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Hawkshead - Coniston - Grizedale drive

A drive based around Hawkshead which includes two separate loops. One visits beautiful Tarn Hows and the many delights of Coniston Water, the other passes through Grizedale Forest and includes some wonderful forest attractions. 35 miles.

Route Map

Summary of main attractions on route

Distance Attraction Car Park Coordinates
0 miles Hawkshead Village N 54.37410, W 2.99679
2.6 miles Tarn Hows N 54.38708, W 3.03905
4.9 miles Coniston Village N 54.36892, W 3.07347
5.6 miles Coniston Water N 54.36460, W 3.06779
10.8 miles Brown Howe N 54.31026, W 3.09262
11.4 miles Blawith Common N 54.30409, W 3.09771
14.4 miles Low Peel Near N 54.31294, W 3.08336
17.1 miles Machell’s Coppice N 54.34767, W 3.06338
17.6 miles Brantwood N 54.35263, W 3.06046
19.1 miles Monk Coniston N 54.37186, W 3.05400
22.5 miles Hawkshead Village N 54.37410, W 2.99679
25.9 miles Grizedale Visitor Centre N 54.33774, W 3.02253
29.0 miles Low Dale Park, Grizedale N 54.31704, W 3.00131
32.0 miles Esthwaite Water N 54.35029, W 2.98460
32.9 miles Hill Top, Near Sawrey N 54.35247, W 2.97133
35.0 miles Hawkshead Village N 54.37410, W 2.99679

The attraction car park coordinates are available as Points Of Interest (POI) files for your sat nav device. Use the following link to download a zip file containing the most common POI file formats; Hawkshead – Coniston – Grizedale POI. Further information on sat nav files can be found on the Route Navigation page.

The Drive

Loop 1 – Tarn Hows & Coniston Water loop

Hawkshead

Distance: 0 miles
Location: Hawkshead Village car park
Coordinates: N 54.37410, W 2.99679

Hawkshead is one of the most charming villages in the Lake District and worth a stop to explore its historic centre. The village dates back to medieval times, originally a prosperous wool market run by the monks of Furness Abbey which was near Barrow-in-Furness. There are a number of historic buildings around the village, including Hawkshead Grammar School which was founded here in 1585 and educated a number of notable pupils, including the famous local poet William Wordsworth who was sent here in 1778, aged 8, after his mother died. The school eventually closed in 1909 and the building is now a museum dedicated to its interesting history.

Also in the centre of the village is the National Trusts Beatrix Potter Gallery, a 17th century building housing displays of her famous watercolour illustrations and more about her work. The building was once the office of the solicitors W.H. Heelis & Son, where William Heelis worked when he married Beatrix in 1913. No doubt Beatrix would have spent a great deal of time in and around Hawkshead when she lived nearby at Hill Top. We will be visiting Hill Top next on the tour.

Other notable buildings in the village include St Michael and All Angels church, most of which dates back to the 16th century and sits on the small hill overlooking the village. There is a lovely churchyard where you can find some peace and enjoy the surrounding views. Also, in the main village square is the old Market Hall which dates from the late 18th century when the village thrived as a local market.

It makes an enjoyable stroll around the timeless and mostly car-free village centre with its jumbled collection of whitewashed houses, archways and alleyways, courtyards and squares. There are a number of tourist shops, cafes and pubs. The car park is pay and display with nearby toilets and tourist information centre.

Hawkshead Village from churchyard

Travelling

Turn right out of the village car park, then quickly left at the T junction on the B5285 towards Ambleside. After approx 0.5 miles, take the left turn (still the B5285) towards Coniston. Continue up the hill for approx 0.8 miles to Hawkshead Hill where there is a right turn to Tarn Hows. After approx 200m, there is a T junction where you turn left and then immediate right towards Tarn Hows again. This minor road winds up through the trees for approx 0.7 miles before a wonderful panorama opens up with Tarn Hows down on the right and various Lakeland peaks in the distance. Just as you leave the trees there is a small free short stay car park on the right which provides a fabulous view from the car. The main car park is a short distance beyond the tarn on the left.

Tarn Hows

Distance: 2.6 miles
Location: Tarn Hows
Coordinates: N 54.38708, W 3.03905

Tarn Hows is one of the wonders of Lakeland and a beauty spot not to be missed. Historically the area was rough open common grazing land with three smaller natural tarns but in 1862 the local estate at Monk Coniston gained possession of all the land and started improving it. This including landscaping and building a dam at the lower tarn which raised water levels so the three tarns became the one you see today.

In 1930 the 4000 acre Monk Coniston Estate came up for sale and was bought by Beatrix Potter who was keen to buy local land so she could save it from unwanted development and preserve it for future generations. She soon sold the part containing Tarn Hows to the National Trust who have further improved the area over the years.

The main path around the tarn is well made and well worth an hour of your time. Higher paths on the eastern side give some fabulous long distance views towards the Lake District mountains. The main car park is National Trust pay and display with toilets and an information display.

Tarn Hows Tarn Hows

Travelling

From the car park, turn left and continue on the picturesque minor road which is now one-way. This road descends and loops back to the B5285 Coniston road. Turn right on this road and after approx 0.4 miles the road follows the lake shore and continues a short distance to Coniston village. Once in the village, take the first left turn and the car park is immediately on the right.

Coniston

Distance: 4.9 miles
Location: Coniston Village car park
Coordinates: N 54.36892, W 3.07347

The village of Coniston is in a picturesque location nestled between Coniston Water and The Old Man of Coniston, the mountain directly behind. Historically, it grew up due to the local copper and slate mines which flourished from the 17th century with workers being housed in the village. In 1859 a railway line was opened to the village from the main Cumbrian Coast line near Broughton in Furness. The main purpose of this at the time was to transport the copper ore but as copper demand declined in the late 19th century the railway line became more popular with Victorian tourists. A local tourist industry soon grew up which has become more and more popular over time. The railway closed in 1962 and there is little trace of the old line and station now but it certainly helped to put Coniston on the map in its heyday.

Probably the most notable local resident was John Ruskin, the famous Victorian visionary, artist, art critic and writer, who lived nearby at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water from 1871 until his death in 1900, aged 80. He was buried at St Andrew’s Church in the centre of the village. Following his death, the Ruskin Museum was set up in Coniston in 1901 and still going strong today. You can discover a wealth of local history, including the ‘Bluebird Wing’ housing a display relating to Donald Campbell’s exploits on Coniston Water and his boat ‘Bluebird’.

The village itself has a few tourist shops, cafes and pubs where you can spend some time and fully appreciate the surrounding scenery. The car park is pay and display with a Tourist Information Centre and toilet facilities.

Coniston village Coniston village

Travelling

From the village car park, turn left and continue on the B5285 which shortly meets the A593 in the village centre. Turn left, over the river and past a service station & shop, then immediately take Lake Road on the left which leads 0.5 miles down to a dead end at the lake. The car park is just before the lake on the left.

Coniston Water, Lake Road

Distance: 5.6 miles
Location: Lake Road car park, Coniston Water
Coordinates: N 54.36460, W 3.06779

Coniston Water is a scenic and relatively quiet lake surrounded by low and mostly wooded hills. It is well worth taking a trip on the lake to better appreciate the scenery and you can do this either on the historic Steam Yacht ‘Gondola’ or the Coniston Launch. If you fancy hiring a boat yourself, the Coniston Boating Centre is adjacent to the car park with a good selection of small boats and paddle boards. Across the lake you can just about make out Brantwood house where John Ruskin the famous Victorian visionary, artist, art critic and writer, lived from 1871 until his death in 1900. You can visit the house and gardens via the Gondola or Launch boats which both stop at the jetty near the house.

The lake also has famous literary connections through the popular children’s adventure book ‘Swallows and Amazons’, written by the author Arthur Ransome and published in 1930. The book is based on a number of locations around the lake, for example, Wild Cat Island in the book is said to be based on Peel Island towards the southern end of the lake.

Perhaps the most famous moment in the lake’s history came on 4th January 1967 when Donald Campbell lost his life on the water during a world record water speed attempt. Film footage shows the boat summersault and break up but it was not until 2001 that his body was discovered on the bed of the lake and laid to rest in Coniston cemetery. The plan was to restore the boat and place it in the Bluebird wing of the Ruskin Museum in Coniston village but ongoing arguments about ownership have delayed this indefinitely.

You can learn more about ‘The Campbells on Coniston’ and about ‘Swallows and Amazons’ at the Ruskin Museum in the village and also on themed cruises around the lake aboard the Gondola or the Launch.

Also next to the car park and shore here is The Bluebird Cafe which provides refreshments with a lovely view over the water and there are several picnic tables adjacent. The car park is pay and display with toilet facilities.

Coniston lakeside

Travelling

Return back up Lake Road and at the top turn left on the main A593. You soon leave Coniston village and the road starts to climb with some views across Coniston Water. Shortly, pass through a small settlement where the Ship Inn is on the right. The pleasing road runs parallel with the lake but views are limited by trees. Soon enter the small village of Torver, pass the Church House Inn on the left and take the next left turn, signposted A5084 to Greenodd. The Wilsons Arms & Torver Deli are opposite this junction. After approx 0.4 miles there is a small layby on the right where it is worth a quick stop to look back at the wonderful views of the Coniston mountain range and Torver valley. Continue to climb a short distance, passing a Land Rover garage, then descend steeply through Torver Common towards Coniston Water. Cross Torver Beck and soon the road joins the shores of the tree-lined lake. There are laybys at the roadside where you can stop and admire the views across the lake, which include Peel Island, famous for being Wild Cat Island in the film ‘Swallows and Amazons’. Continue a short distance before crossing a cattle grid, the entrance to Brown Howe is just beyond on the left.

Brown Howe

Distance: 10.8 miles
Location: Brown Howe
Coordinates: N 54.31026, W 3.09262

Brown Howe is a wonderful public access area on the shores of Coniston Water. There is a good area of grass bordered by trees and shingle beaches with fabulous views up the lake towards the central Lake District mountains. The area is perfect for a picnic, play and paddle in idyllic surroundings. Non powered boats can be launched here if you want to explore the lake and walks are available across the road, up the pleasant lane onto Blawith Common. The car park is adjacent to the grass and is pay and display with seasonal toilets.

Brown Howe

Travelling

Leave Brown Howe car park and turn left on the A5084. The road meanders through trees and after approx 0.5 miles reaches the rough layby parking area for Blawith Common on the left.

Blawith Common

Distance: 11.4 miles
Location: Blawith Common
Coordinates: N 54.30409, W 3.09771

Blawith Common is a large area of attractive Common land either side of the A5084 road. Towards Coniston Water, a picturesque and peaceful lakeshore access area has some open grass and shingle beaches overlooking the southern end of the lake. The lakeshore in the vicinity has open access and is a great place to explore with rocky outcrops and trees overlooking the appealing shore. From the parking area it is a short walk down a rough path to the lakeshore. The area is a real hidden gem being quite secluded and well away from the road. Across the road some wonderful footpaths through bracken take you up into the low hills where you will find fabulous views, Beacon Fell and Beacon Tarn. There are a couple of additional parking areas further along the road which also have paths down to the shore. Free roadside parking but no facilities.

Blawith Common lakeshore

Travelling

Leave the parking area and turn left on the A5084. The road continues across the attractive Blawith Common, past bracken covered hills with views over the southern end of Coniston Water. Shortly, cross a cattle grid and enter the small settlement of Water Yeat where you take a left turn at the minor cross roads, signposted to ‘East of Lake’. This short section of very narrow road soon crosses the River Crake (which drains Coniston Water) and meets a T junction where you turn left. The ‘East of Lake’ road gives good views towards the Coniston mountain range in the distance and soon passes through the small village of High Nibthwaite. Beyond this the southern end of Coniston Water appears again on the left and there are continued glimpses of the lake along the following attractive section through trees. The road is quite narrow and some care is needed. In a short distance arrive at Low Peel Near with its open beach on the left and adjacent roadside parking.

Low Peel Near

Distance: 14.4 miles
Location: Low Peel Near
Coordinates: N 54.31294, W 3.08336

Low Peel Near is a fabulous National Trust lakeshore access area overlooking Coniston Water. The area is perfect for exploring and enjoying the scenery with a picnic. The main shingle beach is adjacent to the road and has wonderful views southwards down the lake. From there you can follow a rough path along the shore, through attractive woodland and past a series of rocky outcrops overlooking secluded coves. Eventually the shore overlooks Peel Island, famous for being Wild Cat Island in the film ‘Swallows and Amazons’. If you have a small boat you can paddle or sail the short distance across to the island which again provides some great exploring. Limited free roadside parking, no facilities.

Low Peel Near

Travelling

Continue northwards along the attractive tree-lined shore with glimpses of the lake through the trees. After approx 0.7 miles, pass Parkamoor jetty where the Steam Yacht Gondola sometimes stops. A short distance beyond is Dodgson Wood car park on the right which is free and gives good access to the adjacent rough shingle shore where you can fully appreciate the wonderful views across the lake. Much of this shoreline has open access and there are a few free car parks along the way. Continue on for approx 0.6 miles to another car park, Bailiff Wood, on the right. The quiet road continues to meander along the pleasing shoreline for another 1.1 miles to Machell’s Coppice car park on the right.

Machell's Coppice

Distance: 17.1 miles
Location: Machell’s Coppice
Coordinates: N 54.34767, W 3.06338

Machell’s Coppice is another wonderful lakeshore access area on Coniston Water. The large open shingle delta, formed around a stream, normally extends out beyond the trees into the lake and so provides fabulous views over the whole lake and towards the Coniston mountain range across the water. The large free car park allows easy access across the minor road to the adjacent shore and there are a few picnic tables. The wooded slopes above are the western extreme of Grizedale Forest and there is a short walk up into the woods from the car park for better lake views. No facilities.

Machell's Coppice

Travelling

Turn right out of the car park and continue northwards along the lakeshore road for approx 0.5 miles to Brantwood car park on the right.

Brantwood

Distance: 17.6 miles
Location: Brantwood
Coordinates: N 54.35263, W 3.06046

Brantwood is a beautifully situated country house overlooking Coniston Water. The historic house was the home of the famous English art critic, artist and social commentator John Ruskin who lived there from 1871 until his death in 1900. Ruskin filled the house full of artwork and objects during his time and nowadays the house is basically a fascinating museum of his life.

Outside, as well as fabulous views across the lake, there are extensive and varied gardens within the 250 acre estate which stretches from the lakeshore up the wooded slopes behind the house. Adjacent to the house is a cafe and toilets. The house, gardens and cafe are open daily from March to November and February school holidays. Also, Wednesday to Sunday over the winter. Admission fee applies to house and gardens. Brantwood jetty is nearby where Coniston Water boats stop.

Brantwood

Travelling

Leave Brantwood car park and turn right to continue northwards. The road climbs above the lake with great views towards Coniston village and mountains. After approx 1 mile the road bears left and descends steeply towards the lake. Just before the road meets the lake shore is Monk Coniston car park on the left.

Monk Coniston

Distance: 19.1 miles
Location: Monk Coniston
Coordinates: N 54.37186, W 3.05400

Monk Coniston is an attractive lakeshore access with a strip of shingle beach at the head of Coniston Water. The car park gives direct access to a footpath through trees which follows the shingle shore a short distance to a jetty where you can catch the Steam Yacht Gondola. The shore has wonderful views across the lake to the Coniston mountain range. In the opposite direction from the car park is a more open narrow shingle beach which looks straight down Coniston Water. A footpath over the road takes you a short distance to Monk Coniston Hall gardens which can be viewed from the footpath and have some attractive features. The Monk Coniston Estate includes Tarn Hows and was once owned by Beatrix Potter, now National Trust. Pay and display car park with a small picnic area and seasonal toilet facilities.

Monk Coniston

Travelling

Leave Monk Coniston car park and turn left. The road follows the head of the lake shoreline for a short distance before meeting a T junction where you turn right towards Hawkshead on the B5285. The road soon climbs steeply through trees and eventually reaches the summit at High Cross. There is some free parking on the right here with a picnic area and walks into Grizedale Forest or to Tarn Hows. Over the summit, descend through Hawkshead Hill with some good Lakeland views and soon meet a T junction where you turn right and enter the village of Hawkshead. The village car park is a short distance on the right.

Hawkshead

Distance: 22.5 miles
Location: Hawkshead Village car park
Coordinates: N 54.37410, W 2.99679

Return to start point. End of loop 1.

Loop 2 – Grizedale Forest & Esthwaite Water loop

Travelling

Turn right out of Hawkshead village car park then quickly right at the following two T junctions, following signs for Grizedale. The road soon leaves Hawkshead and after approx 0.2 miles take the easily missed right turn towards Grizedale. The narrow, windy and sometimes busy road starts ascending quite steeply and some care is needed. The road soon eases and passes attractive forest before reaching a summit at Moor Top where there is a pay and display car park with picnic tables and forest walks. Over the summit, the road gradually descends with wonderful views over surrounding Grizedale Forest. Shortly, pass Grizedale Lodge and Kennels ‘pay on exit’ car park is just beyond on the right. Continue a short distance to pass Grizedale Forest visitor centre on the right and the main car park is a short distance beyond on the left.

Moor Top, Grizedale

Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre

Distance: 25.9 miles
Location: Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre
Coordinates: N 54.33774, W 3.02253

Grizedale is a large forest occupying much of the area between lakes Windermere and Coniston. There are plenty of activities for visitors including many walking and cycling trails, often along forest tracks. For the more adventurous there are some more technical mountain bike trails and a Go Ape experience which offers various forest activities, including a ‘Tree Top Adventure’. Many of the trails lead from the visitor centre up the surrounding hills and offer fabulous views inbetween the trees. More information can be found at the large visitor centre where there is also a cafe, shop, mountain bike hire, picnic tables, play area and toilet facilities. These are open daily all year. The car park is ‘pay on exit’.

Grizedale Forest

Travelling

Turn left out of the main car park and continue along the attractive valley road through fields overlooked by forested hills. Soon pass Bogle Crag pay and display car park on the left where you can take a forest walk. Continue a short distance to the small village of Satterthwaite where The Eagle’s Head pub provides refreshments. Beyond the village, soon pass Grizedale campsite, then descend alongside Force Beck to some buildings where you turn left towards Dale Park. The narrow road passes Blind Lane free car park and continues a short distance to a left turn which you take. Soon cross a stream and just beyond is Low Dale Park car park and picnic site on the left.

Low Dale Park, Grizedale

Distance: 29.0 miles
Location: Low Dale Park, Grizedale
Coordinates: N 54.31704, W 3.00131

Low Dale Park is one of a number of roadside picnic sites dotted around Grizedale Forest and is arguably one of the more attractive. There is a small grassy area inbetween trees and next to a stream with a couple of picnic tables. The trees provide plenty of shade but it is also open enough to get some sunshine. Beyond the small footbridge upstream are some lovely views across open meadows surrounded by forested hills. The footpath over the footbridge soon leads to the High Bowkerstead and Silurian Way forest walks. This side of the forest is off the beaten track and normally quite peaceful. There is only space for a few cars to park but, unlike some other forest car parks, this is free. No facilities.

Low Dale Park, Grizedale

Travelling

Leave the car park and turn left to continue up the attractive peaceful valley, again passing fields and meadows surrounded by forested hills. After approx 1.4 miles the narrow road starts to ascend quite steeply and soon passes over a summit to descend with views ahead towards Esthwaite Water and central Lakeland. Shortly meet a T junction and turn right towards Newby Bridge. After approx 0.3 miles, Esthwaite Water car park is in woodland on the left.

Esthwaite Water

Distance: 32.0 miles
Location: Esthwaite Water Visitor Centre
Coordinates: N 54.35029, W 2.98460

Esthwaite Water is one of the lesser known Lake District lakes, probably due to it being the only privately owned one with very little public access. However, it is still very attractive and is worth some exploring. This small visitor centre, set in woodland on the lakeshore with lovely views up the lake, offers a number of attractions for visitors and has developed from the original trout fishery. It remains a popular venue for fishing, boats and kit can be hired for this activity. Also on offer is an Osprey Safari where you can self-drive a small electric boat around the lake looking for the Ospreys that are normally in residence between April and September. At any time of year the boat ride gives a great view of the different wildlife on and around the peaceful lake.

The lake was a treasured place for Beatrix Potter, being so close to her house at Hill Top, and for the famous poet William Wordsworth, who went to school in nearby Hawkshead. No doubt the lake and surroundings gave them both plenty of inspiration for their interests as they explored it.

The visitor centre is a 2 minute walk from the main car park along the shingle shore and there are a few picnic tables around the car park. The small Boathouse cafe at the visitor centre provides refreshments with an attractive terrace overlooking the lake and nearby toilets. Open all year. The car park is pay and display.

Esthwaite Water

Travelling

Leave Esthwaite Water car park and turn left. Very shortly take the left turn to Sawrey. The narrow road follows the shores of Esthwaite Water before climbing a short distance to the village of Near Sawrey. Soon meet a T junction in the village where you turn right and Hill Top car park is immediately on the right.

Hill Top

Distance: 32.9 miles
Location: Hill Top, Near Sawrey
Coordinates: N 54.35247, W 2.97133

Hill Top, in the attractive village of Near Sawrey, was once the home and sanctuary of Beatrix Potter and is still kept exactly as it would have been when she lived and worked there.

Born in London in 1866, Beatrix Potter is known across the world nowadays as the famous children’s author who produced 23 little story books with much loved characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. What many don’t realise is just how talented and influential she was in many other varied fields, from land conservation and sheep farming to the science behind fungi.

Hill Top was bought by Beatrix in 1905 with profits from her early work. At that time she still lived in London, this was her bolthole and sanctuary where she could escape to write her books. Even when she married in 1913 and moved in to nearby Castle Farm she continued to use Hill Top for her personal work and pleasure.

Today the house is kept very much as she left it when it was donated to the National Trust after her death in 1943. Very atmospheric and filled with her personal possessions, you can get a real sense of her life and guides will tell you more. The garden is also wonderful and along with the house and other nearby locations provided Beatrix with many illustrations used in her books.

Hill Top is a short walk along the road from the car park. The house is open daily, except Friday, from February to November. Closed in winter. There is an admission fee to house and gardens, free for National Trust members. The ticket office is in the car park. The house can be busy so entry is by timed ticket and booking recommended. Outside there are attractive gardens, a small gift shop and toilets which are open the same time as the house plus weekends in November and December. Occasionally a pop up cafe too. The small car park is free for visitors to the property. The Tower Bank Arms next door is a quaint looking pub which also has connections with Beatrix Potter.

Hill Top house

Travelling

From Hill Top car park, turn left on the B5285 towards Hawkshead. The road soon follows the picturesque eastern shore of Esthwaite Water. Just past the lake the road bends to the left and the village of Hawkshead is ahead. Take the right turn to Hawkshead village, still the B5285. The first left turn brings you back to the village car park.

Hawkshead

Distance: 35.0 miles
Location: Hawkshead Village car park
Coordinates: N 54.37410, W 2.99679

Return to start point. End of loop 2.

Hawkshead Grammar School