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Often overlooked by the bustling valley of Windermere to the East, and Derwent water to the North, Coniston has managed to remain relatively wild with a close knit community. Read on to discover why Coniston should be on your UK bucket list.
As with every stunning valley in the Lake District, a stunning stretch of water is key to its beauty. Stretching 5.4 miles, Coniston Water is the third largest ‘lake’ in the Lake District. Our lake also has an average depth of 24.1 metres, with a max depth of 56 metres, for all you pub quiz fans!
There is so much more to Coniston Water than beauty however, our stretch of water was made famous by Donald Campbell in the 1950’s and 60’s as he pursued the water speed record in his Bluebird boats. Find out more about Donald Campbell and his world record attempts at The Ruskin Museum in Coniston village.
Get out on the water, we may be biased but our best times in Coniston have been out on the water. At Coniston Boating Centre we have so much on offer for you to explore; if paddle sports are your thing, we have stand up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes for hire. If you’re looking to try something for the first time, our team will give you all the tips you need to practice in our sheltered bay. For those wanting a traditional Lakeland experience why not hire one of our rowing boats? Lovingly restored for generations, our boats are perfect for a relaxed afternoon floating around in the sunshine. Wanting to go further? Our electric motor boats will take the strain, allowing you to explore the entire lake without breaking a sweat.
A day on the lake isn’t complete without a visit to The Bluebird Café. Whether you’re popping on for lunch, or sipping a nice refreshing drink after an afternoon on the lake, there is no better place to reward yourself while watching the world go by.
Fancy gliding along the lake while someone else takes the wheel? The Coniston Launch sails regularly from just opposite the boating centre, with a fantastic crew of local folk you’re guaranteed to learn something new about the area. You could also step on board the Steam Yacht Gondola. Dating back to the Victorian era and now owned by the National Trust, the Steam Yacht Gondola lets you enjoy the charm of luxury travel, experienced by wealthy Victorians, with its opulent saloons and relaxing open air decks you can glide along the lake taking in the views.
Found at the foot of the Old Man of Coniston, the traditional Lakeland village has a history of quarrying and copper mining. The grey stone buildings were traditionally built using stone from the surrounding fells. Today Coniston welcomes visitors from all over the world, seeking a Lake District getaway that avoids the crowds of Bowness, Windermere and Keswick. With a quaint high street, home to local shops, a bakery and a few cafes the essentials are all covered. Coniston also has five pubs (yes five!), offering a selection of Lakeland ales, good wine and local spirits. The Black Bull, built around 400 years ago, is found in the centre of the village, by the bridge, and has its own brewery. Coniston Brewing Co. began in 1995 and is now famous for their award winning Bluebird Bitter. A pint of Bluebird in the Black Bull is a must during any visit to Coniston.
Where to stay? Coniston has somewhere for all, The Yewdale Inn, located opposite The Black Bull offers cozy rooms and great breakfasts. There are also plenty of quaint B&Bs for those wanting a haven to explore the village and surrounding fells from. If a breathtaking location is what you’re after then you’ll want to look at one of the Coniston Coppermines Cottages, or for a more ‘base camp’ feel then Coniston Coppermines Youth Hostel has a charm like no other. For those seeking a campsite fit for all then Coniston Hall Campsite is simply perfection, found by the lake shore spend a week under the stars with the sound of water lapping against the shore as your soundtrack, plus you can pop in to The Bluebird Café for the ultimate breakfast by the lake.
As we’ve already mentioned, Coniston was built as a result of the mines in the surrounding fells. Copper was first mined in the 16th Century, however, it was not until the 17th Century, when Queen Elizabeth I brought over expert German miners from the Tyrol and Bavarian regions that production really took off. By the mid 1800’s copper production in Coniston was at its peak. Discover more about the copper industry in Coniston on The Coniston Coppermine Trail.
AS tourists began to flock to the Lake District, along came great artists and writers of the Victorian era. One such talent was John Ruskin, described as an artist, prominent social thinker, and philanthropist, he was one of the leading thinkers who founded the National Parks movement, and inspired the establishment of the National Trust. He also spent the final 28 years of his life living in Brantwood, a large house on the East side of the lake. Now open to visitors, you can learn more about John Ruskin and his influence on the Lake District, plus you can get to Brantwood by boat!
Coniston was also the setting for Arthur Ransome’s iconic Swallows and Amazons books. Find out more about Arthur Ransome at The Ruskin Museum. Perhaps read his books before you visit us, we’ve got the perfect sailing boat for you to reenact some famous scenes.
One word, Bluebird. Come and visit the village to see just how much the famous world record breaking duo has influenced us!
No visit to Coniston is complete without exploring the local geography. With so much to discover, we couldn’t write it all down, plus it’s much more fun to discover our beautiful landscape for yourself.
Here’s a few highlights in case you need some starting points…
The Old Man of Coniston
The Old Man, as it’s affectionately known to locals, stands at 2634 feet above the village and lake below. The highest fell in the area, on a clear day you can see Blackpool Tower, The Isle of Man and Scafell Pike from its summit. However, you’ll have to time it right; acting as the barrier between the Irish Sea and the Southern Lakes clouds often get ‘stuck’ on the top of the Old Man’s tall peak, making visibility poor for fell walkers. If you’re planning on bagging this Wainwright, make sure you’re prepared!
Found slightly to the north of Coniston, between us and Hawkshead, Tarn Hows is a beautiful little spot with stunning views of the surround fells. Owned by the National Trust there is a pay and display car park near the tarn for those wanting a short stroll. If you fancy making a day of it, head off from the Boating Centre car park and walk along the lakeshore up through the woods to the tarn. Did you know? Tarn means small mountain lake.
If you look out from our lakeshore to the Eastern side of the lake you’ll see Grizedale Forest. Owned by the Forestry Commission, Grizedale is the mountain bike hub of the south lakes. With plenty of trails for all abilities you can hire bikes from their centre. After something a little different? Why not hire some of our e-bikes and see how many viewpoints you can tick off in the Coniston valley?
5 must do activities when visiting Coniston:
- Paddle out on the lake with Coniston Boating Centre
- Go for a hike up the Old Man, or around Tarn Hows
- Have a pint of Bluebird in a proper Coniston pub
- Get out on a bike in Grizedale Forest
- Enjoy coffee and a cake at The Bluebird Café
Check out Coniston lake guide and map (PDF).
Other useful links
Lake District National Park
Want to find out about England's largest National Park? See webcams, photos and more at the Lake District National Park website.
Coniston Information Centre
Find out more about the lake and fells from the friendly advisers at Coniston Information Centre.
All year round adventure activities and outdoor pursuits including rock climbing in Coniston. Take a look at Adventure 21.
Bathing water quality
If you fancy a swim but would like to find out about water quality, check out Bathing Water Data Explorer.
Pier Cottage - self-catering
A perfect lakeside spot! Read more at Pier Cottage.
Summitreks Adventure Services has been offering kayaking and canoeing tuition on Coniston Water for 20 years. They are fully licensed for activities such as mountain biking, abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing. Check out Summitreks website.