Set in the Lake District National Park, the UKs second largest National Park, Coniston Water is the home of Arthur Ransome children's novel Swallows and Amazons, Coniston Water is fifth largest lake in the Lake District. At five miles long and sitting in a deep U-shaped glaciated valley the peace of Coniston was shatterd in the 20th century went it’s long straight waters became the scene of many attempts to break the world water speed record, the most famous of which being Donald Campbell tragic attempt in 1966.
Campbell already held the record having set four successive records on the lake in his hydroplane Bluebird K7 but believed he needed to exceed 300 miles per hour in order to retain it.
On January 4 1967 he achieved a top speed of over 320 miles per hour on the return leg of a record-breaking attempt but lost control of Bluebird which somersaulted and crashed, sinking rapidly. Campbell was killed on impact.
The remains of Bluebird and Donald Campbell were recovered from the water in 2001. Donald Campbell was buried in Coniston cemetery on 12 September 2001 and Bluebird K9, now lovingly restored, was gifted to Coniston’s Ruskin Museum by Campbell’s daughter Gina where it will be displayed in the Bluebird Wing.
The Ruskin Museum, named after John Ruskin who lived at nearby Brantwood from 1872 and 1900, provides a fascinating insight into the area's history. As well as Bluebird and Donald Campbell’s father Sir Malcolm Campbell (who the original water speed record on Coniston in 1939) it tells the stories of The Old Man of Coniston and its copper mining past; slate quarrying and stone walling and, of course, artist, critic, radical social thinker and conservationist John Ruskin.
Ruskin's home at Brantwood holds regular lace making demonstrations and readings from Ruskin’s writing as well as other there are special events throughout can also be reached using the lake ferry from Monk Coniston pier.
Coniston village itself nests between Coniston Water and Coniston Fells at the foot of the Old Man of Coniston. The village owes its prosperity entirely to copper mining and slate quarrying, having been a mining centre for 500 years. One of the Furness Fells, The Old Man rises 2,634 ft (803m).
Popular with tourists and fell-walkers with a number of well-marked paths to the summit, the mountain has also seen extensive slate mining activity for 800 years and the remains of abandoned mines and spoil tips are a significant feature of the northeast slopes.
Boat trips on The Steam Yacht Gondola, a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht, can be taken from Monk Coniston pier, just 5 to 10 minutes' walk from the house.
Around 25 minutes drive from Monk Coniston is the beautiful village of Grasmere, the inspiration for William Wordsworth’s poems. You can visit the poet’s homes of Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount.
The stately home of Levens Hall, famous for its magnificent formal garden and its topiary displays is about 40 minutes’ drive from Monk Coniston as is Sizergh Castle, a fine medieval house, surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Closer to home is Hill Top Farm, the home of Monk Coniston’s patron Beatrix Potter. Just 15 minutes’ drive away, Hill Top is home to many of Beatrix’s personal collections of paintings, furniture and china. You can also explore and the flower and vegetable garden where you can still see many of the settings of the setting for her illustrations including the Rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddleduck laid her eggs and the hen hutch raided by Mr Tod.
Fun for the family can be found at Grizedale Forest. Located about 6 miles east of Monk Coniston, near Hawkshead you’ll find a range of forest walks, mountain bike trails and orienteering courses; and the brand new ‘Go Ape’ high wire adventure course.
You can also see what remains of the garden terrace of Grizedale Hall. Demolished in 1957 Grizedale Hall was a POW camp during the second World War. Known as 1 POW Cap (Officers) Grizedale held the most elete of German POW’s including Franz Baron von Werra who’s escape attempt in 1940 inspired film The One That Got Away.
The Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole (between Ambleside and Windermere) also has many family attractions including an adventure playground and interactive exhibitions. With stunning views from the grounds and gardens its lakeside setting is of the stopping points for the Windermere ferries.