let by Sally Fielding