Here at Sykehouse Cottage we have some favourite Easter activities. These include:
- A trip on the Eskdale and Ravenglass Railway. Also known as “La’al Ratty”, this is one of the oldest narrow gauge railways in the country. They start running daily from mid March, through some beautiful countryside. Click here for their website. It’s about an half an hour from Sykehouse Cottage either across Corney Fell or taking the A 595.
- This can be combined with a ramble around Muncaster Castle and Gardens where for this Easter Weekend, they are running a Teddies Go Free promotion – free entry for every child with a teddy and there’s the
Muncaster Giant Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday and Monday. Click here for more details.
- And of course if anyone needs anymore chocolate, you could always find a Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt at various NT venues including: the Coniston Steam Gondola (are they floating?); Fell Foot at Newby Bridge; Claife Viewing Station on the west bank on Windermere; and Wray Castle at Ambleside. Click here for more details and opening times.
In 1871, when Ruskin was in his early Fifties, he purchased – on impulse and unseen – a dilapidated house on the shores of Coniston Water. This became his main home for nearly 30 years until his death in 1900. Ruskin’s love of the Lakes started as a child. His parents travelled to Scotland every year and always broke their journey in the Lake District. When he bought it, Brantwood was little more than a cottage; Ruskin altered and enlarged it, including the lovely lantern set in the corner of his bedroom.
Here, he could experiment with his gardens. He built a reservoir, and redirected the waterfall down the hills, added an ice house, and enlarged the harbour, from where he rowed his boat, the Jumping Jenny.
Brantwood is now a museum, exhibition space and arts centre with a rather splendid cafe, The Jumping Jenny, and is a favourite day out of ours.
If you want to find out what’s on Brantwood.org.uk has all the details.
Across the Water, the Ruskin Museum in Coniston is a fascinating Cabinet of Curiosities, crammed full of wonderful objects and paintings inspired by Ruskin’s love of geology, botany and the Lakes. It also includes a special exhibition on the Coniston Bluebird and Donald Campbell. Click here for more information about the Ruskin Museum.
We parked at the dramatic Hodge Close Slate Quarry near Coniston. A good spot to park the car as long as you don’t mind the terrifyingly deep – and unfenced – excavations. One peek over the edge is enough for me though it is a favourite of abseilers and divers. After a hour and an half ramble over good tracks and through lovely woods and past Cathedral Cavern, we reached our destination: The Three Shires Inn. This is a lovely traditional slate inn built in 1872 and it gets its name from a point on Wrynose Pass, close by , where the boundaries of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire used to meet. Chips and Cumberland sausage were ordered and halves of Loweswater Gold, Cumberland Ale and Hawkshead Red consumed. Marvellous. We took a shorter return route across Stang End Farm as the clouds had gathered: just 30 mins to the car. This walk is about 20 minutes drive (12 miles) from Sykehouse Cottage.
With the long stretch of fine weather this Summer, the tribe judged it perfect conditions for a dip in Coniston Water – without wetsuits. Hurrah! So we sought out our favourite beach on the east side of the Water and loaded up the car with picnic boxes, blankets and dogs. It was a fabulous afternoon and the water was warm enough for the most hesitant of our party. Some of us swam out far enough to greet passing canoeists whilst others were content to paddle at the shore line. Wild swimming is so much more fun than a chlorinated swimming pool with little fish nibbling at your toes and fronds of weed stroking your legs. If sea water swimming is all citrus sparkle and salt dust on skin, fresh water swimming is as soft and silky as strawberries and cream …
Tarn Hows is another favourite walk of ours – particularly when we have friends with pushchairs or just want to “walk and talk” instead of concentrating on finding the next sheep track, as it’s a stunningly pretty round walk on smooth paths with plenty of benches along the way. The place is owned by the National Trust, has a well managed car park – and possibly an ice cream van in high season. They even have a couple of those nifty Tramper scooters giving people who are less mobile a chance to roam a little. So, if you are staying at Sykehouse Cottage and fancy a stroll rather than a hike, Tarn Hows is the place for you. It’s only 25 minutes from Broughton in Furness, past Coniston Water.
For all its natural beauty, the tarn is artificial. It was created in the mid C19th by the owner out of three much smaller, boggier pools. He also landscaped the area, building the footpaths and planting the magnificent, non-native trees such as the Giant Sequoia which give the place a rather Scottish feel. Tarn Hows was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1965 with red squirrels, Herdwick sheep, both red and roe deer and Daubenton’s (or water) bats living in the area.
Tarn Hows is open dawn to dusk all year round. Further details can be found on the National Trust website here.
Bill was in the Sun Hotel, Coniston, with his Granny in late December 1966 when he met Donald Campbell who was practising for his final, and unfortunately fatal, water speed record attempt on Coniston Water.
As a very small boy, Bill vividly remembers Campbell surrounded by friends in the hotel’s corridor, bending down to ask him : “Do you like cars?” Bill said, “No.” “Do you like boats?” “No.” “Do you like chocolate?” “Yes!” This raised a big laugh from Campbell and his friends, and the man gave him a Mars bar – a huge prize for a small boy with such an unyielding attitude!
Coniston is only 9 miles and 15 minutes drive away from Sykehouse Cottage. The Ruskin Museum in Yewdale Road has a new wing with many interesting photographs and displays of memorabilia about the Campbell family, the Bluebird and the Record Attempt.
If you want to read my post about the Ruskin Museum, click here. Alternatively the link to the Museum’s quirky website for opening times and more information is here.