Did you read the Swallows and Amazons children's books by Arthur Ransome when you were young? Perhaps you're reading them with your little ones now! If so, you're in for a treat, as a new film adaptation of the Swallows and Amazons story by BBC Films recently premiered at The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, and is due to reach cinema screens from 19th August 2016!
Arthur Ransome and Swallows and Amazons
Swallows and Amazons is the first in a series of 12 books written by Arthur Ransome, which were published between 1931 and 1947. In his writing he captures the magic of camping, fishing and sailing in an age before the internet and electronic gadgets, as well as the adventures that can be had with a vivid dose of childhood imagination! And if you haven't read any of his books, it's never too late to start!
The first book in the series follows the exploits of child explorers, John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker (the Swallows) as they embark on their summer holidays in the Lake District. The Walker Children seek permission from their parents to spend their holiday camping on an island on the lake, which they name Wildcat Island, but things don't go as planned for the children when they find that they are not the only ones to have visited. This is where pirate sisters Nancy and Peggy Blackett (the Amazons) enter the story.
Ransome was himself a keen sailor and fisherman who loved the Lake District, and his stories were in part inspired by childhood holidays spent at Nibthwaite, at the southern end of Coniston Water. During the First World War and Russian Revolution, he became a war reporter and political journalist, and was even recruited by MI6! He spent the late 1920s as a foreign correspondent and angling columnist for the Manchester Guardian, before writing the Swallows and Amazons novels he is remembered for today.
Locations in the books
Ransome confirmed that all the locations used in his books were based on real places, but that they couldn't all be found in the correct order on a map! He used a combination of landmarks from both Windermere and Coniston in his writing, and although we can't be certain in all cases which of the locations is based on which, here are a few known and probable matches:
• Cormorant Island is Silver Holme, off the western shore of Windermere.
• Holly Howe is actually Bank Ground Farm towards the north of Coniston Water.
• Wild Cat Island is believed to have been based both on Peel Island on Coniston Water and Blake Holme on Windermere. You can see the 'secret harbour' on Peel Island.
• Rio is probably Bowness-on-Windermere.
• Kanchenjunga is likely to be Coniston Old Man.
Things to do in Ransome's Lake District
The new Swallows and Amazons movie was filmed on Coniston and Derwentwater, as well as in Scotland and Yorkshire, so to experience some Swallows and Amazons magic while you're on holiday in the Lakes, here are a few ideas for things to do:
- A lake cruise on Coniston Water is surely a must! Coniston Launch hosts a special 90 minute Swallows and Amazons cruise on Mondays and Wednesdays at 4.40pm, until 28th September 2016. You'll be given a tour of the places that Ransome used in his books, and see the secret harbour on Wild Cat Island! 017687 75753
- Enjoy a full lake cruise on the National Trust's Gondola on Coniston Water. Gondola is a charming Victorian steam-powered yacht which is a delight in itself, and you'll pass by the stories' many sites including 'Holly Howe' (Bank Ground Farm), 'Octopus Lagoon', and 'Kanchenjunga'! You'll also see some of the locations used in the new Swallows and Amazons film, and children can take part in a fun pirate activity trail on board! 015394 32733
- Relax with lunch or take afternoon tea in the Swallows and Amazons Tearoom at Bank Ground Farm ('Holly Howe' in the stories) on the eastern shore of Coniston Water.
- Take a look at the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry in Kendal, which provides a fascinating look at the region's past, and is an ideal place to visit when the sunshine just won't come out to play! The museum has a room dedicated to Arthur Ransome, containing many of the items he used in his writing, including his desk and typewriter, library, sketch books, and pen and ink drawings for his books.
- You can also see the sailing dinghy Mavis, which was the inspiration behind the Amazon, at The Ruskin Museum in Coniston.
Experience the inspiration behind Ransome's fictional world for yourself!
What better way to enjoy your own Swallows and Amazons experience in the Lakes than to hire a boat on one of the area's fabulous stretches of water?! You can explore Coniston with a hire boat from Coniston Boating Centre, and if you already have sailing experience, you can hire a sailing dinghy. You could even visit Peel Island!
If you'd prefer a guided kayaking or canoeing adventure to 'Wild Cat Island' on Coniston, check out the activities provided by Joint Adventures.
Children will love the Swallows and Amazons Adventure provided by Glenridding Sailing and Activity Centre based on Ullswater. They can expect to sail a traditional boat similar to 'Swallow', explore the lake, learn how to signal in semaphore and search for lost treasure - and there'll even be a battle against Captain Flint! Upcoming dates: 13th and 20th August 2016.
View our cottages in Ullswater.
Enjoy tuition in sailing and windsurfing, a trip on a catamaran, kayak games, and canoeing sessions on Derwentwater with Nichol End Marine, which also has a variety of boats to hire. 017687 73082.
You can also try taster sessions in sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding (SUP), or hire a boat from Derwent Water Marina. 017687 72912
Take a look at our cottages in and around Keswick.
Windermere Outdoor Adventure has all you'll need to enjoy a lake adventure on Windermere, with equipment, introductory courses, and activity days for all ages which include canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing. 015394 47183
We have a range of cottages in and around Windermere.
See the new film
If you'd like to see Swallows and Amazons at the cinema during your stay in the Lakes (a perfect rainy day treat for the kids!), look out for showings at the following cinemas:
Zeffirellis, Ambleside, 015394 33845
Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, 01539 725133
The Royalty Cinema, Bowness-on-Windermere, 015394 43364
Vue Carlisle, 08712 240 240
We hope you've been inspired to seek out your very own Swallows and Amazons adventure this summer or autumn in the Lake District! And if you haven't already booked your break for 2016, you can look for your perfect holiday retreat using our online search facility.
If you've enjoyed reading about Arthur Ransome's Lake District, you may also like to explore the lives of other famous literary figures who were inspired by the area. Take a look at our other blog posts, including: