Coniston Water, one of the Lake District’s largest ribbon lakes, stretches from Coniston in the north to the tiny hamlet of High Nibthwaite in the south – a total distance of five miles. It’s a particularly slender body of water, never more than about half-a-mile wide. Rising above the eastern shores are steep, wooded slopes that lead up to Grizedale Forest and Bethecar Moor. A narrow road winds its way along this side of the lake, but it’s a slow, tortuous drive. To the west, the terrain is more open – room for grazing land and low moorland as well as an A-road. A delightful trail hugs the water’s edge on this side, from Torver Back Common to Coniston, making an easy outing for walkers when combined with a trip on the Coniston Launch.
There are several small islands on Coniston Water, including Peel Island, which became Wild Cat Island in Arthur Ransome’s children’s adventure story Swallows and Amazons. Dedicated fans might want to follow in the wake of their heroes by sailing out to the island for a picnic; less adventurous types might settle for having a peep at the ‘secret harbour’ from the relative luxury of one of the cruises that operate on the lake.
The boats of the Coniston Launch operate between Coniston and Lake Bank, with additional piers at Brantwood, Sunny Bank, Torver and Waterhead. For something a little more special, there’s the National Trust’s restored Victorian steam yacht, Gondola. If you don’t mind getting wet, the Coniston Boating Centre hires out kayaks, canoes, rowing boats, motor boats and dinghies.