With its endless water, mountainous landscapes and recent UNESCO world heritage site status, there is no better time to visit the Lake District than right now. And one place that is of particular interest in Coniston Water. Packed with things to do and places to visit, there are few better bodies of water in the National Park. (Just make sure to never call these ‘bodies of water lakes’- most of them are tarns, meres, or waters).
At five miles long, and half a mile wide, Coniston Water is the third largest lake in the region (after Windermere and Ullswater). Along its shoreline, you’ll find various villages and other places of interest including museums, walks and water sports. Here’s a quick guide to Coniston Water…
Lying at the bottom of Hawkshead Hill, you’ll find the quaint little village of Hawkshead. A quintessentially British village that is typical of the area, Hawkshead is all slate houses and winding lanes. Head here for the cute cafés and to escape the crowds that flock to more popular nearby villages.
Quirky, small and lying under the ever-present mount of Old Man of Coniston, the village of Coniston is a must-see on any visit to the region and is easily one of the prettiest villages in the Lake District. It’s also here in Coniston Village where you’ll find various museums, quirky cafés, vintage stores and oodles of history!
Coniston Boating Centre
Around half a mile from the village of Coniston, you’ll find the Coniston Boating Centre. If you’re on the lookout for an adventurous activity in the Lake District that doesn’t involve hiking, then make sure to head here for some watersports fun!
Swallows and Amazons is a book that is famous the world over. The children’s story chronicles the adventures of John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker, as well as their families and was written by Arthur Ransome in the late 1800s. As a boy, Ransome would often visit Coniston water and play along its shores. As a result, he loved the entire Lakeland area and actually based the book ‘Swallows and Amazons here’.
The Parish Church of Saint Andrew
Sitting squarely in the centre of the village, you’ll find the cute little parish church of Saint Andrew’s. Designed by J. Matson, it was constructed in 1896 in order to replace a 16th-Century church on the same spot. The interior of the church is sweet, and in the graveyard surrounding it you’ll find the final resting place of John Ruskin.
John Ruskin (and his grave)
For those who love the Decorative Arts, John Ruskin needs no introduction. The famous critic, poet, and rights advocate fell in love with the Lake District from an early age. And it is here, in a little graveyard not far from the fringes of Coniston Lake that he finds his final resting place.
Coniston Water Waterspeed Record Attempt
No post about Coniston Lake would be complete without a mention of the water speed record attempt on the 1960s and the Bluebird K7 boat that was used to make the attempt (part of the remains of which are now housed in the John Ruskin Museum). There’s also a large section of the museum dedicated to detailing Campbell’s life and his passion for the region.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Donald Campbell was a keen adventurist with a passion for the Lake District. He was (and remains to this day) the only person alive who has broken both land and water speed records in the same year. In total, Campbell achieved eight absolute world speed records. All of Donald Campbell’s world speed records were achieved within the Lake District.
Campbell’s ninth and final attempt at breaking the world speed record on water came about one fateful day in January of 1967. He boarded the Bluebird K7 at just after 8:45 AM and set out onto the water. As he sped the boat up, the engine tragically failed (or rather, this is what is assumed to have happened, as no one knows the exact reason for the crash). Whatever the cause of the accident, the boat flipped, killing Campbell. In 2001, Campbell’s body and the remains of the Bluebird K7 were finally recovered from Coniston Water. The remains of the boat were placed into the John Ruskin Museum, while Campbell was finally laid to rest in Coniston Cemetery.
The Ruskin Museum, Coniston Village
Situated in the very heart of Coniston Village, you’ll find the Ruskin Museum. This museum is packed with information, oodles of displays and plenty of pictures. Here, you’ll find out all about the history of the water, as well as its surrounds. There’s a whole wing dedicated to John Ruskin, as well as another wing dedicated to Malcolm and Donald Campbell. The staff are friendly and you’ll also learn about other local trades, such as that in lace making.
Vintage shopping in Coniston
Wandering around the village, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of quirky boutique and vintage stores dotted around Coniston. One of my absolute favourites was right next to the museum, and it sold vintage postcards of the Lake District at a very reasonable price!
Stay at Coniston Water
Due to the fact that the area is home to one of the largest bodies of water in the Lake District, it is also one of the busiest (though I found the crowds to be a fraction of the number of people we saw at Windemere!) As a result, I highly recommend booking your accommodation well in advance to avoid any disappointment! There were five of us travelling, and we ended up staying at the YHA Hawkshead Hostel in one of their family cabins. It was lovely, clean and very welcoming.