MK mentioned Swallows and Amazons a little while ago, and I promised pictures of the day we spent on Coniston in July. Gratifyingly at least one son seems to have enjoyed it! Coniston Water is where Arthur Ransome lived with his second, Russian, wife when they returned to England and the Lake District from Revolution. When you take the cruise boat they point out the house where they lived, very close to the shore. I can't believe I didn't get a picture of it- though, given the quality of the next two pictures, that's perhaps not surprising at all.
Beyond the boat the island, for it is an island, is Peel Island, and it is widely accepted as the inspiration for Wild Cat Island in Swallows and Amazons. Ransome and Evgenia were visited at Coniston by Ransome's old flame Dora and her husband Ernest Altounyan. Ransome taught the Altounyan children to sail, and the seeds of the famous literary adventure were sown. The secret harbour of the island may well have been this, and there was a little craft navigating its careful way in as we passed. You'll need to navigate my poor photographic skills just as carefully! Maybe you can just see the rocky outcrop marking the entrance to the inlet...
There's a wonderful article on Ransome's life here, but I'm disappointed firstly that I can't remember the tales of Evgenia's eccentricity that we were told on the sailing, and secondly that nowhere on the Wondrous Wide Web can I find much beyond her jewel-smuggling to fund the Comintern! Ransome was certainly much, much more than a nautical story-teller. Read the article: it's a very exciting tale full of Oscar Wilde, Trotsky, foreign correspondence, and love lost and won! (Much easier to read than S and A. I gave up when I tried to read it with younger boys.)
We had gone to Coniston, not for Swallows and Amazons, but for John Ruskin. His house is here too, higher up from the shore and kept now as a monument to his life and work. I realised when I got there that I had assumed Ruskin to be mainly an art critic whose greatest achievement was his championing of the Pre-Raphaelites; how wrong I was. That will be for another time, but here's his bedroom turret, which I loved.