Boats, trains and buses lead to a hauntingly beautiful side of the Lake District, bursting with wildlife, culture and relics of the past. While dark-sky canoeing makes for a magical night
The ripples are deep gold in the sunset light as we paddle across Coniston Water towards Wild Cat Island. Officially known as Peel Island, this is where the children camp in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. The canoe glides between rocks into the hidden harbour with its pebbly beach, and we climb, excited as kids, up through bronze-leaved oaks and tall pines to explore the clifftop clearings.
This morning, I took several trains and a bus, each journey more lovely than the one before, to reach Coniston in the Lake District. Tomorrow I’ll catch a boat to visit Brantwood, once home to the Victorian writer and artist John Ruskin. A champion of art and nature and an early observer of the damage that human activities were doing to the environment, Ruskin might not have approved of all my transport choices. He loved boats, but saw railways as part of industrialisation’s “frenzy of avarice” and complained, with characteristic paternalism, about the “stupid herds of modern tourists” who “let themselves be emptied, like coals from a sack, at Windermere …” Ruskin, writing before cars swarmed across the landscape, recommends hiring “a chaise and pony for a day”.