Coniston – Brantwood and Lake Shore round
Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Coniston is a lovely little village close to the northern end of Coniston Water in the Furness area of Cumbria and located in the southern part of the Lake District National Park and also within the boundaries of Lancashire. The village consists of the Ruskin Museum, a Tourist Information Centre, a variety of shops, post office, spar shop, cafes, tea rooms and four pubs The Sun, The Crown Inn, The Yewdale Hotel and The Black Bull Inn and Hotel. There are also two Youth Hostels one on the edge of the village and the other in the nearby Coppermines Valley. Coniston is and grew as both a farming community and to serve local copper and slate mines. It was a scattered rural community until the copper mines, dating from Jacobean times, were revitalised about 1859. The village grew mainly around Coniston Hall, a 16th century farmhouse with massive chimneys, built by the Fleming family which is now owned by the National Trust. Two of Coniston’s volcanic slate quarries are still operating one in Coppermine’s Valley being blue slate and the other at Bursting Stone on the east side of the Old Man of Coniston being light green slate. In the Victorian times Coniston became popular with tourists partly due to the construction of a branch of the Furness Railway which opened to passengers in 1859 and terminated at Coniston railway station. The creation of the national park in the 1950’s provided a further boost to tourism and so did John Ruskin, artist, writer, critic, teacher and philosopher, who bought and lived in Brantwood House on the eastern side of Coniston Water from 1872 until his death in 1900 is buried in Coniston village churchyard of St Andrews. The museum in Coniston village is dedicated to Ruskin and also covers the history and heritage of Coniston Water and the Lake District. Arthur Ransom, novelist, gained much of his inspiration for his children’s novel ‘Swallows and Amazons’ from Coniston Water. The water has become known for a controversial murder case. Mrs Carol Park was dubbed the ‘Lady in the Lake’ after the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name.
Brantwood built in 1797 was a very cold, damp and decayed cottage when John Ruskin bought it for £1500. He transformed it into a magnificent mansion that commands one of the finest views in the Lake District. The mansion, now set in extensive grounds, is now a study centre which keeps alive the Ruskin tradition. Visitors can admire his art treasures and also examine his books, manuscripts and original drawings. He was very popular around Coniston village and took a great interest in all aspects of community life. He loved the Lake District so much that when the time came he declined a place in Westminster Abbey preferring to be buried in the churchyard in Coniston.
Coniston Water at five miles long and half a mile wide is the third largest lake in the Lake District and is an example of a ribbon lake formed by glaciations during the last ice age and drains into the sea via the River Crake. In the 13th and 14th centuries Coniston Water was an important source of fish for the monks of Furness Abbey who owned the lake and much of the surrounding land. In the 20th century Coniston Water was the scene of many attempts to break the world water speed record. On the 19th August 1939 Sir Malcolm Campbell set the record at 141.74 miles per hour in Bluebird K4. His son Donald Campbell set four successive records on the lake in Bluebird K7, a hydroplane, between 1956 and 1959. It was on the 4th January 1967 that Donald Campbell achieved a top speed of 320 miles per hour in Bluebird K7 on the return leg of a record breaking attempt but he lost control of Bluebird which somersaulted and crashed sinking very quickly killing him instantly on impact. The attempt could not be counted as a record breaking run because the second leg was not completed. Bluebird was recovered from Coniston Water on 8th March 2001 and the remains of Donald Campbell’s body were brought up on 28th May. A memorial service was held on the 12th September and his body buried in the churchyard. Coniston Water is ideal for kayaking and canoeing as there are a number of good sites for launching and recovery. Boats of various sizes can be hired from the lake side near the steam yacht and the water-speed limit is 10 mph except for boats attempting new world water-speed records during Records Week which is normally held in the first week of November. The lake is paddled as the second leg of the Three Lakes Challenge. The steam yacht ‘Gondola’ along with two smaller motorised launches tour the lake in the summer months.
We turn right out of the car park and follow the road for about 50 yards to the right hand bend then turn left at the public footpath sign. We follow the path to pass through a swing gate then bear left to go through another swing gate into the trees. We follow the path soon going up some stone steps then up some wood and turf steps. At a junction we bear right uphill to the top of some stone steps. We go down the steps and turn left onto a driveway then turn right onto a grassy path, signposted East of Lake Road. We go through a gate onto a tarmac lane and turn right for about ½ mile. At the y-junction we bear left following the signpost for Brantwood. After about 600 yards at the start of the wood we turn left through the gate and follow the bridleway. We pass through a gate, cross over a stream and bear sharp right. We continue forward passing a gate for Brantwood in the wall on our right. We pass a shelter and a barn on our right and keep heading forwards. We cross over a wooden bridge, pass through an iron gate then head uphill to go through another wooden gate. At the wide forest track we turn right passing Grisedale Arts at Lawson Park Farm. We keep heading forwards following the track and at the y-junction we bear right. We head forwards and keep following the track round to the right on the u-bend, we now head downhill to the road. At the road we turn right and follow the road with Coniston Lake on our left. We pass a car park and picnic area and soon arrive at Brantwood. We then continue on the road for about ½ mile and after passing Thurston Outdoor Education we turn left through a swing gate signposted Public Bridleway into a field. We bear right following the post to the corner of the hedge and follow the path bearing right to the right of some white buildings to a gate with a yellow arrow. We go through the gate and cross straight over the lane through the gate opposite into the field and turn left following the hedge on our left. We bear left to the corner of the field go through the gate and head forwards through another gate. In the next field we bear left downhill to go through the gate that leads us back to the road. We turn left and make our way back to the car park.
This is an easy walk on good paths, tracks and minor tarmac road with a few inclines and declines. There are also some steps up and down.
Elevation: approx lowest point 44.30m (145.34ft) approx highest point 190.40m (624.67ft) approx ascent 256.10M (840.22ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 6 miles allow 2½ – 3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL7, The English Lakes South-eastern area. This walk is clockwise.
Start point: Monk Coniston Car Park situated at the head of Coniston Lake 1 mile east of Coniston village. Pay and Display.
Coniston is in the southern area of the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 at Threlkeld take the B5322 on the left. At the t-junction at Legburthwaite turn left onto the A591 by the side of Thirlmere. At Ambleside take A593 following the signs for Coniston. In Coniston turn left at the church and follow the B5285 past the Waterhead Hotel. Keep right at the y-junction the car park is on the left. Parking is £7.00 for all day.
Parking: Monk Coniston Pay and Display Car Park situated at the head of Coniston Lake. There is a free parking area at Kye Wood and a free car park and picnic area south of Brantwood.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in the pay and display car park next to the Tourist Information Centre in Coniston village. For refreshments there are a number of shops, cafes, restaurants and four pubs.