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Coniston is a grand centre for cycling, with great rides all-around, lots of places to visit, not to mention, refresh. Those seeking a soul-satisfying day along the Lakeside or a lung-busting personal best over a mountain pass are equally well catered for. The village also has everything you are likely to need for an evening of relaxation - or recuperation! Nothing not to like and lots to love.


Steve Dyster was offered a short-break courtesy of Cumbria Tourism, with Coppermines Lakes Cottages and Ease E Ride, who provided accommodation and hire of an Steve paid for his own food and travel.

coniston ater vilage old man fells

For the serious roadie, the big Lake District sportive is the Fred Whitton Challenge (112 miles, 10,400 feet of ascent), taking in pass after pass after pass, perhaps the UK’s toughest sportive. In a jolly tone, the introduction mentions that the 30% inclines on Hardknott Pass come at 94 miles; they don’t point out that there are similar gradients on Wrynose Pass. The Blea Tarn junction in Little Langdale is as close as this iconic route comes to Coniston, so don’t feel you have to do it. Other Sportives in the area include The Lakeland Loop (usually staged in April).


Happily, the truth is, you do not need to have a challenge at all – there is plenty of great cycling around Coniston to satisfy body and soul and you do not have to go far to find it.


Frankly, there is lots of good cycling from Coniston for the challenge-seeker, the pootler, the explorer, and the all stops in between, although there are climbs wherever you go away form the immediate village environs. I’m often asked about families. As ever, that depends on experience and fitness. One of the aids for some adults is the (I saw a lot during my three day trip), but, as Mike from Ease E Ride bemoaned, under-fourteen’s cannot ride them (legally) on public roads . Being over fourteen - considerably - I was free to ride, although also had a non-asset bike, too. Ease E Ride Tarn Howes

Summerbank Cottage


I stayed at Summerbank Cottage, one of some ninety properties in the Coniston area managed by Coppermines Lakes Cottages, Summerbank Cottage is situated in the heart of the village.


Take those cleats off before entering – there’s a small porch – and hang you wet gear up in the room on the right (washer-drier, sink, coat hangers for wet gear). As for your bike, kayak, canoe, paddle-board, or such-like, there’s secure storage in the garage. Lights for any mid-night mechanics, electric points for recharging your, are both included. If you have a car, park it in the driveway.


A lot of thought has gone into the decor – which met the approval of Mrs. Steve. In fact, a lot of thought has gone into the layout and equipping of the cottage full-stop. Two comfortable en-suite bedrooms mean plenty of room for sweaty cyclists – and there are baths as well as showers (feel that soak taking away the weariness of those mountain miles?).


Now you are ready to relax by the log-burner or take refreshment in the back garden, cook dinner, or have a quiet moment or two before heading out for a beer or two. You get the post-ride picture. There’s a well-equipped kitchen to cook-up something tasty, so everything is catered for to a very high standard.


The founder of Coppermines Lakes Cottages, Phil Johnston, set the business up in the 1980s as he renovated the old miners’ cottages higher up the valley (a worthwhile walk up a rough track). It has grown and manages some ninety properties in Consiton and the surrounding area. He is also behind the rewilding of 65 acres of the valley to support indigenous flora and fauna as well as planting 3000 saplings which should help prevent flooding in the village.

Ease E Ride


Many people will bring their own specialist road or MTB, tourer or with them. However, I was lucky enough be offered an from a hire business with a different take on cycling to the dyed-in-the-wool old-timer into which category I seem to fit quite nicely.

Ease E Ride are based in Arnside, near the railway station and the Morecambe Bay Cycle Way. Recently started up, their unique selling point is – given that some businesses already offer e.MTBs and e.road-bikes – simplicity.

Mike, who delivered the to my accommodation in Coniston – a bit off their usual patch – explained. “We are really hoping to entice people who do not usually ride bikes or maybe gave it up years ago. The Lake District authorities want to encourage sustainable travel, so getting people onto bikes to explore is a definite plus.”

He pointed out that the bikes on offer were straight-forward, for example the sensor reacts to cadence, not torque, as on more sophisticated machines; the battery is rack mounted, which adds weight over the back wheel; there are seven speeds on the transmission. Mind you, there are some very good machines around with rear hub motors rather. So, back to basics and as little complication as possible is the plan. They have added some puncture protection and the bike can be used, with care, with a flat tyre. On the whole, though, Mike says, “Any problems, give us a call, and we’ll pop out to sort things out or swap the bike.” Got a query about what they offer, just get in touch.

We discussed routes. Mike suggested that the range was around forty miles, taking into to account rider weight, hills etc, although you may well get more … or less. There is, of course a charge and mileage indicator. Mike suggested that the latter is the more reliable. Would it get a keen, moderately fit sixty-something year-old with an arthritic knee over Wrynose Pass, we wondered? Sounded like a challenge.

So, first ride had to be to get out the from Ease E Ride and see if it would “get over” Wrynose Pass. Heading north from Coniston you can take either the main road or hang a left and follow a gated road that becomes a track through National Trust woodland. In March the main drag could hardly be described as busy, but business of roads can be relative to your norm, and is seasonal in the Lake District. I took the woodland route (NCR637) on both occasions I headed north. Lovely it is, too. The only blot is the crossing of the River Brathay where one has to heave one’s bike up steps and then negotiate a narrow path on a ledge, before normal service is resumed on a lane up to Little Langdale. Oh, to be an out-and-out purist roadie!

Ignoring the warning signs at the start of Wrynose Pass, the climb commenced. Remembering that the had only seven speeds and was ridden by an older bloke with one arthritic knee, two short sections of pushing when things got really steep seemed pretty good to me (the ‘walking mode’ was useful). 

garage bikes
Bike river ford bridge

A wrecked car a little below the summit provided a useful reminder that descending needs care. Extra weight on the rear wheel, wet or loose surfaces; best to stay on the asphalt. Don’t be put-off, the rush of the streams was the only sound accompanying my puffing and panting on the ascent, clear morning air filled my lungs, and I felt I could cycle all day in such wild surroundings.

Bike Ease E Ride Wrynose Pass Lake District

Seeing the charge indicator dwindle on the way up, the freewheel to Cockley Beck restored my confidence of a comfortable return to base. Dunnerdale, the valley of the River Duddon, is one of those less-visited Lake District dales. No lake, no settlement of any significant size, ensuring it is one for the connoisseur of peace and quiet.

Bike River mountain stream Cockley Beck

There’s another steep climb and descent to Broughton Mills, offering fine views. Broughton Mills is one of those victims of industrial decay that has left beautiful buildings, a babbling stream, a quaint bridge, and the Blacksmith’s Arms (complete with anvil); a place for a pause, before heading up the minor road toward Torver – more fine views – and the main road back to Coniston. Roughly 27 miles completed, and only late morning.


About three miles away from Coniston (less if you can cycle on water) is Brantwood, home of polymath John Ruskin. The house is open to the public. If you are not interested in the Victorian art critic, philosopher, essayist, et al, the café with fine views across the water to the Old Man of Coniston, has an imaginative menu and is a popular stop for cyclists (it certainly was when I dropped in for lunch).

Mountain Lngdale Pikes Lake district cycling bike

Returning to base, I decided on an afternoon of un-assisted cycling. More of that latter. For now, let’s stick with the, re-charged e-assist. Next day dawned in the cliched clear and bright way that inspires a ride into the hills. This time, forsaking the peace and quiet of Dunnerdale, the route took in the touristy fleshpots of Great Langdale, Grasmere, Ambleside, and Tarn Howes. More cars and more people, but more refreshment opportunities, and just as much fine scenery. The busiest sections of road between Grasmere and Ambleside can be avoided by following the National Cycle Route 6.


Returning to the first route as far as the Blea Tarn junction, the motor whirred gently on an ascent that soon brings the magnificently precipitous façade of the Langdale Pikes into view. Magnificent enough, but then Blea Tarn appears, its wooded shore beneath the Horse Crags and the scene is complete. The car park was already half-full with dog-walkers and hikers heading around the tarn or further in the hills.


A rattling descent – take care – drops into Great Langdale. Amongst the most popular and accessible of Lakelands valleys, it is understandably popular and the sun had brought out plenty of visitors. Beautiful cycling. The climb over to Grasmere can be accessed via either Chapel Stile (easier) or Elterwater. Watch out for ramblers on the road as you descend steeply to the shore of Grasmere and carrying on to the village. I stopped for a coffee at the Wordsworth (Dove Cottage) Museum café, a little out of the village across the A591.

Walkes cyclists tarn howes cumbria lakes

Confident roadies may head straight down the main road to Ambleside. The alternative cycle path skirts the south of Grasmere and Rydal Water. Not enjoying the traffic, I accessed it from the main road just after Rydal village. The short stretch of delightful road runs next to the – on that day, glittering – River Brathay. Well-populated by pedestrians immersed in the sunshine and peace, progress was patient – as it should be on such shared routes.


Roads like the B2586, Clappersgate to Hawkshead, are seasonally quite busy. Some sections have cycle lanes hidden behind the hedges. Though useful, these surfaces are mixed and one or two short sections pretty technical. In early March, the carriageway was not busy, and, in any case, I soon hit the minor roads to Tarn Howes, a classic Lakeland scenic spot: the car parks were full: easy walks, water reflecting tree and sky, fabulous views, lots of people. The steep descent to the Coniston road was narrow, badly potholed, and happily empty of traffic.

So much for e.biking. Taking out the Surly Long Haul Trucker for a spin offered a fascinating afternoon of riding quiet roads, whilst still hitting some touristy hot spots. Undulating between Coniston Water and Windermere, Grizedale Forest is home to miles of quiet roads, lots of good off-road cycling, pretty villages, and some other enticements.

A column of cyclists sweated up to Hawkshead Hill from Hawkshead; chatting to them later, they were going anti-clockwise around the Forest, the opposite way to me.


Hawkshead is an attractive and sometimes almost over-run village similar in size to its car park. I took a look, but it was the ride along the shores of Esthwaite Water that I was looking forward to. I’d decided against cutting things short by heading for the central valley of Grizedale Forest and heading south through the charming village of Satterthwaite (a good route in itself).


Esthwaite Water always seems placid to me, appearing to be cupped in a saucer of meadows and wooded hill-sides. Even better today, the far bank was bathed in sunlight. The first buds of spring adorned the trees that lined the road on the hillside above Windermere. The Bobbin Mill, Finsthwaite, owned by English Heritage was not open, and it was too late in the day to divert to Backbarrow, Haversthwaite, for a ride on the steam railway or a visit to the Lakeland Motor Museum (with a collection of bicycles and an enthusiastic curator).

Coniston is a great centre for cycling. Good news for the multi-sports enthusiast or the cyclist with friends or family who don’t enjoy the noble art, is that walking, climbing, and water-sports are all on offer, too.


Coniston has food shops, cafes and pubs, outdoor shops, and a fuel station. It is not Ambleside or Windermere, but it can get busy in season. Although there is not a cycle shop, Outdoor Vibe carries some bicycle-related products, including lubes and inner tubes.


If you are not coming by bicycle or your own car, there are bus services, but these do not carry bicycles. The nearest railway station is Windermere, most pleasantly reached via the ferry from Bowness, with Hawkshead Hill being the main obstacle. However, Ulverston station is only 16 undulating miles to the south.


The Lake District itself is an immensely popular destination, but here is much more to Cumbria for the visitor set on exploring away from the justifiably famous centres. Cumbria Tourism (the official board for the Lake District and Cumbria) has lots of information. Or take a look at our articles on The Eden Valley and on Cycling in the Lakes, or further north, around Brampton and Hadrian’s Wall and, to the south, the Bay Cycleway.


For this visit the focus was very much on Coniston and the South Lakes as a location for cycling – and what a very fine spot it is for the discerning cyclist.

Bike bicycle surly

Beyond Finsthwaite woodland riding continued, with a diversion up to Rusland through green pastures, and a roll through Bouth and Spark Bridge, to reach the shore of Coniston Water a little north of Lowick Bridge. The green by the bridge in Spark Bridge proved to be a particularly lovely spot for a break. A few miles of late afternoon waterside cycling made a perfect end to the ride. (Around 33 miles in all).

bike tree lake cycling bicycle

Next day, I headed down to Ulverston for the train home (NCR 637, 70, 16 miles). This would make a pleasant expedition from Coniston, either heading back along the same route or adding some miles to explore Furness and finding your own way home.


The fact is that whether one wants a major challenge, a scenic half-dayer, a pootle amongst the hills, or a day exploring, Coniston is a great centre with much more to offer than high fells and mountain passes – not that there’s anything wrong with those. Even better, it has a lot to offer if partner or friends are not – hard to believe, I know – enthusiastic cyclists. There’s a heap of information about cycling in Cumbria and the Lake District at , including routes.





Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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