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4 things we love about the Steam Yacht Gondola

Posted by Katy Peck on 7 March 2019
Related property: Merlewood
4 things we love about the Steam Yacht Gondola

The National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola has been delighting visitors to Coniston Water for decades. This fabulous fully-restored boat is a beautiful way to appreciate the fantastic scenery around Coniston and a truly unique day out. Even better, it’s only 35 minutes from our much-loved Merlewood property!

There are so many things to love about this little piece of history, but we’ve managed to choose just four that we think might convince you to take to the water…

1. It harks back to a bygone age

The Steam Yacht Gondola is the oldest steam yacht in the North of England, having started life in 1859. It was built in Liverpool by the Furness Railway Company as a tourist attraction and was eventually retired in 1936. After several years as a house-boat, it unfortunately was abandoned in the 1960s following a large storm, only to be purchased and restored by the National Trust in the 1970s.

The gondola went back into service on Coniston Water in 1980, showcasing this beautiful vessel in all its former glory. Travellers can choose to sit in the luxurious first-class saloon, where the plush seating, upholstery and brass fittings were apparently modelled on Queen Victoria’s private railway carriage! Alternatively, enjoy the fresh air in the spacious forward or aft seating areas.

For those who are interested in the Victorian engineering of the boat, you can peer through an open side hatch to see what’s going on ‘below deck’, where a shining, well-maintained engine keeps the boat chugging through the water. While it originally ran on coke from the gasworks, today the gondola is fuelled by compressed wood and sawdust logs. If you’re still curious, you’re welcome to chat to the passionate engineers during your visit.

2. It’s a new way to enjoy the views

The famous scenery of the Lake District can be enjoyed from a brand-new viewpoint when you’re out on the water. The full cruise will take you all the way down from Coniston Pier through ‘the narrows’ to Lake Bank at the southern end, then back up past Parkamoor, Brantwood and Monk Coniston. You’ll spot ornate boathouses nestled amongst the trees, tiny little islands and bustling piers and jetties, all surrounded by the lush, rolling countryside of the Lake District.

The northern half of the lake in particular is often busy with people enjoying themselves on small boats of every shape and colour – especially during the summer months. The Gondola receives a lot of attention as she goes by and kids are bound to love returning the many cheerful waves you’ll receive!

3. There’s a cruise for everyone

The Steam Yacht Gondola operates several kinds of cruises throughout the season. You can enjoy the Full Lake Cruise, which lasts just under two hours and takes you all the way around the lake. Alternatively, you can try the Head of Lake Cruise, which only takes 45 minutes and includes the opportunity to disembark at either Brantwood or Monk Coniston.

For those of you who like to get boots on the ground, the Walkers Cruise combines a cruise down the lake with an enjoyable walk into the fells. Travellers can choose between the Lake Bank walk, a 12.2km trek up the Western shore and across Beacon Fell, or Parkamoor walk, which is 9.6 km and takes you from Parkamoor to Brantwood.

Last but not least, there’s the Ruskin Cruise, which combines a trip on the gondola with a visit to Brantwood house and gardens. Get dropped off and picked up at Brantwood jetty and enjoy a look around the house, which was the home of the writer, artist and social reformer John Ruskin. Displays and activities around the house give an insight into his life and legacy, from the Pre Raphaelites and Arts and Crafts Movement to inspiring the founding of the National Trust itself!

4. You can learn about the area from local experts

During each cruise, the helmsman will provide live commentary of the route, full of fascinating snippets about the lakes and landmarks surrounding it. In particular, you will hear about Arthur Ransome’s novels, ‘Swallows and Amazons’, which were inspired by the area and Donald Campbell, who tragically passed away during a world water speed record attempt. Other topics include the area’s industrial past and the history of the gondola itself. But don’t worry - the crew take care to keep the commentary unobtrusive, so you’ll still have plenty of time to sit back and just enjoy this beautiful scenery.

The Steam Yacht Gondola departs from Gondola’s jetty at Coniston pier and runs between the 30th March and 31st October. You can view a full timetable and buy tickets on the National Trust’s website. As it’s a small boat, there’s only a limited number of places available and so booking in advance is always recommended.

Of course, the gondola is just one of the many things on offer in this beautiful part of the UK. For more information how you can stay at our Merlewood property and discover everything Cumbria and the Lake District has to offer, please just get in touch!

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Katy Peck

Katy Peck

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