Arthur Ransome Wiki

Mike Field's drawing of the Lake and its surrounding area

The (un-named) Lake is is the central geographical feature of five of the completed Swallows and Amazons books. It is located in the north of England, near the towns of Preston and Carlisle.

General description[]

The Lake runs north-south with the wind confined to run in those directions by high hills on either side (WH26). About halfway down the lake there is a cluster of islands.

In 1895 the Lake froze over, and a coach with four horses and horns blowing (crossed) the lake from side to side (WH15). Mrs Dixon recalled that: There was three or four of them (ice yachts) rushing about on the lake in ’95, and racing for a silver cup. She went on talking of the racing of the ice yachts all those years ago, when she had been a young girl and herself had skated from one end of the lake to the other (WH16).


The Lake from above would look quite like this view of Windermere: note Long Island and Rio in the centre

Native Settlements[]

The main town is said to have a native name but is always referred to as Rio. There are smaller villages at the Head of the lake and Foot of the lake. In The Picts and the Martyrs the D's take Scarab for her first voyage to the "Head of the lake" beyond the North Pole and Dorothea hurries off to the village there to buy a cookery book and some buns and chocolate (PM16). Timothy and Nancy go as far as the "Foot of the lake" but Nancy says that the GA would never leave from that station because of all the changes (PM25)

From the top of the Great Wall they can see the Dundale Road (PP17 and PP30) where twice careless motorists leave a fire. And the Billies have heard talk in the pub at Bigland yonder of what is in the houseboat to steal. Young Billy says that nobody in these parts would touch the houseboat (SA13). Bigland is beyond the foot of the Lake (SA26).

There is a market town some dozen miles away where Mr Dixon and Silas sell produce from Dixon's Farm (WH19).

Farms and Houses[]

(Outside the villages) on the western shore, north to south:

Further inland there are also 3 other named farms; Low Farm by Watersmeet, then Tyson's Farm and Atkinson's Farm, which are both near High Topps.

On the eastern shore:

Western hills[]

Kanchenjunga dominates, with Grey Screes and Ling Scar leading off the summit. The plateau of High Topps lies between these and the Valley of the Amazon below. Between the Valley of the Amazon and the lake is High Moor with Watch Tower Rock and the Swallowdale valley (above Horseshoe Cove) at the southern end of the lake.

The Heald Wood where they see the charcoal burners in Swallowdale is up the Valley of the Amazon, below High Topps, and to the west of the Lake. Greenbanks is between the Valley of the Amazon and High Topps.

Eastern hills[]

High Greenland above Dixons and Holly Howe in the south. The Peak in Darien lies just south of Holly Howe on the shore of the lake.


  • Cache Island - The most northerly of the islands off Rio, this is a small rocky island that features in Winter Holiday. It may or may not be the same as Titty's island, a small islet with nothing on it but rocks and heather, from which she looked out for the Amazons while the others visited Rio (SA8).
  • Cormorant Island - Another small, rocky island with cormorants roosting on its one standing tree. The likely model for this island is Silver Holme on Windermere, though the Altounyans used to refer to the tiny islet just south of Belle Isle as Cormorant Island.
  • During the night sailing episode they stop moored to a jetty until daylight although a notice says "Private. Landing Forbidden". As they leave Susan says We didn't exactly land. Later when John is drawing a sketch chart of the lake he wrote "Landing Island" beside the one where landing was forbidden and the "Swallow" had rested, swinging from the wooden pier in the darkness of the night (SA21,23).
  • This may be the same island, one of several that they had visited earlier, where they had an unpleasant meeting with some natives on one of them, who pointed to a notice-board and said that the island was private, and that no landing was allowed (SA19).
  • In Swallows and Amazons they name an island 'Titty's Island' this is one where Titty waits by at night.

Not counting as islands there are some named rocks. Pike Rock is in Horseshoe Cove and shipwrecks Swallow in Swallowdale. The Hen and the Chicken are two rocks near Rio named by the Amazons.


On the eastern side of The Lake are Tea Bay, Shark Bay. Houseboat Bay and Rio Bay. On the western side is Horseshoe Cove.


The Amazon River and the (unnamed) river at the Head of the lake flow into the Lake. Presumably the Lake drains into the (unnamed) river at the Foot of the lake, which has an estuary (PM23).

Other places[]

Longfellow Wood and Brockstones are visible from the Watch Tower Rock when they are watching the hounds following the trail. The hounds come up out of Longfellow Wood and go up Brockstones. Next Susan says There's one. All by himself. By Trout Tarn before they see them come over by the waterfall (SD17).

Native transport[]

Rio has the main transport link with a rail branch joining the main line to London's Euston Station at Strickland Junction. The station (uphill from the village) is linked to the steamer pier by a short bus journey. Lake Steamers cross the Lake and are timed to meet the bus and trains. Mary Swainson does not want to miss her bus, which was timed to meet the steamer, and take its passengers to the station (PM23)

Roads encircle the Lake and lead to nearby towns, such as the road to Dundale to the west via the Valley of the Amazon and the road to Bigland beyond the foot of the lake.

There is another railway station at Foot of the lake, but this has less convenient connections. If Mary Swainson went from the station at the foot of the lake she would have had to change twice and travel all round the estuary (PM23). Nancy says of the GA I knew she'd never go from that station anyway, because of all the changes. She never does. We saw Old Carrotty the porter, and he said he hadn't seen her for three or four years. Peggy explaines to Dorothea that He knows her. He used to work here (at Beckfoot) years ago (PM25).

Native prototypes[]

The Lake is based on both Windermere and Coniston Water which were both very familiar to Arthur Ransome. In the books, there is only a brief mention of a neighbouring lake (in Swallowdale, when John says There's another lake somewhere over there (to the west, where the swans are flying to) (SD21) rather than it being one of many in the Lake District. The map also shows that it is not as narrow across as the actual Lake District lakes are. In general, the geography of the mountains and fells surrounding the Lake resemble the country around Coniston, while the islands and settlements on and around the Lake more closely resemble Windermere.

The real or native names are not mentioned, eg when Susan says that the Swallows watched the Amazons from beyond the big islands by Rio .... Nancy says We’ll agree to Rio. It’s a good name (SA10). When Peggy said the name of the big hill with the peak (which is not printed), Titty was quick in putting her right … That one’s Kanchenjunga (SD13).