Where: Kendal, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Why go: Located just south of the Lake District, Kendal is a historic market town in Cumbria, United Kingdom. Often considered the southern gateway to the Lake District, this little town has a lot to offer and is well worth a day of your time.
How to get there: By car, Kendal is only eight miles from junction 36 of the M6. By train, Kendal is a short train journey from Windermere Railway Station, or can be accessed from Oxenholme, which is located on the West Coast main line between London and Glasgow, and is only 2.5 miles outside of the town.
Where to park: Kendal has several car parks available. The most central is Westmorland Shopping Centre which has 627 spaces in the multi-storey structure and prices range from £1.20-£6.00*. However, there are numerous other car parks available around the town.
Kendal has got plenty to offer which will easily fill a day, if not longer. With so much to see, we’ve suggested some highlights for a day in Kendal, but with plenty to do you can pick and choose your favourites to suit the length of your stay.
Low Sizergh Barn
If you are driving to Kendal then the first stop on your journey must be Low Sizergh Barn. Located just a 10 minute drive south of Kendal, this working family farm boasts a beautiful farm shop and café. Open from 9am daily, this is the ideal spot to grab a substantial breakfast or brunch to fuel your day.
Low Sizergh Barn isn’t just about the café though. As well as grabbing a bite to eat, you can enjoy a farm trail locating fairy doors; see cows being milked daily in the afternoon; and see the Growing Well site. Growing Well is a community owned business producing food and vegetables and providing a safe working environment for volunteers who are recovering from mental health problems. On top of this you can pick up some delicious foodstuffs (possibly a picnic for later?) and local craft gifts from the shop.
Following your visit to Low Sizergh Barn, you can head into Kendal town centre. We’d recommend starting your journey in the Market Place area and having a wander down Stricklandgate, past the tourist information and onto Highgate. This is the main shopping street in the town, and has a number of high street names and tourist shops.
Brewery Arts Centre
As you continue down Highgate, you will pass Brewery Arts Centre on your right. This now cosmopolitan arts venue is an ingenious regeneration of an old brewery. This venue is the home of the arts in Kendal and boasts cinema screens, a theatre, a restaurant, bar, café and exhibition space.
Abbot Hall Park
Coming back out of Brewery Arts Centre and turning right to continue your journey down Highgate, cross the road and take a left onto Dowkers Lane, you will see an archway making the entrance to Abbot Hall Park. This little spot of greenery is an idyllic location for a stroll on a sunny day and a pretty route to the next stop.
Abbot Hall Art Gallery
At the far end of the park and to the right you will find Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Located beside the river, this listed building has played host to a large range of high-profile, contemporary exhibitions. For the modest admission fee of £7.50*, you can see works by world class artists such as Turner, Monet, Ruskin and Hockney in a variety of visiting exhibitions, as well as permanent features by local artist George Romney. To see the current calendar of exhibitions, click here.
Kendal Parish Church
If you continue past Abbot Hall, you will get a stunning view of the back of Kendal Parish Church. This beautiful Grade I listed building still holds services every Sunday as well as a number of other activities during the week. The church is open to visitors most days so you can pop in and admire its beauty from the inside and there is usually a steward on hand who would be happy to answer questions.
Now retrace your steps slightly and head back past Abbot Hall, alongside the river to the footbridge. While crossing the River Kent, take a moment to admire the pretty views both up and downstream.
If you’re up for a bit of a walk, which includes a fairly steep incline, a visit to the castle ruins is a must. After crossing the footbridge, turn right and cross the road, following the signposts for Parr Street Sunnyside and Kendal Castle.
The fifteen minute walk will take you through a park and woodland before emerging with the castle ruins ahead of you. Although the climb is a little steep, the reward is a glimpse of what this once imposing 12th-century castle could have looked like.
You can walk right around the castle remains, then enter the grounds and learn more about the history of the building via notice boards and a downloadable audio tour. The castle remains are free to explore, and give both an interesting insight into Kendal’s medieval history, as well as a peaceful retreat from the bustle of town.
While you’re exploring the castle remains, make sure to take some time to admire the stunning views of the town and surrounding countryside. There are plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the view, or alternatively you could pack a picnic (possibly picked up from Low Sizergh Barn in the morning) and find a spot to roll out a blanket and enjoy some lunch.
When you’re ready to return, descend following the same route until you reach the riverside and turn right so you are walking back towards the town. Continue following the river until you reach Bridge Street, where you can cross the river again to the same side where you started your journey.
Consisting of 77 embroidered panels, the Kendal Meeting House hosts this stunning tapestry which was made over a period of 15 years, by 4,000 people from 15 different countries. The £7.50* entrance fee gets you a ticket valid for 12 months to this impressive exhibition.
Those who are expecting to just see the tapestry will be amazed at how much is on display in this exhibition space. As well as the tapestry, your ticket gets you access to an introductory video, an audio guide of the tapestry exhibition, a longer documentary on Quaker history as well as interactive displays on some well known Quakers and lots of activities for children. Don’t underestimate how much time you will want to spend exploring this surprising gem!
Once you depart the Quaker Tapestry Exhibition, you can return to the car park by turning right and taking Blackhall Road, the car park will be on your left. Alternatively, if you still have time to squeeze further exploration in, why not try some of the other attractions listed below?
But of course, your trip isn’t complete without sampling some Kendal Mint Cake. This sugary, mint flavoured bar proves popular with walkers as an energy supply while out exploring the Lakeland countryside. In it’s home town Kendal Mint Cake is stocked in most food and tourist stores so you won’t have any trouble locating a souvenir bar to take home with you.
Other things to explore…
If you’ve got a little extra time or you are looking for some other things to explore in and around Kendal, why not try the following:
- Sizergh Castle – an impressive castle which has been home to the same family for almost 800 years. Located a short drive south of Kendal, it is a great stop before or after your trip around the town.
- Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry – located in the original stables of Abbot Hall, Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry tells an immersive history of the Lake District’s past in farming, mining, tanning.
- Kendal Museum – containing local Roman and Viking finds as well as other exhibitions on the area, this museum can be reached by turning left out of the Quaker Meeting House and crossing the river at Stramongate.
- Levens Hall – believed to be home to the oldest topiary garden in the world, this imposing Elizabethan home is a fifteen minute drive south of Kendal.
*Prices as of July 2019.