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As the weather becomes more spring like, the sun shines and the flowers begin to emerge from the damp soil, the tourist attractions along the way are beginning to open for the season, or to extend their hours from the winter opening times.
One place that many walkers on the Heart of Lakeland or Cross Lakes Ramble visit is Brantwood. Situated as it is on the eastern shore of Coniston Water, it is a perfect way to spend part (or all) of the day when they stay in Coniston without a change of base. It is easily reached by water from Coniston pier, either on Coniston Launch or on the iconic Victorian steam-powered Gondola, now run by the National Trust.
Brantwood offers a fascinating insight into the world of writer, artist, literary critic and social reformer John Ruskin. He bought Brantwood unseen for £1500 in 1872, and died there 28 years later in 1900. Filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures, the house and gardens retain the character of its famous resident.
Many great thinkers have been influenced by Ruskin’s ideas, and Brantwood remains a place of inspiration. Displays and activities in the house, gardens and estate reflect the wealth of cultural associations with Ruskin’s legacy – from the Pre Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts Movement to the founding of the National Trust and the Welfare State.
With its many contemporary exhibitions, concerts, courses and special events, together with its education work in the wider community, Brantwood continues in the Ruskin tradition today.
At weekends, Gondola makes a morning stop at Park-a-Moor, which is towards the southern end of the lake and on the eastern shore, From here it is possible to walk up through Dodgson’s Wood on to the ridge overlooking Coniston Water, and follow a bridleway along the ridge. After entering Grizedale Forest, you descend to Lawson park, originally a medieval sheep farm, and familiar to readers of Richard Adams’ Plague Dogs. Then traverse the hillside, and finally come down through Brantwood Gardens to the house and tearoom (reduced entry fee available), where you may have time for a cuppa before taking Gondola back across Coniston Water to Coniston pier. A great way to spend your “rest day”!