Steam Yacht Gondola – National Trust

1128 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

July, 2021

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

The Steam Yacht Gondola was built 1859 by the Furness Railway Company as a tourist attraction. Sir James Ramsden, director of the railway had been to Venice in 1850, and had travelled on the large wooden barges (burchiello) used to carry wealthy tourists. He recognised an opportunity to link a pleasure cruise to the Coniston railway line and was wanting something a bit different to the steamers found on nearby Windermere.

The Steam Yacht Gondola incorporated a state-of-the-art boiler and engine borrowed from railway locomotive technology and one of the new screw propellers as adopted by Brunel for the SS Great Britain. The hull was made from mild steel. It was designed to carry 200 passengers in a luxurious 1st class saloon with outside seating fore and aft.

The Illustrated London News described it as “ the most elegant little steam vessel yet designed, and is especially suitable for pleasure excursions on lake or river.” The Gondola was an immediate hit and the visitors arrived in droves.

The Gondola was ‘retired’ in 1936 and used as houseboat (Captain Flint’s houseboat in Swallows and Amazons was inspired by this, before being abandoned in the 1960 and sunk. The National Trust raised enough money to restore her in 1970s, when she was given a new hull, engine, boiler and most of the super structure was replaced. She began to carry tourists again in 1980 and is the oldest steam yacht in the North of England. She is no longer coal fuelled but burns logs made from compressed sawdust.

The Gondola now runs “cruises”: along the lake stopping at some of the small jetties at request.

I did the cruise in July and we travelled anticlockwise south along the lake. It was asunny day and there was hardly a ripple on the water. I was lucky and managed to get one iof the few outside seats. There were about 40 passengers and the boat felt comfortably full. It must have been really crowded in its heyday with 200 passengers.

The cruise passes the house lived in by Arthur Ransome and Peel Island, which was used as Wild Cat Island in the Swallow’s and Amazon Books.

“Brantwood,”: home of John Ruskin is hidden in the trees. It is now a museum dedicated to Ruskin and has extensive gardens as well as a restaurant and craft shop. It is a popular wedding venue.

The Gondola was built in the days before DDA and is not wheelchair friendly. There are steps down into the Gondola and restricted space once on.


Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.