“Twin white washed villages sitting astride a landscape of soft hills and a woodland playground”
The area between lakes Windermere and Coniston is filled with a series of low, smooth sloped hills dominated by a large area of woodland, known slightly confusingly as Grizedale Forest. In reality the area is mainly set aside as an adventure playground by the Forestry Commission with many walks and cycle routes, a Go Ape tarzan style outdoor experience and a large Forestry Centre full of information. For those after walks on the open fells clearly it is not ideal but actually it is full of interest and offers an alternative for those not actually fixated by the fells. The west side of Lake Windermere is very quiet as is the east side of Coniston Water and there are some lovely areas of beach to wile away a summer’s afternoon. Tarn Hows is a famous landmark north of Grizedale, an artificial tarn created over a century ago by merging 3 smaller areas of water – now it is a beautiful spot, peaceful and well managed by the National Trust.
This is not an area for wilderness or big hills, with the exception of the Coniston Old Man range, but there is plenty to keep walkers more than interested. History plays its part with Hill Top House in Near Sawrey and Brantwood House on the east bank of Coniston being homes to Beatrix Potter and John Rushkin (founder of the National Trust) respectively. They are both worth visiting for different reasons – the views from Brantwood being as lovely as any house in the Lake District. Both were very involved in the conservation of the area and their legacy today should not be ignored. More history springs up on Coniston Water where Donald Campbell was killed attempting to break his own world water speed record in 1967 – the remains of his boat was lifted from the depths a few years ago but his legacy is mainly remembered by the local ‘Bluebird’ brewery in the village centre!
Coniston itself is one of my favourite villages in the Lake District. Somehow it has avoided the commercialism and traffic congestion of some of its larger neighbours and the pretty white washed cottages that make up the village add a peaceful air to it. Set between the higher fells of Coniston Old Man and the lake clearly helps by avoiding the sprawl of other villages as well as offering contrasting walking opportunities from the doorstep. The now disused Copper mines of the Old Man may also have helped create a community in the village and have added quite a scar to the fell but regardless worth a route around. I did in the middle of a November night of quite dreadful weather whilst being assessed on my Mountain Leader course so have never really looked on them with the affection others may have! Oddly the lake front is not one of the most attractive but non-motorised boats can be hired and a steamer runs the length of the lake in the summer months
Hawkshead may be better known than Coniston and sit only a few miles to the east but to me lacks much of the character. The centre is undoubtedly extremely attractive but the large woollen shop, large car park with a steady chain of coaches does it no favours. I think the key to Hawkshead is to stay in one of the local b & bs or hotels, abandon the car and withdraw in to the tiny alleyways and lovely pubs and tea rooms of the centre – shutting the day trippers out. The Beatrix Potter museum is definitely worth a visit and it is possible to walk down to pretty Esthwaite Water and on to Claife Heights where Beatrix Potter found much of her inspiration.
Near and Far Sawrey are 2 pretty little hamlets near the ferry across Windermere. Near Sawrey is the location of Hill Top House but Far Sawrey is the prettier with the added bonus of a pub and shop. The remainder of the area is more peaceful but with no villages of note. The character of the Lake District changes towards the south end of Windermere and Coniston, farmland taking over and the influence of the sea starting to take effect.
Old Man of Coniston. A high level circuit of the fells that lie to the west of Coniston village.
Great Carrs & Wetherlam. An attractive circuit of the northern Coniston range from Little Langdale
Little Langdale. A short walk from Tilberthwaite to Little Langdale with superb views of the Langdale Pikes.
Tarn Hows. An easy walk on an excellent path round this lovely tarn set in woodland and rocky outcrops
A walk in Grizedale Forest. A choice of walking opportunities from this famous outdoor playground in the forest
Coniston Hall on the lake. A straightforward short stroll to Coniston Hall with good views across and down the lake.
Beatrix Potter Country. From Hill Top at Near Sawrey the land rises through woodland and tarns with views over Windermere and Coniston.
Latterbarrow & Hawkshead. A short walk to this excellent viewpoiny from one of the most popular Lake District villages
Top o Selside. The land rises steeply from the the south west shore of Coniston to this lovely, rarely visited peak.
Woodland Fell & Beacon Tarn. South of the main Coniston range lies unspoilt fells with an idyllic tarn nesting amongst them
Other Things to do in…
Brantwood House. The wonderfully situated home of John Rushkin, who founded the National Trust and was a great friend of the Lake District
Hill Top House. The home of Beatrix Potter in Near Sawrey, the National Trust tell the tale of this famous author and conservationist.
Coniston Boating Centre is 1/2 a mile from the village and is where canoes, sailing boats and all manner of aquatic joys can be hired.
John Rushkin museum. In Coniston this museum is the story of the area and the best way of finding out it’s history.
Bluebird Brewery. Set on the Coppermines road and showcased in the Black Bull this is a celebration of great beer and a great adventurer.
Grizedale Forest. A remarkable 28 square mile of forestry converted in to an adventure playground for cyclists & walkers. Information centre and cafe.
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for a 5 day forecast for Coniston & Hawkshead
Places to Stay
Forest Field . A cottage in Colton just south of Coniston.