Swallows and Amazons

Still from the 1974 film version of Swallows and Amazons

Carefree summer holidays, messing about in boats, sailing on the lake, putting up a tent and cooking your meals on a camp fire

This might have been your childhood, or one that you just dream about, but our wonderful local author Arthur Ransome has taken generations of readers back there in his stories about the Swallows and the Amazons.

Burn How Garden Hotel is right near the shore of the lake, in the very town that the characters in the stories called Rio.
From here our visitors can discover the wonderful world of Arthur Ransome and the Swallows and Amazons story.

A Freedom of the Lake pass allows you to spend all day on the Windermere Lake Cruises, heading down to the south of the lake, or north to Waterhead where you can disembark and look for the site of the North Pole (from Winter Holiday). You thought it was just a story, but a real plaque marks the spot! And at our favourite Jetty Museum you can see a boat that belonged to Arthur Ransome, and which looks very like something straight out of the story books.

You can head off to Coniston and call for a brew at the Swallows and Amazons cafe at Bank Ground Farm (which was the model for Holly Howe in the stories). You can follow the little road on the east side of the lake, and maybe stop off to explore the hillside where the “Dogs’ Home” was converted by Dick and Dorothea in The Picts and the Martyrs.

Further down the lakeshore you can pull in and look across to Wild Cat Island (natives, and map makers, call it Peel Island) and then you can follow the road all the way down and back up on the western side to Coniston where the really adventurous might want to climb The Old Man (known in the books as Kanchenjunga).

The original Swallows and Amazons and four later books in the series; Swallowdale, Winter Holiday, Pigeon Post, and The Picts and the Martyrs; are set in and around an un-named lake here in the Lake District. Most of the unfinished Coots in the North would also have been set on the lake had Ransome completed it before his death. The lake and the surrounding fells are based on an amalgam of Windermere and Coniston, places where Ransome spent much of his childhood and later life.

Many places in the books can be identified with real locations in the area, though Ransome has modified the real location in producing his fictional settings. Generally, the geography of the lake resembles Windermere (though Wild Cat Island has a number of important elements from Peel Island on Coniston Water, notably the secret harbour)

Rio is obviously our very own Bowness and a short break based at Burn How is the perfect base to discover the literary heritage of this beautiful corner of England.