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.
In February half term we took advantage of a bright, cold day to walk up Copper Mines Valley through the snow line to Levers Water behind Coniston. As the valley has been worked for centuries, it’s an easy walk up well defined roads, including this beautiful Miners Bridge (left). Past Irish Row and the Mine Captain’s House to the remains of the wheel house at Red Dell (right, slate tower on the right of the beck) where we stopped for Kendal Mint cake and to make a scary snow man. Then more of a sheep track through the snow up to Levers Water (right).
Then back down again with a lovely view of Coniston Water at the end of the valley. We stopped for chips at the very welcoming Sun Inn – barman provided free bread and butter when we mentioned chip butties! The “One in the Waistcoat” had a pint of Bluebird (Coniston Brewing Co.) whilst I had half a Loweswater Gold (Cumbrian Legendary Ales).
The walk took 2 hours including stops with 3 children and a dog. Remember to take a map!
This gallery contains 6 photos
The Ruskin Museum, down a side street and hidden away, is a huge cabinet of curiosities. I felt like some sort of Alice wandering around a Museum Wonderland, each area as intriguing as the next. It’s delightful toy box of memorabilia, informative displays and original artwork. After a relatively recent revamp, its collection is split into three rooms to help visitors navigate their way around such a disparate yet fascinating collection: The Coniston Room including the small sailboat “Mavis” the original “Swallow” from “Swallows & Amazons”; The new Bluebird Room with lots of details about the World Speed Record attempt; and the Ruskin Room, a lovely Victorian parlour crammed with watercolours and other memorabilia of Ruskin and Collingwood.
What I truly like about the museum is that there is such a variety of objects that, if you are with a family, then everyone will find something of interest – although, I must confess to getting overwhelmed at so much on display. I’ll have to come on my own sometime. The boys loved the “Mavis” and the miniature stone houses from the John Usher collection. I was fascinated by the Neolithic finds and copper mining display whilst Bill spent time in the Bluebird Room, staring at grainy black and white photographs of the speed king, Donald Campbell. We all loved Ruskin’s slightly rusting and used watercolour paint boxes and dog eared sketch books.
You need an hour at the very least to sample its delights. The museum’s own (quirky) website is here to check on exact location in Coniston, prices and opening times.
If you want to read my post about a young boy’s encounter with Donald Campbell, click here.
This gallery contains 3 photos