Coniston's gleaming 5-mile-long lake – the third largest in the Lake District after Windermere and Ullswater – is a half-mile walk from town along Lake Rd. The best way to explore the lake is on one of the two cruise services or, better still, by paddling it yourself. Dinghies, rowing boats, canoes, kayaks and motor boats can be hired from the Coniston Boating Centre.
Along with its connections to the speed attempts made here by Malcolm and Donald Campbell, the lake is famous for inspiring Arthur Ransome's classic children's tale Swallows and Amazons. Peel Island, towards the southern end of Coniston Water, supposedly provided the model for Wild Cat Island in the book.