Kendal is situated to the south of the Lake District, six miles from junction 36 of the M6 motorway. It is just nine miles to Windermere lake and only a few miles from the sea. The market town is especially well placed to cater for everyone’s holiday needs.

image of the exterior of Kendal Town Hall
Kendal Town Hall.

The town boasts a population of some 28500 (2021) and is home to a fair selection of shopping arcades. It also boasts two castles, two museums and a host of historical buildings and bridges. There are fine restaurants, quality hotels and a multitude of public houses. The local schools are excellent, the crime rate low and the views would please the most demanding photographer.

Getting to Kendal

The town is fed by: The A65 from North Yorkshire to the South. The A591 from Barrow and Ulverston to the North. The A684 from Sedbergh to the East. The A685 from Appleby to the North East. The M6 motorway some 6 miles away to the South, providing easy access to Penrith and Carlisle and then onto Scotland.

Kendal railway station is on the branch line from Oxenholme to Windermere. Nearby Oxenholme railway station is on the West Coast Main Line from London to Glasgow.

Railway passengers can alight in Kendal from the Kendal to Windermere service, and can travel to the town from further a field by the West Coast main line from London Euston to Glasgow, getting off at Oxenholme, about two miles outside of the town.

Kendal is often seen as the Southern gateway to the Lake District, being only around 9 miles from Windermere and around 30 miles from Keswick. The other lakes are all within an hour or two’s travelling by car from the town, as are locations for walks and rambles, both gentle and demanding.

Commercial history

Kendal was the largest town in the County of Westmorland (though not the capital which was Appleby), before it became part of Cumbria. It was a one of the country’s main manufacturing towns from the 14th Century until the 19th Century, with many mills on the River Kent. There are four road bridges in Kendal over the River Kent.

Kendal has, at various times in the past, been an important centre for trade and commerce. The town’s traditional trade was in wool, from which the town’s motto “Pannus mihi panis”, literally meaning “wool is my bread” was taken.

There is also a strong link with the footwear industry, Kendal being home to the famous K-Shoes brand up until the factories ceased to operate around 2003. The warehouse on the edge of town now houses one of Kendal’s excellent shopping arcades.

Kendal’s manufacturing industries all but vanished after the demise of the canal in the 1940’s, with the first few miles of the canal from Kendal onwards being filled in and turned into building land, footpaths and cycle ways.

Today the town is home to a thriving retail sector, with no less than five shopping arcades. Namely, K Village, the Westmorland Shopping Centre, Blackhall Yard Shopping arcade, the Elephant Yard and Wainwright’s Yard. The Town Centre has mostly been pedestrianised and offers a safe connection point for all these shopping areas.

image of an aerial view of Kendal in Cumbria
Kendal – Aerial photo by Jonathan Webb

Historical buildings in Kendal

Kendal is home to a multitude of historically exciting buildings. Including the parish church on the river side in Kirkland and a number of houses and office buildings designed and built by renowned local architects. Particularly notable are the 14th century Castle Dairy, Kendal Castle and Castle Howe, Abbot Hall Museum, Kendal Museum. There are also a host of churches and chapels and rows of houses built from the 1600’s right through to the present day.

The broadcaster, historian and famous son of Kendal, David Starkey, once stated that Kendal could have been like York, if only they hadn’t knocked down so many of the historical buildings. Such was the zealous attitude of the town’s councils towards moving with the times, that, at various times in the last hundred years, great swathes of Kendal’s architectural gems have been demolished to make way for roads and housing developments.

The Romans left us with the camp at Watercrook on the banks of the river Kent. The Normans left behind not one but two castles and a church that is only a few feet narrower than the mighty York Minster. The Elizabethans and the Victorians created a wealth of architecture that can only usually be found in larger towns and cities. All making Kendal a North Western gem that deserves a visit.

Walking around the town amongst the ‘mish-mash’ of building styles can be a delight, and tens of thousands of tourists and locals alike do so each year.

image of the view looking over Kendal from the Helm near Oxenholme. The castle is in the centre of the picture
Looking over Kendal from the Helm near Oxenholme. The castle is in the centre of the picture.

Kendal Mint Cake

The town’s most famous export must be Kendal Mint Cake. Joseph Wiper came up with the original recipe for the Everest conquering energy bars. By the time the company was sold to rival mint cake makers Romneys, there were a number of local firms producing their own brands.

Cultural Attractions in Kendal

Kendal Castle

Kendal Castle, probably late 12th Century, is now a ruin, but worth exploring. From here you can get brilliant views over the town. At Kendal Museum is an exhibition telling the story of the Castle, its people , and the life of the town. There is a reconstruction of the Castle.

Holy Trinity Parish Church

The Parish Church, Holy Trinity, is mostly 18th Century, but has been a place of worship since the 13th Century. It is Cumbria’s largest parish church, having five aisles, two each side of the nave, and a fine western tower.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Beside the Church is the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, set in an attractive Georgian House beside the River Kent. Major art exhibitions are held here.

The Museum of Lakeland Life is housed in what was the stable block of Abbot Hall. There are displays of traditional rural trades of the area, including farming machinery and tools, showing how Cumbrian people lived, worked and entertained themselves over the last 300 years.

Kendal Museum of Natural history and Archaeology

The Museum of Natural History and Archaeology is one of the oldest museums in the country, housing outstanding displays of natural history and archaeology, both local and global.

Quaker Tapestry

The Quaker Tapestry, housed in the Kendal Quaker Meeting House, is an embroidery of community art, the creation of more than 4000 people in 15 countries. It shows 300 years of social history, beautifully illustrated.

Castle Howe consists of the earthwork remains of a motte and bailey castle, built around 1092.

Parks in Kendal

Nobles Rest is a public park at the end of Maude Street.

Sepulchre Lane has a small park, where there was once a Quaker burial ground.

Serpentine Woods were created on part of Kendal Fell, overlooking Kendal and the castle during the 1800s. The woods are home to a wide range of bird species, foxes and squirrels. The trees and shrubs grow over a bed of limestone pavement that shows through its layer of foliage in several places. There are a number of paths that can be taken through the woods, with walks totaling around 3 miles in all. The woods have a nature trail with ten stops, each demonstrating a different environment within the woods.

The Brewery Art’s Centre

Brewery Arts Centre is a multi-purpose arts complex presenting a year round programme of theatre, music, films, lectures and exhibitions. There are also a range of amateur participatory activities including art and craft workshops, Cumbria Youth Theatre, and classes.

The ‘Yards’

The layout of the town is characterised by the narrow yards and lanes branching from the main street. It is less than a mile from the National Park boundary but is overlooked by the majority of people heading for Windermere and Grasmere.

There were once about 150 ‘yards’ in Kendal, often named after the owner of the main house which usually stood at the top of the yard. A good example is Yard 83 – Dr Manning’s Yard, on the right hand side as you walk up Highgate. The yards on this side of Highgate used to run in parallel lines down to the river, where there were factories, weaving shops, dying works, and even a windmill (Yard 65 is called Windmill Yard).

Alfred Wainwright in Kendal

Alfred Wainwright, author of the famous guidebooks, was born in Blackburn, but lived in Kendal from 1941 until his death in 1991. The Town Hall used to be his office when he was Borough Treasurer from 1947 until 1967.

In 1977 AW published Kendal in the Nineteenth Century, in which he copied and converted some 19th Century photographs which he had found in the collection of the Kendal Museum, where he was still Hon curator. Many are street scenes, full of people and activity.

In the Kendal Museum is the Wainwright Gallery, which contains a recreation of his office.

Go to Menu :

Grid Ref : SD 515926

Planning a visit to Kendal? Enter your dates below to see available accommodation