6 Best Sights in Coniston, The Lake District


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On the eastern shore of Coniston Water, Brantwood was the cherished home of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the noted Victorian artist, writer, critic, and social reformer, after 1872. The rambling 18th-century house (with Victorian alterations) is on a 250-acre estate that stretches high above the lake. Here, alongside mementos such as his mahogany desk, are Ruskin's own paintings, drawings, and books. On display is art that this great connoisseur collected, and in cerebral corners such as the Ideas Room visitors are encouraged to think about meaning and change. Ruskin's Rocks explores his fascinations with stones and music with a brilliant bit of modern technology. A video on Ruskin's life shows the lasting influence of his thoughts, and the Severn Studio has rotating art exhibitions. Ruskin himself laid out the extensive grounds. Take time to explore the gardens and woodland walks, which include some multilayered features: Ziggy Zaggy, for example, originally a garden built by Ruskin to reflect Dante's Purgatorial Mount, is now an allegory of the seven deadly sins. Brantwood hosts a series of classical concerts on some Saturdays, as well as talks, guided walks, and study days.

Coniston Pier

The National Trust's restored Victorian steam yacht and the slightly more utilitarian Coniston Launch both leave from the town's spruced-up waterside satellite, a 15-minute stroll from the center. There's a parking lot, a smart café, and various boat- and bike-hire options, too. Originally launched in 1859 and restored in the 1970s, the Steam Yacht runs between Coniston Pier, Brantwood, and Park-a-Moor at the south end of Coniston Water daily from late March through October (half-lake cruise £17.50; 10% discount for National Trust members). The Coniston Launch (£14.75) runs similar routes and is marginally cheaper, though also a little less romantic. Both will get you across the lake to Brantwood, and a stop at Monk Coniston jetty, at the lake's northern tip, connects to the footpaths through the Monk Coniston Estate and the beauty spot of Tarn Hows.

Coniston Water

The lake came to prominence in the 1930s when Arthur Ransome made it the setting for Swallows and Amazons, one of a series of novels about a group of children and their adventures. The lake is about 5 miles long, a tempting stretch that drew Donald Campbell here in 1959 to set a water-speed record of 260 mph. He was killed when trying to beat it in 1967. His body and the wreckage of Bluebird K7 were retrieved from the lake in 2001. Campbell is buried in St. Andrew's church in Coniston, and a stone memorial on the village green commemorates him.

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Monk Coniston Estate

Two miles north of Coniston on the A593, just past Beatrix Potter's beautifully situated Yew Tree Farm, is a small National Trust parking lot from where paths lead up through oak woods beside the tumbling stream of Tom Gill to Tarn Hows, a celebrated Lake District beauty spot, albeit a man-made one, created when the gill was dammed in the mid-19th century. The paths are steep in places, but two waterfalls make it well worth the effort. Walking the circular route takes two to three hours.

Ruskin Museum

This repository of fascinating and thought-provoking manuscripts, personal items, and watercolors by John Ruskin illuminates his thinking and influence. There is also a focus on speedboat racer Donald Campbell; his Bluebird K7, dragged up from Coniston Water, will eventually rest here once it has been painstakingly put back together. Good local-interest exhibits include copper mining, geology, lace, and more. Upstairs, the Dawson Gallery occasionally hosts high-profile artists.

Yewdale Rd., Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8DU, England
sights Details
Rate Includes: £7.50, Closed mid-Nov.–mid-Mar.

Yew Tree Farm

The historic Yew Tree Farm is probably the most famous building in the Lake District because it was once owned by Beatrix Potter. Here Potter experimented with farming and in particular raising Herwick sheep. The biopic of Potter's life, Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger, was filmed on location at the farm. The Herdwick Experience introduces you to the farm's friendly flock of Herdwick sheep and explains their significance to the Cumbrian landscape.