Coniston Water, Swimming with Adventure, History and Beauty

Coniston Water, Swimming with Adventure, History and Beauty.

Coniston Water is the third largest body of water sitting below the ‘Old man of Coniston’ the view from which was once described by Victorian writer and philosopher John Ruskin as being ‘the best in all England’. 

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At five miles long and 184ft depth the lake was carved out by ancient glacial activity and has a vast and important history. The lake, along with the area, was owned by Furness Abbey and provided fish for the Monks who resided in the area during the 13th century. 

Jump forward to the 16th century and Coniston locals were making use of the local charcoal and copper mines for iron smelting. This was further expanded into the 18th Century and the industrial revolution when the Copper mines became the first large-scale mines to be dug in the UK. 

In more recent years Coniston has had its share of appreciation and fame. Victorian philosopher John Ruskin purchased Brantwood House and spent the final 28 years of his life there. The house still stands today and is open to the public. Ruskin had a huge influence on social issues and conservation; he inspired founders of the National Health Trust and even the National Trust. This is his legacy, you can find out more about John Ruskin’s life, his influence and his achievements at his original home at Brantwood house and gardens which have now been turned into a museum dedicated to Ruskin and his love for Coniston.

Coniston also inspired writer Arthur Ransomes series of books ‘Swallows and Amazons’. The lake and surrounding areas set the scene in this tale of childhood adventure. Arthur’s first visit to the lake district was when he was a baby and he took up the famous fell, Old man of Coniston. Since then he and his family frequented the area on a regular basis. It was here where he learned to sail, fish and he even skated Lake Windermere in 1895 during ‘the Great Frost’ when it froze. His books, although set on a fictional lake, were heavily inspired by his beloved Coniston and the woodland that surrounded the area. 

We can’t talk about Coniston without mentioning Donald Campbell, who, while in pursuit of breaking the water speed record, tragically lost his life. On January 4th 1967 Campbell entered the lake in his Bluebird K7, a jet-engined hydroplane. Having already set 6 water speed world records he was preparing to take another, which he succeeded in but unfortunately lost his life when the Bluebird shot out of the water and sank. Campbell’s body was not recovered until 2001, he remains a legend and died doing what he loved. A slate memorial stands on Ruskin Avenue next to the tourist information centre dedicated to Donald Campbell and his achievements. 

Today Coniston is one of the most popular destinations in the Lake District, with many trails either starting or finishing here. A favourite with tourists and locals alike sitting at 2,632ft is the Old Man of Coniston. The fell that sits directly above the lake, the views of which are said to be spectacular. The trail itself is said to be family-friendly too and well worth the walk. 

The lake is also popular for boating and sailing. You can hire boats, kayaks, paddleboards and more from Coniston Boating Centre. During the summer months, you can hop aboard the Victorian steam gondola and take in the views from across the lake and the surrounding woodland. 

Coniston holds mountains of beauty and depths of history all waiting to be explored.

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