THE village of Coniston in the Lake District thrived on the mining industry. Bronze Age man using the copper, Romans worked with iron and the monks of Furness Abbey took iron ore and timber from the surrounding hillsides.
In the 18th century mining activity was expanded and a railroad built to carry the ore to market. But Coniston and its stunning lake has more to offer than mining.
Coniston’s most famous resident was the poet John Ruskin who lived at Brantwood, overlooking the lake. Not only was Ruskin a poet, he was also an artist and writer.
Brantwood is now a museum which contains much history of Ruskin and his beloved Coniston. It is filled with his paintings, furniture and his personal memorabilia.
Coniston Lake was where Donald Campbell made his bid for the world water speed record carrering across the lake at more than 300mph. Pitifully, he was killed in the attempt.
While all this activity was going on in and around Coniston, one old man was sitting peacefully, surveying everything, as he has done for thousands of years.
This benevolent giant is a mountain, known as the Old Man of Coniston. At 2,633ft it is not the largest in Lakeland but its mining sculptured hillsides and its great summit views has been a favourite with walkers and climbers for decades and its massive size has given shelter to Coniston for centuries.
Leave the car park at Coniston to cross a road to a second road to Lakeland House, then turn right.
Continue along to the side of Lake Coniston, then follow signs for Hawkshead and Ambleside. Soon start a steep ascent with grand views of Lake Coniston as you gain height.
The scenery changes as you reach the top and start to descend with great views across to the lakeland fells and eventually to Lake Windermere.
Watch out for a steep descent to a T-junction, then go right here signed to Hawkshead and Newby Bridge to cycle along to Hawkshead.
Keep on the main road, and just before the T-junction, turn right into the car park if you want to take a look at this quaint village where there are plenty of facilities.
If you stopped in Hawkshead for refreshment, exit the village car park, turning right onto the road. At the T-junction, turn right again signed to Grizedale and Newby Bridge.
As you crest a short hill, you have grand views across Esthwaite Water on the left. Take the right turn signed to Iveston for a long, steep ascent through the forest before a twisty, steep descent.
Cycle along through a wide valley to eventually cross a fine stone bridge, keeping straight ahead until you reach a T-junction.
Go right here and at the next junction, take the road signed to Rusland and Oxen Park. Downhill now for an undulating twisty ride keeping straight ahead, following signs for Colton and Ulveston.
You will soon crest a hill to arrive at Oxen Park. As you enter the village, go right along a narrow road signed to Bandrake Head and Lowick.
Steep hills now and watch out for the very sharp, loosely-surfaced corners.
At the bottom of the hill, turn right signed to Lowick and Coniston and keep a wary eye out for more steep, slippery descents.
For every descent there is an ascent and this ride has plenty of them as the next ascent tests your endurance to the full.
Enjoy the grand views from the top of the hill towards Coniston, then start to descend once again down a narrow road with several severe hairpin bends to negotiate.
At the T-junction, turn right onto a wider slightly descending road down to Coniston Lake. Enjoy the magnificent scenery as you cycle along the lakeside and admire the breathtaking mountain views across to Coniston Old Man.
Eventually you reach a junction at the head of the lake, go left here into the town and the car park.
Distance – 24miles/38km.
Terrain – Hilly with narrow slippery roads.
Best map – OS Landranger 97.
Start/grid ref – Coniston village car park, grid ref: 303976.
Refreshments – Pubs and cafes in Coniston and Hawkshead.
Public toilets – Coniston and Hawkshead.