Things to do in Coniston holiday cottages

Things to do in Coniston

Kim 21 June 2024

Coniston Water is a quieter option than its nearby neighbour of Windermere, yet it has all the same fantastic scenery, and plenty of walks and attractions to keep you busy throughout your Lake District stay.

From the village of the same name, you can head out onto popular walking routes like the Old Man of Coniston and the imposing Langdale Pikes; enjoy the water with a boat ride or water activity; or learn about the cultural influence of the area at nearby museums and historic homes.

Coniston is the perfect Central Lakes destination. All you need to do is book your Lake District holiday cottage and start planning an idyllic break.

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Coniston outdoor activities

Couple of people paddleboarding on Coniston Water

Coniston Water is a popular spot for water sport activities such as paddleboarding and sailing – in part thanks to its inspirational role as the location of Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome. There are plenty of Lake District activity centres to take you out on guided activities such as ghyll scrambling, archery, rock climbing and more. Or go it your own and hire canoes, paddleboards, motor boats, bikes and kayaks from Coniston Boating Centre.

Coniston attractions

The Ruskin Museum

The Ruskin Museum in ConistonImage credit: The Ruskin Museum

The fantastic Ruskin Museum, in the heart of the village, tells the tale of the many people that have influenced the area’s history. From famous names like speed-record breaker Donald Campbell and polymath John Ruskin, to lesser-known stories from WW1 heroes, early quarry workers, and the founders of Mountain Rescue, this museum is a fascinating tale of the joys and the toils of living in Coniston over the centuries.

Coniston Launch

Wooden jetty at Coniston with boats on the water

The Coniston Launch provides a great way to see the whole of the lake, or to get from A to B without having to take the car and find parking. Catch it on a regular schedule from Coniston village or a number of other locations around the water. The Coniston Launch can be used to tour the lake, round off linear walks, or visit attractions like Brantwood House.

Coniston Steam Yacht Gondola

Close up of the Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston

The National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola is something really special and offers a boat trip well worth taking. The heritage vessel once transported wealthy Victorian tourists across the lake. After being sunk twice – and being blown into a field once! – it has now been fully restored to its former glory. Using carbon-negative fuel, this is a really unique way to travel and learn about Coniston’s history.

Grizedale Forest

Tree-lined pathway through Grizedale Forest

Across the water from the village is the sprawling Grizedale Forest, a dense woodland that hides lots of treasures for all ages. Winding trails stretch for miles and offer fabulous walking and cycling options (bike hire is also available). Look out for the sculptures amongst the trees while you explore. There’s also a Go Ape high ropes course , horse riding, and stargazing events; Grizedale Forest is one of the best places to spot stars in the Lake District.

Brantwood House

View from a window at Brantwood House over Coniston Water

You can’t miss Brantwood House while you’re in Coniston. The historic home stands tall above the water, surveying the landscape. This is the former home of John Ruskin, the prominent Victorian writer, reformer and art historian. He is also credited with inspiring the idea for the National Trust. The house is a fascinating museum to his work and collections, with stunning gardens and awe-inspiring views of Coniston Water. Regular cultural events also take place here.

Hawkshead and Esthwaite Water

Miniature horse grazing on fields in front of Hawkshead village

Just a short distance away from Coniston is the lovely little village of Hawkshead. Free of traffic in its centre, it has managed to hold onto the olde-worlde charm that is often lost nowadays. Wander through the cobbled streets and admire the wonky buildings. Combine it with a trip to Esthwaite Water, a private lake where you can purchase a fishing license.

Esthwaite Water is also the fictional home of Jeremy Fisher, a creation of Beatrix Potter, whose home of Hill Top is nearby.

Things to do in Coniston with a dog

Hiker with a poodle dog at Levers Water

If you’re accompanied by your four-legged friend(s) during your visit to Coniston, they’ll want to join the fun too! There are plenty of dog-friendly walks in the area, and you can take your dog on boats you hire at Coniston Boating Centre. Dogs are also welcome on the Coniston Launch and the Steam Yacht Gondola.

At Brantwood, you can explore the gardens with your dog and eat on the lovely cafe terrace. There are several dog-friendly pubs and cafes in and around the village – please check with individual eateries.

Free things to do in Coniston

Image on the left is a pathway through Grizedale Forest; Image on the right is Cathedral Cave

They say the best things in life of free and if you don't want to spend a lot during your next Lake District getaway, there are plenty of things to do in Coniston that won't cost you a penny.

Here are some of our favourite free things to do in Coniston:

  • If you want to get a sense of some of the famous names that put Coniston on the map, then head to Coniston’s church and two graveyards. John Ruskin’s grave can be found in St Andrew’s Church, while Donald Campbell’s headstone is found in a newer cemetery just behind the Crown Inn.
  • Across the lake, Grizedale Forest is free to enter, and you can wander around the woodland paths and art trails to your heart’s content.
  • A fascinating industrial heritage is all around at Coniston and is now an integral part of the natural landscape. See how many of the hidden passageways you can find into Cathedral Cave, a large cavern left over from mining days. For more history, don’t miss seeing the ancient carvings at Copt Howe.
  • If you love to dip your toes, wild swimming is popular in the area. Enjoy a swim in the lake (though look out for boats!) or seek out the pool below the Coppermines Waterfall.

Coniston walks

Pathway through the Coppermine Valley on the left, image of Stickle Tarn on the right.

Thanks to its fantastic location in the central Lake District, there are plenty of walks to enjoy around Coniston. Whether you are an avid hiker or a casual rambler, there are Coniston walks to suit all ages and abilities. Read on to find some of the best easy, moderate and hard Coniston walks. 

Easy walks

Tarn Hows surrounded by peaceful Lakeland countryside

Don’t let the tall, rugged mountains put you off: there are plenty of gentle walks around Coniston if you’re not after a big hike. Grizedale Forest has lots of woodland paths, with the added interest of art sculptures to be spotted through the trees. Tarn Hows is a beautiful tarn that, though man-made, blends naturally into the local scenery. A walk around the whole lake is short and mostly flat, and is a miles-without-stiles route. Or hunt out the Coppermines Waterfall at the bottom of the route and head up the Old Man of Coniston.

Moderate walks

Pathway leading up The Old Man of Coniston

The industrial heritage of Coniston is at its most impressive at Cathedral Cave and Hodge Close Quarry. Once active hubs of industry, these attractions are now integral parts of the landscape. You can explore them both on a walk through the valley of Great Langdale. Or, if you’re staying in Coniston, you can tackle the famous The Old Man of Coniston right from your doorstep. The rugged mountain is a favourite walk and offers great views as well as clues to the mining heritage of the area.

Hard walks

Patch of purple heather with the Langdale Pikes in the background

Looking for an even bigger challenge? Well, Coniston has it. You just have to look at the landscape around you to know that there are unbeatable adventures around that will keep you on your feet for most of the day (or multiple days if you really want!). Any avid hiker is bound to have the Langdale Pikes on their ‘to do’ list thanks to the immense location, challenges, and option for the odd scramble here and there. If you enjoy a longer walk but prefer to stick to lower ground, try a circular of Coniston Water: 15 miles of wonderful hiking, partly along the Cumbria Way long-distance path.

Eating in Coniston

Pints of ale in a traditional pub on the left, wine glasses in a bistro on the right

Despite its diminutive size, there’s no shortage of places to eat in Coniston.

Coniston pubs

The Black Bull Inn is perhaps the most famous pub in the village. Not only does it sit in a prominent position in front of the Coniston Old Man, it was featured in popular BBC drama The A Word. The Sun is a Coniston pub  that sits high on a hill above the village and offers stupendous views from its beer garden. Close to the centre is Yewdale Inn, The Crown Inn and The Coniston Inn. All serve food and are dog friendly.

Coniston restaurants and takeaways

Wood-fired margherita pizza on a wooden board

Coniston mostly offers pubs for eating out, but there are a small handful of good restaurants and takeaways if you’re after a different kind of vibe. Grab that traditional favourite – fish ‘n’ chips – from Our Plaice; sample the spices at Sara’s Indian or enjoy some Italian cuisine at Enzo’s Caffe and Pizzeria.

Coniston cafes

The balcony at Bluebird Cafe in ConistonImage credit: Bluebird Cafe

For your breakfast and afternoon meal, you’re spoiled for choice with a number of cafes and sandwich stalls. Eat right by the water at the Bluebird Cafe; admire the Coniston Old Man from the window of environmentally and socially-conscious Green Housekeeper; or get an ice cream treat for your dog at Herdwick’s Cafe.

Shopping in Coniston

Road leading to Coniston village with Lakeland fell in the background

We’re going to be honest, if you're a shopaholic, then Coniston probably won’t cut the mustard. But if you just fancy a potter one afternoon, then there is a small and lovely selection of local shops. You’ve got the co-op for your essentials, plus a butcher, baker and heritage meats supplier for fresh produce. You’ll also find some local gift shops for all your souvenirs and an outdoor shop.

Getting to Coniston

Aerial view of Coniston Water

From the north and the south, leave the M6 at J36 for Kendal. Follow the A591 all the way through Windermere and take the turn onto Borrans Road just after YHA Ambleside. After this, just follow the signs to Coniston. Be aware that roads are narrow and winding, so take care and be conscientious of other road users.

Where to stay in Coniston

Rock Cottage which has an elevated position above Coniston

Rock Cottage - Lake District | Sleeps 5 guests

What do you fancy? A cosy and characterful cottage in the heart of the village? A spacious family pad with large gardens on the edge of Coniston? Or an enviable retreat close to the water’s edge? Whatever takes your fancy, you’re sure to find something perfect in Coniston. Browse our range of Coniston cottages and plan your next perfect Lake District getaway.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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