Cumbria LA9 4DL
Kendal is an old market town on the southern edge of England’s Lake District and only 8 miles (12 km) from the M6 motorway.
It is often seen as the Southern gateway to the Lake District, being only 9 miles (14.5 km) from Windermere and around 30 miles (42 km)from Keswick on Derwentwater The other lakes and all manner of attractions and activities (including the coast), are within comfortable driving distance.
A lot of visitors ignore Kendal in their hurry to get to the better known spots of Windermere and Grasmere but it is well worth spending some time there.
Cobbled Lanes, Shopping Arcades & old and interesting Pubs
The town is built on a slope above the lovely River Kent and is a fascinating mixture of old buildings, half-hidden cobbled ‘lanes’ and ‘yards’ and shopping arcades full of independent and distinctive shops. The town centre is pedestrianised and there are a vast number of old and interesting pubs.
Magnificent Parish Church
Holy Trinity Church, Kendal is enormous and has a lovely position beside the river. The writer was there on a Sunday when the magnificent peal of bells was being rung.
Four bridges span the Kent providing lovely walks beside the river. During spring and summer the town is famous for its colourful gardens, with flowers adorning every available spot.
The Romans left a camp on the banks of the river and the Normans built two castles. Probably built in the 12th century the castle became a ruin during the Tudor period. At one time it was home to the Parr family whose daughter, Catherine, became the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. Some say she was born in the castle but this is disputed; she certainly would have spent some of her childhood there. A climb up to the ruins provides magnificent views over the town and surrounding countryside.
Right from Anglo-Saxon time’s wool was the key to importance. The town was structured around a high street and market place. On either side were fortified alleyways (known locally as ‘yards’) which allowed the local population to seek shelter from Anglo-Scottish raiding parties. Although a good number of these ancient ‘yards’ have disappeared now, those left are a quaint and authentic reminder of Kendal’s history and should not be missed.
When wool was no longer the treasury of Britain and manufactured cloth could be imported, other trades flourished in Kendal. From the 14th to 19th centuries the town was a major trading and industrial centre.
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Manufacture of Snuff & Pipe Tobacco
In 1792 the manufacture of snuff and pipe tobacco came to Kendal and continues today. Shoe and boot making was a cottage industry until it was organized into a major industry in the 19th century.
The famous brand K-Shoes was a major employer in Kendal until the factory closed in 2003. The old warehouse now houses an excellent shopping arcade.
Kendal Mint Cake
Nowadays Kendal’s best known export is confectionary – the world famous Kendal Mint Cake.
Many mills grew up along the river bank and the building of the Kendal Canal provided an efficient transport link with other centres in northern England. With the coming of the railway in the 19th century the canal trade declined and the canal became redundant.
Question: When is a canal not a canal? Answer: When it has been filled in to make an attractive walking and cycle path.
Kendal has made a feature of a few miles of the old waterway. They have retained and restored many of the limestone blocks edging the canal, the iconic stone bridges and ramps where the tow-horses could change to the towpath on the other side without being unhitched from their heavy load. These delightful touches make this a different type of walk.
Art Galleries & Museums
If the weather is inclement there are several interesting museums and galleries as well as the usual entertainment venues. The Abbot Hall Art Gallery, next to the parish church in Kirkland, exhibits both modern and old art works.
- Museum of Lakeland Life
Next door is the Museum of Lakeland Life in the old stables of Abbot Hall. Starting with 18th century yeoman farmers and on through Georgian and Victorian periods, we can see how Cumbrians lived, worked and amused themselves. There is a typical street scene with pharmacy, toy shop and tailor's shop and reconstructed workshops displaying curious machinery and furnished domestic interiors. Examples of local patchwork, elegant costumes, and embroideries from the Arts and Crafts Movement are also on display.
There is a room dedicated to popular children’s author, Arthur Ransome, with his writings and drawings and a reconstruction of his study. Kept on his desk are his typewriter, pipes, books and general memorabilia.
- Quaker Tapestry Exhibition
One particular exhibit unique to the town is the Quaker Tapestry Exhibition housed in the Kendal Quaker Meeting House. Like the Bayeux Tapestry, this modern embroidered epic recounts the turbulent history of the Society of Friends (Quakers).
The Brewery Arts Centre in Highgate is a multi-purpose arts complex presenting cinema, theatre, music, exhibitions and a selection of arts and crafts workshops.
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Kendal Tourist Information Centre
Kendal TIC is located in the Town Hall in the centre of town. Call in to pick up a street map and directions for discovering Kendal’s many delights or advice on local bus services to other Lake District destinations.
Tip: One-Way Traffic System
To avoid frustration when driving around Kendal it is worthwhile downloading an excellent .pdf document from the Council website detailing the system and parking areas. Click on Web: Kendal Council traffic system
- By Road
Exit the M6 motorway at Junction 33. The M6 motorway provides easy access to Penrith and Carlisle and then on to Scotland.
Kendal is connected to North Yorkshire via the A65; to Barrow-in-Furness and Ulverston via the A591; to Sedbergh via the A684 amd Appleby via the A685.
- By Rail
Railway passengers can alight in Kendal from the Kendal to Windermere service. There is a taxi rank at the station.
Oxenholme Station is on the West Coast Main Line from London (Euston) to Glasgow. It is about two miles from Kendal. Taxis can be arranged. For timetables, seat availability and ticketing, Web: National Rail Enquiries website
- By Coach
National Express runs a daily coach service from London. For timetables, seat availability and ticketing, visit Web: National Express Coach website.
Google Maps - Kendal