Things to do in Coniston, Lake District | Lakelovers

About Coniston

Things to do in Coniston

Fell-walking is a chief attraction here. The pretty village of Coniston makes an excellent base for conquering the southern and western summits. There are several enticing inns and eateries here, as well as many independent shops. The village is close to the lake and the water-based activities this provides. Not to mention the stunning lake and mountain scenery. The lake itself, Coniston Water, is famously associated with Donald Campbell and his ill-fated speed record attempt in his boat, ‘Bluebird’. He is commemorated in the local brewed Coniston Bluebird Ale, which you will want to sample during your stay. The village and surrounding area is also associated with the eminent Victorian art critic John Ruskin. His former home of Brantwood lies a few miles along the lake shore.

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The Ruskin Museum

The Ruskin Museum

An award-winning museum on Yewdale Road. Visitors are afforded a unique insight into the history of Coniston. Information and exhibits focus on John Ruskin, Donald Campbell and his craft Bluebird, Arthur Ransome, along with local industries of times past, including the production of slate, copper, Langdale linen, and Ruskin lace. –

Bluebird Cafe by the Lake

One of the very most pleasant things to do in Coniston has to be whiling away an hour or two in the the Bluebird Cafe. Set right by Coniston Water at the end of Lake Road, by the piers and Coniston Boating Centre, the cafe enjoys fabulous views all round, and you can combine a visit here with a lake cruise, hiring a rowing boat, or exploring the lovely shoreline. –

Coniston Launch

Beautiful launches dating from the early 20th Century use a traditional Lakeland launch and Cygnet to glide you and your party over the lake, stopping at several jetties, including Brantwood, former home of Victorian art critic and philanthropist John Ruskin. You can alight at any of the stops and walk the fells and lakeside paths before taking to the water again. Guides offer commentaries as you go, and special itineraries include ‘Swallows and Amazons’ for Arthur Ransome fans and ‘Campbells on Coniston’ for those with an interest in the water speed record attempts that took place here. –

Steam Yacht Gondola

The craft that first inspired Captain Flint’s houseboat in ‘Swallows and Amazons’, The Gondola is the oldest steam yacht in the north of the country, and is owned by the National Trust. Let the breeze blow your cares away on deck or relax in the stylish saloon cabin as you glide over beautiful Coniston Water. –

Coniston Boating Centre

As in the Lake District more generally, you can always head to the water in Coniston for things to do. Located at the end of Lake Road, right by Coniston Water, this centre allows you to hire rowing boats and sailing dinghies, motor boats, canoes and paddle boards. A great way to get properly acquainted with one of England’s loveliest lakes. –

Spoon Hall Pony Trekking

What finer way to enjoy the best of Lakeland’s scenery? No previous riding experience is necessary, and children as young as 7 years old can enjoy pony rides under the guidance of an expert tutor. Located at Haws Bank close to the village. (015394 41391)


Tourist Information

The Tourist Information Centre at Coniston is located next to the main village car park on Ruskin Avenue, and often hosts exhibitions as well as offering information on events, attractions, and things to do in Coniston.


Amongst several other shops there is a Co-op on Yewdale Road, and W.F.Hutchinson on Tilberthwaite Avenue is an excellent store which sells fresh bread and meat along with other produce.

Petrol Stations

There is a filling station on Broughton Road in the village centre.

Health Centre

Coniston Medical Practice is based at Wraydale House, on your left as you begin to leave the village to head down the lake side on the A593 –


The nearest veterinarian services are in Ambleside on Church Street and Windermere on Lake Road, both branches of the Oakhill Veterinary Group. –


There are pay and display car parks on Ruskin Avenue near the village centre, at The Old Station on Walna Scar Road towards Coniston Old Man, by Coniston Boating Centre on Lake Road, and at the head of the Lake at Monk Coniston. Some of the central streets in town offer time-limited parking only, though there is free unrestricted parking elsewhere.



Coniston is situated in the south-west of the area. It is well placed for exploring the whole Lake District, and is a short run from Ambleside and Grasmere. Hawkshead is nearby, and beyond lies Sawrey and Beatrix Potter country. The coast is within reach from here as you head west on the A593, and you can also go that way to take a drive up to the wild and beautiful valley of Wasdale in the north. Going south down past Hawkshead takes you to Newby Bridge and lower-lying hills and woodlands. Taking the turn for Little Langdale on the road from Coniston towards Ambleside is well worth the effort of negotiating the narrow lanes beyond, as it leads to one of the Lake District’s very prettiest valleys. Here you can find the rustic Slaters Bridge, a short walk from the Three Shires Inn, and nearby Cathedral Cavern, both products of the local slate-mining industry. At the end of the valley, high mountain passes provide an exhilarating drive and unsurpassed views, the imposing Wrynose Pass conveying you towards the Duddon Valley and Eskdale, and another pass winding its way over to the Great Langdale valley.

There are several minibus tour companies to choose from in the lakes if you want to take the stress out of sightseeing, and Bluebird Tours are based in Coniston. –

Eating & Drinking


Cafes and pubs with outside seating abound here. Visit the 400-year-old Black Bull Inn, makers of the celebrated local brew, Coniston Bluebird Ale. A little further off, The Drunken Duck Inn, has an excellent reputation for high-end gastro-pub food. You should try to visit Chesters By the River at Skelwith Bridge, too. It is a delightful tearoom and gift shop with a mouth-watering lunch menu and range of homemade cakes. Our Plaice on Lake Road in Coniston is a fish-and-chip takeaway.

Please follow this link for some of our further thoughts on where to eat out during your stay:



Coniston inhabits some of the finest walking country in the Lake District, and the surrounding fells are well known to walkers and climbers. Coniston Old Man dominates the skyline behind the village, and also nearby are Wetherlam, Dow Crags, and Swirl How. Beatrix Potters extensive Monk Coniston Estate, lying between the lake and Skelwith Bridge, contains superb countryside for ramblers, and further to the south and west the land is more gently appointed, with many excellent picnic and bathing spots at the far end of Coniston Water. We suggest the purchase of a good map and guidebook for anything more than the simplest rambles. Here we list a few of our own recommendations:

Tarn Hows

A mostly level, wide, and well laid path runs by the side of one of the prettiest tarns in the Lake District. Tarn Hows is delightfully set amongst trees on the high ground above Coniston, and offers an easy circular walk by the waterside. The beauty spot is part of the Monk Coniston Estate, donated to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter, and a walk here ranks as one of the essential things to do near Coniston during your stay. There are also several routes that take in the tarn as part of a longer, more rugged ramble. Park at the large National Trust car park near the tarn. 1 hr.

Tilberthwaite to Little Langdale

A short distance from Coniston on the A593 towards Ambleside, you will see a turn for Tilberthwaite. The car park towards the end of this delightful little road allows you to start an ascent of Wetherlam through the former mine workings near the small Hamlet of Tilberthwaite, but it also marks the start of a lovely lower-level walk to one of the Lake District’s gems, the valley of Little Langdale. You can make a circular walk, incorporating stops at The Three Shires Inn for refreshment, and at Cathedral Cavern, a spectacular product of slate quarrying with tunnels through the hillside that will fascinate children and adults alike. This walk provides tremendous views of the Langdale Pikes. 2 – 3 hrs.

Coniston Hall by the Lake

Head for the marina by the lakeside, but deviate onto the Cumbria Way path running south. You can make a circuit through woodlands and walk on wide level paths through the grounds of Coniston Hall and the associated campsite, taking in lake and mountain views. Suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. 1 hr.

Coniston Old Man

One of the most popular fell walks in the whole Lake District, and with good reason. There are several routes to consider, and we recommend making this a circular route. One of the main track runs up through the old mines, but you may prefer to continue on the Walna Scar Road and start the ascent further on, before descending this way. The views are stunning, especially if you choose to include Dow Crags, high above secluded Goatswater, in your plan. There is a car park on the fell side at the top of the steep lane climbing up from the village. 2 ½ – 3 ½ hrs.

Walna Scar Road

This wide bridleway runs beneath the slopes of Coniston Old Man and provides an excellent route for walkers and mountain-bikers. You can start from Coniston village, or cut out some steep ascent by driving to the top of the little road up to the car park on the fell side. As well as acting as part of a circuit taking in Dow Crags and Coniston Old Man, the track can take you to Walna Scar itself and nearby White Maiden. Mountain-bikers may wish to create a circular ride including Seathwaite and Torver, and this is often done with the Walna Scar Road as part of the return leg.


Some excellent walking is to be found amongst the trees of Grizedale Forest, and you can start at any of the forestry commission car parks, or at the main visitor centre. Several marked trails run from here, and look out for the sculptures dotted about the woodlands. This is a good choice on rainy or windy days, too, as the trees give some valuable protection from the elements. The trails are perhaps most suited for mountain biking, and you can make a great ride or walk of any length here. Head to Hawkshead village and then towards Satterthwaite to find the forest and visitor centre.

Further Afield



Visit the home of celebrated Victorian art critic and philosopher John Ruskin, perfectly set on the eastern shore of Coniston Water. Today the house is a museum of Ruskin art and memorabilia, and the estate grounds include several beautiful gardens. There is a delightful tearoom here, too, and the patio offers a wonderful place to sit and take in the majesty of the surrounding lake and hills. –

Esthwaite Water Trout Fishery

Perhaps one of the most peaceful of Lake District waters, Esthwaite is home to a well-managed trout fishery, with bank and shore fishing, a guiding service, and fly-casting tuition. Travel to Hawkshead and find the fishery on the south-west shore of Esthwaite Water. You can also take the Osprey Safari, a boat ride around the lake. –

Joint Adventures

If you are looking for adventurous things to do near Coniston, Joint Adventures offers an adrenaline-fuelled day out. Qualified and experienced instructors lead you as you enjoy camping expeditions, gorge scrambling, archery, rock climbing and abseiling, all amongst our stunning Lake District scenery. –

River Deep, Mountain High

Another great option for outdoor activities is River Deep, Mountain High, who have been operating in the Coniston area for many years, and who try to challenge the perception that that pursuits like canoeing, gorge-walking, scrambling, mountain biking and climbing are only enjoyable for young, ‘outdoorsy’ types. Half, full-day, and even two day activity sessions. –


We recommend a visit to Beatrix Potter’s home at Sawrey, past Hawkshead and towards Lake Windermere. Many of the pictures in her books depict the house and its gardens, and a number of the famous characters we all know and love were created here. The National Trust have preserved Hilltop just as Potter left it, and it is treasure for those who are familiar with her tales. –

Getting to coniston


Leave the M6 motorway at Junction 36 and either pass by Kendal, taking the A591 to Ambleside and then the A593 to Coniston, or take the A590 and then the A5084 to Torver, and head north on the A593. Windermere rail station is at the end of the branch line from Oxenholme, on the west coast mainline near Kendal, and the 505 bus will take you to Coniston village from there. Information on bus timetables in the Lakes can be found here: