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Lake District locations star in Swallows and Amazons

Two children pull a wooden sailing boat up a lakeshore beach at Derwent Water, while two more stand on the boat
Derwent Water was one of several Lake District locations to star in Swallows and Amazons (2016) | © Secret Harbour Films/British Broadcasting Corporation/British Film Institute 2016

No family visit to the Lake District is complete without a nod to the Walker children’s famous summer holiday – camping, sailing, fishing or thrilling adventures with piratical Amazons. Take a trip on a Victorian steam yacht to spy out all the best locations from the 2016 film, and discover the real inspiration for Wild Cat Island. Swallows and Amazons for ever!

Where is the lake in Swallows and Amazons?

Arthur Ransome’s ‘great lake in the north’ wasn’t based on a single location, but he did assure his readers that ‘all the places in the books are to be found, but not arranged quite as the ordnance maps’.

The eastern shore of Coniston Water inspired many of Ransome’s fictional places, so it’s no surprise that the 2016 film version of Swallows and Amazons used many nearby places as a backdrop. The crew also shot scenes on Derwent Water near Keswick.

Film locations around Coniston Water

This latest adaptation of Swallows and Amazons (2016) was faithful to Ransome’s enchanting childhood adventure stories, with some added espionage for good measure. Coniston’s towering fells and intimate lakeshore coves set the scene for much of the action.

Houseboat Bay

The mooring point for the houseboat of Captain Flint, confirmed pirate, was shot at Low Peel Near – a rocky promontory that juts out into the lake.

Island Camp

Among the trees above Low Peel Near, scenes of the Walker and Blackett children’s canvas encampment were filmed.

Secret Harbour

The Swallows’ secret mooring – key to their triumph over the Amazons – was filmed at High Peel Near. You don’t have to sail the high seas to follow in the wake of John, Susan, Titty, Roger, Nancy and Peggy. This spot is reachable on foot and is great for paddling and a picnic.

The white farmhouse at Boon Crag, set dressed with old carts and tractors, becomes Holly Howe in the Swallows and Amazons film
Boon Crag stepped back in time to become Holly Howe | © National Trust/Rona Webster

Holly Howe

Near the north of the lake is the National Trust tenant farm Boon Crag, transformed for filming into Holly Howe Farmhouse, where the Walkers stay for the summer. You can walk to the farm near Monk Coniston, and spot other scenes from the film, on your way up to Tarn Hows from Coniston.

Steam away on Captain Flint’s houseboat

To get the best view of the film’s locations and the places that inspired Arthur Ransome, take the Full Lake Cruise around Coniston Water aboard Steam Yacht Gondola, thought to be the original inspiration for Captain Flint's houseboat.

You can take in the sights from the water, and hop off at Gondola’s jetties to paddle, picnic or explore the lakeshore and woodland trails. The Parkamoor trail is highly recommended for sweeping views of Coniston.

On the lookout for fictional inspiration

As well as film locations, Coniston Water is home to many places that inspired Ransome’s original books. You can see them all on the Full Lake Cruise, or pack your knapsack with rations for a day of exploring from the lakeshore.

Holly Howe

Bank Ground Farm on the eastern shore was immortalised as Holly Howe, where the Walker children stay during their visits. Nearby is the Victorian boathouse that would have been Swallow’s fictional home.


Over on the north-western side looms the Old Man of Coniston – the mighty fell that became another great mountain in the second book, Swallowdale.

Where is the real Wild Cat Island?

Peel Island lies at the southern end of Coniston Water, and served as the inspiration for Wild Cat Island. Also in this area, where the lake drains into the River Crake, lie the treacherous waters of Octopus Lagoon in the books.

Steam Yacht Gondola steams towards the camera, with a bride and groom in the bow and a tree-covered island behind
Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water in the Lake District | © National Trust Images/Tiree Dawson

Meet Swallow and Amazon

Two Lake District museums (not National Trust) bring you face-to-face with the Walker and Blackett children’s trusty craft.

At Windermere Jetty Museum you’ll find the two 1950s wooden sailing boats used as Swallow and Amazon in the 2016 film. They were chosen because they’re small enough for a child to sail, but can hold a camera crew and their equipment. From nearby Bowness you can take a ferry across to Windermere’s west shore, for lakeshore walks to Wray Castle and Claife Viewing Station.

The sailing dinghy Mavis – Arthur Ransome’s inspiration for the fictional Amazon – is on display at Coniston’s Ruskin Museum. It’s a 15-minute walk from Steam Yacht Gondola’s pier on Coniston Water, and is a great way to begin or end a lake cruise.

Please check with the museums that these boats are on display before making a special visit.

Supporting special places

As well as showing off beautiful locations, filming directly benefits the places in our care that star in the production. The income from location fees goes straight back into conservation work to care for historic houses and landscapes, so that we’ll all be able to see them both on screen and in real life for years to come.

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