Coniston, in the Southern Lake District, is famous for lots of reasons. Many remember it as the place where Donald Campbell was killed in 1967 whilst attempting to break the water speed record. As he was trying to reach 300mph, his hydroplane, the Bluebird, shot up into the air and disappeared into the lake. His body wasn’t found until 2001, when his remains were raised from the lake bottom and buried in the village churchyard.
Donald Campbell’s story is told in the Ruskin Museum, which celebrates Coniston’s heritage with exhibits on John Ruskin (see below), slate and copper mining as well as the lace and farming industries.
The Lakeland Motor Museum, at nearby Holker Hall, has the Campbell Legend Bluebird Exhibition, with replica hydroplanes and photographs.
The Victorian thinker John Ruskin was another remarkable man with links to Coniston. Artist, critic, philosopher, economist and conservationist, with a huge influence on the Pre-Raphelite painters, he bought Brantwood House overlooking Coniston Water in 1871 and lived there for over twenty years.
The house and gardens are open to the public and well worth a visit. The gardens have wonderful views over the lake and fells and 250 acres of woodland. The house holds Ruskin’s collected writings and has regular exhibitions, concerts, courses and special events.
Arthur Ransome, the children’s writer, was inspired by the lake and the mountains that surround it, basing his famous Swallows and Amazons series on them. At five miles, Coniston Water is the third longest lake in the Lake District and there are many ways to explore it.
You can take a cruise on the Steam Yacht Gondola, an elegant Victorian steam-powered yacht owned by the National Trust that sails between March and November, stopping off at various points including Brantwood. The Coniston Launch Sunshine Cruises, run on solar power, stop at jetties around the lake and has special ‘Swallows and Amazons’ and ‘Campbells on Coniston’ tours.
The more energetic can hire their own boats from Coniston Pier, choosing between rowing boats, sailing dinghies, canoes and kayaks. Coniston Sailing Club is on the west side of the lake and organizes races throughout the year, which you can either watch or take part in. It offers both yearly membership and day membership from as little as £1.50.
“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery” John Ruskin.
There are many walks to be had in Coniston, from easy strolls around the lake to challenging mountain climbs, including the Old Man of Coniston, at 2600 feet. Visit the walking englishman website for details of an 8 hour walk taking in the Coniston fells.
There are lots of other outdoor activities on offer. The Spoon Hall Trekking Centre, welcomes beginners and experienced riders for pony trekking across the Coniston fells. Or you can learn to fly with Coniston Paragliding, Tel: +44 (0) 15394 41825.
There are many bridleways and high road passes to explore on mountain bikes. The well-stocked tourist information in the centre of Coniston village gives details of many routes, including the 53km ride about the lake. Bikes can be hired at Summitreks Adventures Services, which also offers courses and training on outdoor sports.
There is also boating available at Coniston Boating Centre.
Coniston also offers plenty of opportunity to relax, with many cafes, tearooms and pubs, both in the village itself and nearby.
The Coniston Brewing Company, welcomes visitors and uses only natural products. Its range of beers includes the famous Blue Bird and Old Man ales.
Beatrix Potter, the famous children’s author, set up a tea room at Yew Tree Farm in 1933, which continues to serve tea and cakes to this day. It was recently used for the filming of ‘Miss Potter’, a film about Beatrix Potter starring Renee Zellweger.
On the shore of the lake, the Bluebird Café is popular, partly because of its perfect location, but also because of its mouthwatering cakes and summer salads. It also has a bar and much memorabilia of the many speed record breakers that have been on Coniston Water.
There are a number of pubs in the village with good food and real ales, including the Ship Inn, a cosy oak-beamed bar, and the 16th century Sun Hotel and Inn.
- Have a look at our Review of Outdoor Activities in the Lake District.
- Have a look at things to do Down on the Farm in Coniston and beyond.
- See our Things to do in the Lake District
- Cumbrian Wildlife.
- Click here for Dog Friendly pubs in the Lake District and Dog Friendly cottages.
- Churches in the Lake District.
- Myth and Mystery in The Lake District.
- See our introduction to Sally's Lake District Cottages