Coniston Water & The Coniston Mountain Range
Coniston Water and its surrounding mountains and fells are one of my favorite landscapes for walking and water activities. Lying west of Windermere, the two lakes are separated by the Furness Fells, the Rusland Valley and the Grizedale Forest. Of Cumbria’s big sixteen lakes, Coniston Water ranks as the third largest, with a length of five and a quarter miles, half a mile at its widest and 184 feet at its deepest point. Reflecting in its waters are the peaks of the Coniston mountain Range. At 2635 ft, the Coniston Old Man is one the highest mountains in the Lake District, yet one of the most assessable. The natural beauty of the lake and its surrounding mountains and fells have attracted many artists and poets. Ruskin lived at Brantwood. Lord Tennyson resided at Tent Lodge, which over the years also saw the likes of Collingwood, Darwin and the Holts of The White Star Shipping Line. Arthur Ransome, author of the much read Swallows and Amazons, resided in a number of the houses set around the lake, where today you can still track down the places described in his children’s books. One recent name that will always be synonymous with Coniston is that of Sir Donald Cambell and the Blue Bird. A 'daring do' character, he is perhaps more remembered for the tragic accident whilst attempting to best the water speed of 300mph, where Campell's craft disintegrated It was only recently that both Donald and his craft were recovered and the legend finally laid to rest.
The lake offers plenty of public access to its shores. Along the east lake road are lots of little bays were you can park up, picnic, swim or fish. To get on the water you can hire boats at the Coniston Boating Centre. These range from row boats to canoes, sailing dinghies to little motor boats. For the adventurous there is a host of activities on offer. Summit Treks, run by Ron Rutland, will take you rock climbing, abseiling, aquasailing, canoeing and mountain biking. Similar are Joint Adventures, or you may like to try some avian pursuits, taking to the air with Coniston Paragliding. More gentle is a trip on the lake. The Lake Cruise and Ferry Service offer regular daily sailings covering the whole of the lake, calling at seven jetties. Ideal for those visiting Brantwood, also as water taxi to walk start points - walks leaflets available, or for those that just want to relax and enjoy the scenery. For a very special trip there is The Steam Yacht ‘Gondola’. An elegant craft, beautifully restored and is truly Queen of the Lake. Gondola runs from Coniston Pier to Brantwood, a trip of about forty five minutes. It is possible to hire the craft for private parties such as anniversaries where, if well organised, relive and elegant past. Fishing is open to all with a rod license. You may fish from any of the public shores and more information can be obtained from the Coniston TIC. The lake is abundant with trout, eel, perch and huge pike. The lads at the Coniston Boating Centre seem very helpful and I am sure boat fishing can be arranged.
The Mountain - The Fells & Forest
Walking - for me Coniston is one of, if not the the best base for simply getting out and about, exploring the fells, mountains, water and forest. There are plenty of local guides available, well worth buying in order to get the very best from this area of great natural beauty. From the village, by the bridge, a path takes you deep into the old Coppermines Valley, with its beck and waterfalls. From the head of the valley you carry on to discover hidden tarns set in the lower slopes of the Mountain. The Old Man, standing at 2635 feet is the king of the Coniston Mountain Range. Paths lead to the summit, where the view is spectacular. Even if you only go some of the way you will have a wonderful experience. There are trails taking in low fell and lake shore, where you can pick up ferries and launches as part of your hike. Running from the east shores of the lake is the Grizedale Forest. A massive working woodland, it is criss crossed with paths and tracks for walking and mountain biking. The Forest is big into arts, commissioning fabulous statues and installations throughout the forest. It is well worth driving, via Hawkshead, around to the visitor centre, for a forest map and information to get the best from your day out.
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