In search of autumn colour in Coniston

Boathouse on Coniston Water surrounded by autumn colours
North of Coniston Pier, from on board the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola

Back in the summer I visited Coniston for the first time in many years. I absolutely loved it, so promised myself that I would return to see its legendary autumn colours before the long dark nights of winter finally draw in!

I usually find the BBC weather app quite accurate, but at the weekend it really let me down! On Saturday I had planned to take a trip around Coniston Water on board the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola – I absolutely love this beautiful historic boat, so thought it would be the perfect way to capture a wide range of scenery in a relatively short space of time. Picnic and photographic equipment at the ready (in their order of importance, of course!), and lots of sunshine booked, I set off from a sunny Windermere only to arrive in a very grey Coniston. Knowing the conditions wouldn’t produce the images I wanted, I consoled myself with a flask of tea on the shore at Coniston Pier and watched as Gondola steamed off into the distance sounding its distinctive whistle…

The shore near to Coniston Pier
The shore near to Coniston Pier

Although my day wasn’t going as planned, a crew member on Gondola recommended that I visit the car park at Monk Coniston, from which I would be able to get pictures of some of the most colourful displays of trees on the lake. The car park is at the very northern tip of Coniston Water, and when I arrived there was little air movement and the water was relatively still – great for capturing autumn reflections.

Monk Coniston on Coniston Water
Reflections in the water from Monk Coniston car park
Monk Coniston car park
From the car park – to give you an idea of context

Having exhausted the photographic opportunities at the Monk Coniston car park, I finally carried on my journey round to Brantwood to see what things were like there. Even on a grey day, the gardens from the car park were full of vibrant colours, as were the surroundings, so this definitely looks like a garden worth visiting in autumn.

Coniston Water from the road outside Brantwood
Coniston Water from the road outside Brantwood
Coniston Water from Brantwood
From outside Brantwood
Overlooking the Lower Gardens at Brantwood
Overlooking the Lower Gardens at Brantwood
Robin in hedge
Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched?! This is not the first time recently that I’ve been followed by an enormous robin outside a café – I must look like the type of person that drops crumbs!
Brantwood's Southern Gardens in autumn
The Southern Gardens at Brantwood, which include a Maple Walk – perfect for autumn colour

Just as I was moving on from Brantwood and ready to call it a day, it was as though someone had suddenly switched the light on – the sun emerged from the gloom, and the lake, mountains and trees were illuminated in the most dramatic fashion. It was as though Coniston was saying to me, ‘come back another day – I can do better!’ (the moment became a little less magical however, when I became involved in a multi-car standoff on a narrow piece of road where two lost drivers had decided to stop in the passing place…).

Passing Monk Coniston, I couldn’t help but stop again to capture a new set of images, and agree that this is a great place from which to take autumn shots. If you walk a few hundred yards from the car park, you reach a jetty from which you can catch Gondola, and this links to a walk through to Tarn Hows, another popular beauty spot nearby.

Autumn colours from Monk Coniston car park
Taken from Monk Coniston car park
Walking towards the jetty from Monk Coniston car park
Walking towards the jetty from Monk Coniston car park

Monk Coniston car park walk

Monk Coniston jetty on Coniston Water
Who doesn’t like a jetty view? Monk Coniston Jetty late in the afternoon

Having seen Coniston’s autumn scenery in full sun, I was now even more determined to return for my planned photo session on Gondola. By the end of Saturday evening, the BBC weather app had changed its mind for the fifth time about Sunday’s forecast, and by morning had settled on a mediocre prediction for sunny intervals and light cloud.

As I set out from a sunny Windermere again on Sunday morning, I wondered if this would be another wild goose chase, and was starting to feel like one of those storm chasers! Despite the app’s cautious predictions, the weather was lovely when we set off on Gondola (with a biting wind just to keep us all alert), and produced a fascinating and challenging variety of light conditions.

National Trust Steam Yacht Gondola
Steam Yacht Gondola, captured the day before from Brantwood
Coniston Pier
Coniston Pier with the Bluebird Café in the background

Coniston Water

The Engine Room

Coniston Water in autumnConiston Water in autumn

Near to Lake Bank Jetty, at the southern end of Coniston Water
Near to Lake Bank Jetty, at the southern end of Coniston Water

Boat house on Coniston WaterTrees on Coniston WaterTrees on Coniston Water

Peel Island on Coniston Water
Peel Island, or ‘Wild Cat Island’ if you’re a Swallows and Amazons fan!
The boathouses below Bank Ground Farm
The boathouses below Bank Ground Farm

Boathouse on Coniston WaterConiston WaterConiston Water in autumnSo, having spent quite a lot of time in Coniston this weekend, what are my recommendations for enjoying the autumn colours?

  1. Do visit Coniston in the autumn, because although the rest of the Lakes looks great, I think there’s something particularly special about this area. According to the commentary on Gondola the next two weeks will be stunning, and I think I was a little too early for some of the best displays (which means you’ve still got time to see them!). Autumn does seem to be occurring particularly slowly this year in the Lakes. Also, the Coniston Power Boat Records Week takes place from 31st October, so that’s something to consider if, like me, you like the challenge of photographing things that go fast!
  2. Visit Brantwood’s gardens, as they have a Maple Walk, and the gardens and its autumnal views looked beautiful.
  3. Stop off at Monk Coniston car park for some amazing shots, with no effort required whatsoever.
  4. Take a trip on the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola before 31st October – I blogged about this earlier in the year, and I’m a massive fan of this lovely Victorian steam vessel (the Coniston Launch still operates on selected dates over the winter too).
  5. Don’t dismiss the BBC Weather App entirely (I’ve found it useful on many occasions) but do be sceptical – I would have missed an amazing experience if I’d listened to its mixed predictions and stayed at home. There are a couple of web cams in Coniston (belonging to The Coppermines Lakes Cottages and Coniston Sailing Club) which might be helpful to you – but me being me, I forgot to use them! 🙂

Do you enjoy visiting Coniston in the autumn? Have you got any tips for places to take great photos that you can share with other readers? If so, do leave your recommendations below!

One Comment

  1. If you’re only in the Lake District for a short time and can’t make it over to Coniston, you can find another great display of colour on Claife Heights, which is situated on the western shore of Windermere. Yesterday I went over to take photos at Claife Viewing Station, and also got some great pictures from the Windermere Car Ferry – this area’s well worth a visit too.

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