Kendal is the first town that many visitors to the Lake District National Park encounter on a visit, rightly proclaiming itself to be ‘The Gateway to the Lakes.’
A vibrant and historic town
Most of its fine buildings constructed with limestone, Kendal is considered to be one of England’s most attractive and aesthetically pleasing towns to reside in. Steeped in history, the town can be traced throughout the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Tudors and Elizabethan periods.
The present township started life in the eighth century as an Anglo-Saxon settlement. Firstly, they erected a cross by the river, then a church followed. Soon a settlement called Kirkland grew up around it – the area is noted in the Domesday Book. From this early village, Kendal grew, reaching prosperity in the thirteenth century as a major wool manufacturing centre, its mills powered by the River Kent.
Out and About
Running through the heart of Kendal is a long, pedestrian street lying just west of the river. At the southern end is Kirkland, often referred to as Kirkland village, then into Highgate, ending at Stricklandgate. As you wander around the town you can browse its many shops. At the centre of the town is Market Place and Finkle Street, two restored cobbled lanes where both street and farmers markets are held.
For entertainment and dining there is a host to see, do and sample. On the arts scene, Kendal really shines brightly. The Brewery Arts Centre has pushed Kendal to the forefront of the Lake District arts scene. There is theatre, cinema, frequent art exhibitions and workshops too. The Abbot Hall Art Gallery, an essential stop for any visitor, houses an impressive permanent collection of modern art, along with guest exhibitions from distinguished artists.
Museum of Life
Adjoining Abbot Hall is the Museum of Life, a fascinating collection showing how our Cumbrian ancestors worked, lived and entertained. Still, with the arts, there is the Kendal Museum of Natural History with stuffed animal specimens, a new interactive castle display and a homage to the great fell walker, Alfred Wainwright – whose famous ‘coast-to-coast’ trail originates at St Bees on the Solway Coast and cuts across the National Park.
The Quaker Tapestry
In the heart of Kendal's town centre lies the Quaker Tapestry, an extraordinary collection of over 40 embroidered panels chronicling how Quakers have helped shape the modern world. Housed in the splendid Georgian Meeting House, these panels, stitched by over 4000 people, span numerous areas of history, from science and medicine to the industrial revolution and social reform.
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival
The only event of its kind in the UK, takes over the whole town of Kendal for a weekend each year. Get up close and personal with some of the leading comic artists and writers from across the world - see them draw, talk about their work and bring comics to life in front of your eyes. There are free exhibitions and a comic art trail around town along with workshops and masterclasses with lots of drop-in activities for inquisitive enthusiasts of all ages.
Lake District Summer Music
Each year Kendal, Ambleside, Grange-over-Sands, and Ulverston host a series of classical music events, showcasing international leading lights and emerging talent from around the world and locally. There is also a chance to see some premieres of award-winning films and some Q+As.
Walking and Activities
As you wander along the main thoroughfare there are dozens of yards, crofts and courts making for enjoyable exploration. Many of the buildings along the main street retain their period frontage, notably is Farrer's Coffee Merchants found deep amongst the pleasing muddle of shops, inns and cafes.
Across the river lies the ruins of Kendal Castle, a good place to start a day’s worth of historical exploration, offering an impressive view of the town from its ramparts. At Kirkland there is the fine parish church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Built on the site of the first church, you can see part of the original eighth century cross. Some local walks include circular trails and linear routes: these include a path to Scout Scar, Serpentine Woods, Brigsteer Walk, Loughrigg Fell and Tarn.
If you are looking for a physical challenge or two, head to the Lakes Climbing Centre with its world class indoor wall, which is popular with experienced climbers and beginners alike.
Finally, there is the Kendal Leisure Centre with its pool and indoor sports facilities, in addition to its cafes and cinema.
Many people associate Kendal with the delicious local confection – the eponymous mint cake. Be sure to try some on your visit.
We have some lovely holiday cottages in Kendal - feel free to browse our collection, get inspired and then thoroughly treat yourself.
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.