John Ruskin (1819–1900) was one of the great thinkers of 19th-century society. A polymath, philosopher, painter and critic, he expounded views on everything from Venetian architecture to lace making. In 1871 Ruskin purchased this lakeside house and spent the next 20 years modifying it, championing handmade crafts (he even designed the wallpaper). Look out for his vast shell collection. Boats run regularly to Brantwood from Coniston. Alternatively, look out for signs on the B5285.
Highlights include the grand but surprisingly cosy drawing room, the tome-filled study and the tiny upstairs bedroom decorated with some of his favourite watercolours (mostly by JMW Turner, and mostly copies of the originals). In the corner of the room is the little circular turret where Ruskin whiled away hours looking out across the lake and pondering the great issues of the day. Later in life he was afflicted by bouts of deep depression, and suffered some kind of mental collapse in the room. He never slept in there again.
Outside the house, 100 hectares of gardens and terraces stretch up the fellside ('Brant' derives from a Norse word meaning steep). Of particular note are the Hortus Inclusus, a herb garden modelled along medieval designs, and the Zig-Zaggy, inspired by the purgatorial mount in Dante's Inferno. The best views are from the High Walk, designed by Ruskin's cousin Joan Severn.
Afterwards, you can have lunch at the cafe in the house's former stables.