My friend Liam has a theory about Coniston. He thinks it is too close to the mountain that bears its name and when you stand in Coniston you are too pressed up against the view. I think he’s right. You need to step backwards, go to the other side of the lake and from there appreciate the beauty of the small minor’s village.
It is, in its own way quite lovely. The mountain, The Coniston Old Man, is omnipresent, a huge towering rock with far more of a presence than the lake which shares its name. The houses and shops are stone and unrelenting grey. On a sunny day they glow. On a cloudy day they glower from their perch beneath the Old Man.
Coniston is a famous for a couple of reasons. John Ruskin, the art critic, watercolourist and philanthropist lived on one side of Coniston Water in his house, Brantwood. He inspired people as diverse as Frank Lloyd Wright, TS Elliot, William Morris, Ebeneezer Howard and Tolstoy. I’m simplifying hugely, but basically he said that are connections between art, nature and society. His home and gardens are open to view, and as they are the opposite side of Coniston Water to the town, Liam’s theory is proved correct, from Ruskin’s house the view is magnificent.
Just down from Ruskin’s house is the Swallows and Amazons Tearoom. Swallows and Amazons is a series of books by Arthur Ransome which I read as a child. Set in the 1930s on a fictitious lake which drew inspiration from both Coniston and Windermere, these books are lovely. When you are out on the water you can almost hear John, Susan, Titty (I know), and Roger calling to each other.
In town you can take your pick from any number of pubs and cafes. The beer at the Black Bull is legendary and the soup at the Green Housekeeper delicious. Personally, I’d buy some chocolate slice at the Honesty Shop and take a stroll up the Old Man. The view of the silent Coniston Water and out towards the other lakes is magnificent.