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Book a cruise on Steam Yacht Gondola

Gondola, a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht, on Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria
Gondola, a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht, on Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Cruise around Coniston Water on the Steam Yacht Gondola. Choose from three routes – the Full Lake cruise, the North Lake cruise or the Heart of the Lake cruise – and soak up the nostalgia of the bygone age of steam. Dogs welcome on board. National Trust members receive a 10% discount on all cruises.

North lake cruise on Gondola

Experience the beauty of Coniston water and breathtaking views of the surrounding fells, woods, and mountains.

Setting sail at 10.45am, the North of the lake cruise lasts approximately 1 hour. Above the Western shore of the lake and village towers the mountain, the Old Man of Coniston in the Furness Fells. At 2,632 feet (802m) high it dominates the view once you set sail. The mountain saw extensive copper and slate mining activity for eight hundred years, and the remains of abandoned mines and spoil tips are a significant feature of the north-east slopes.

You’ll sail further down the lake before gently turning and heading back up the Eastern side affording great views of the Old Man of Coniston once again.

On the return you’ll see Brantwood, John Ruskin’s former home. You can disembark at Brantwood jetty for a visit to the garden (not National Trust) to find out more about his life and work. With changing exhibitions, galleries, family trails and quirky mountainside gardens, it makes the perfect addition to a Gondola cruise*.

John Ruskin, the eminent Victorian was an artist, writer and social reformer. His ideas inspired his friends Canon Rawnsley and Octavia Hill about the idea of landscape and nature conservation, which eventually brought about the birth of the National Trust.

After leaving the Brantwood jetty you’ll see the Northern head of the lake and the trees and gardens of Monk Coniston Hall, a property once owned by Beatrix Potter. Look higher up to the tree lined ridge and the popular walking area of Tarn Hows can be made out.

Head back to Coniston Pier at 11.45am

*return on either of the two following Gondola sailings. Just stand at the jetty and indicate your return when you see Gondola.

Steam Yacht Gondola
Steam Yacht Gondola | © Jamie Harper

Heart of the lake cruise on Gondola

The Heart of the Lake cruise is packed with cultural highlights and historical gems as you head into Swallows and Amazons and Donald Campbell territory.

Arthur Ransome used many places around Coniston Water as inspiration for his books. You’ll sail to 'Wild Cat Island' and even be able to spot the hidden harbour. Coniston Water was used as one of the filming locations for both the 1974 and 2016 films Swallows and Amazons.

Donald Campbell was a British speed record breaker who broke world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s. He used Coniston Water for some of these attempts. Sadly, on one run the craft, ‘Bluebird’, shot up into the air and disappeared into the lake and was not discovered until 2001. There is a memorial to him near the Information Centre in Ruskin Avenue in Coniston and the Ruskin Museum now houses the rebuilt Bluebird K7 as well as Donald Campbell memorabilia telling his story.

On the return up the East side of the lake you can disembark at Brantwood, John Ruskins former home at the Brantwood jetty *

*You will need to catch the last Gondola sailing of the day back which sails from Brantwood at 3pm. Stand at the jetty and indicate your return when you see Gondola.

Passengers aboard the Gondola, a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht, on Coniston Water
Passengers aboard the Gondola on Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria | © National Trust/Tiree Dawson

Full lake cruise on Gondola

The full Lake cruise is the final sailing of the day, setting off at 13.45 from Coniston Pier. In peak season we run a second full lake cruise at 15.45, so choose between an earlier or a later cruise (see opening times page for details) . Explore the whole of Coniston Water which is five miles long and half a mile wide with a maximum depth of 56.1m.

First you will head down to the tranquil southernmost point of Coniston Water. On the way, hear about Gondola's long history and association with Coniston, from her Victorian heyday to her rescue, rebuild and relaunch 40 years ago.

Settle down, relax and enjoy the fantastic views and occasional commentary from the crew. Immerse yourself in the peace and tranquility of the Gondola sailing experience. You’ll find yourself comforted by the rythmic tapping of the steam engine. Visit the engine room which is open to view and hear from the engineer about the operation of Gondola.

Returning along the east shore there'll be enough time to hear about Donald Campbell and his pursuit of the world water speed record, as well as the legacy of John Ruskin's work and his life at Brantwood.

Hear about Arthur Ransome, the author of Swallows and Amazons, and you'll get to view Wild Cat Island and other landmarks such as Beckfoot, Holly Howe and the Amazons’ boathouse, made famous by his world-renowned book.

Travel the full length of Coniston in 1 hour 40 minutes, finishing back at Coniston at 15.25.

Passengers aboard the Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria

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