Coniston is a blue and green slate traditional Lakeland working village, half as old as time, named in honour of a long-forgotten chieftain or ‘king’ - just possibly identifiable with either the Norse chieftan Thorstein who gave his name to Turstini Watra / Thorstanes Watter, or even the real Norman king Stephen of Blois, who endowed Furness Abbey in 1127, before becoming king in 1135.
The village nestles in the lee of The Old Man of Coniston - Wainwright likened the position to Zermatt and the Matterhorn - and is surrounded by spectacular rugged crags and foaming waterfalls, illustrating the turbulent geological complexities of a valley born of violent volcanic fire and sculpted, even as ‘recently’ as 10,000 years ago, by unimaginable depths of ice.
Coniston is steeped in history, and boasts a rich and diverse cultural and literary heritage, from the Neolithic to the Jet Age. To-day’s fell-walkers follow in the footsteps of the very first ‘industrial revolutionaries,’ the stone-axe makers, and of Bronze Age settlers, Roman explorers seeking slate and minerals, Norse colonists from the Isle of Man, Cistercian iron-masters and shepherds, and generations of ‘fellows fierce from Furness Fells.’ Coniston’s First World War V.C. hero, James Hewitson , of the 1 / 4 th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, is buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s.
Many tourists visit specifically to pay homage to Coniston’s lake, the race-track of Bluebirds, and adventure playground of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons; its mountain, which has copper-bottomed the fleet and roofed the world; its influential prophet, John Ruskin, whose mission was to regain Paradise on earth by changing the political economy of the world and opening all eyes to its wondrously sensual visual joys; and its Boy’s Own hero, Donald Campbell, who broke four of his total of seven World Water Speed Records on Coniston Water.
Accustomed to providing warm hospitality for centuries, the local pubs and eateries offer fine home-brewed beers and the spicy Cumberland Sausage reputedly brought from Germany and Austria by the Dutch miners in Elizabethan times.