Kendal is a busy market town and key administrative centre in the county of Cumbria. Located on the edge of the Lake District National Park, it is an excellent centre for touring the southern lakes and surrounding country.
Beautifully situated in the Kent Valley, Kendal's grey limestone buildings and cottages are surrounded by rolling hills and limestone fells. The town is famous for its Mint Cake, a hard mint-flavoured candy bar, traditionally used as an energy snack for trekking and expeditions around the world.
Kendal was granted a market charter in 1189, and during the 13th century became a thriving wool centre. In 1331 Edward III granted protection to John Kempe of Flanders, following which a number Flemish weavers came to settle here. These skilled artisans brought much prosperity to the town and the locally made 'Kendal Green' cloth became famous throughout the land. Much of the industrial and social history of the area is told in the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, which is housed in part of the Abbot Hall (1759). Echoes of the wool trade can also be seen several old pub names in the town such as the Fleece and Woolpack.
Kendal Hills (Image Pixabay)
One of the town's delightful features are the 'yards', accessed through arches on either side of the main streets, and the walled paths called 'ginnels'. The Market Place holds regular street markets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The old Victorian entrance to the Market Hall has been repurposed as the entrance to the Westmorland Shopping Centre.
The Normans built a 12th-c. castle on a hill to the east of the town. It was once the seat of the Parr family, and of Katherine Parr (1512) who became Henry Vlll's sixth and surviving wife. A public park now surrounds the castle ruins. The stone built Castle Dairy, in Wildman Street, served the castle during Katherine Parr's time. It is the oldest habitable house in the town and has many interesting period features, including carved oak beams and panelling.
The Brewery Arts Centre building (which brewed beer up until 1968) has been repurposed as a community hub. Open all year round, it provides entertainment with a small gallery, theatre, exhibitions and seasonal events.
The Town Hall began as Assembly Rooms in 1825. Included in its many civic treasures are the relics of the cloth trade and Katherine Parr's Book of Devotions.
Kendal's impressive parish church of Holy Trinity was built on the proceeds of the 13th-c wool trade. It is a large rectangular building, over 100ft (30m) across. One of the widest churches in the country. Within the nave are a number of family chapels, including that of the Parr family. Next to the church is the Abbot Hall Art Gallery and museum, located in a fine Georgian house with period furnishings.
A number historic trails can be traced around the town. You can also walk straight out of the town onto the nearby hills where you will find some of the most pleasant countryside. One excellent trail is the northern pathway along the River Kent, leading to Burneside and beyond to Staveley. Also a few miles southwest of Kendal sits a high limestone ridge known as Scout Scar, which provides spectacular views over the fells.
Several festivals are held annually in the town, including varied entertainments of the 'Kendal Gathering', in late August.
This fine 18th-century mansion, located in a quiet park beside the River Kent, has been restored to its former elegance. It houses an art gallery and cultural centre. On display are works by Romney, Gardner, Turner and Ruskin. Plus a permanent collection of 18th and 19th-century watercolours of local scenes and 20th-c British art.
Opening times: see website for details
Location: Kirkland, Kendal LA9 5AL
Tel: 01539 722464
Founded in 1796, the museum covers the archaeology and natural history of Cumbria. There is also an exhibition devoted to the author Alfred Wainwright, who was once an honorary clerk to the museum.
Opening times: Thur, Fri, Sat from 9:30 to 4:30pm - Admission Charge
Location: Station Rd, Kendal LA9 6BT
Tel: 01539 815597
The ruins of two castles sit high on opposite banks of the River Kent. Built to defend against border raiders, who regularly swept down from the north. Later raided as a quarry for local building materials, very little remains of these two fortresses today. Castle Howe is just an earthworks and the 13th-c Kendal Castle is now just a few shattered walls. Free Access.
Housed in Abbot Hall's stable block, the museum covers the social and industrial history of the Lake District. There is a variety of exhibits, including period rooms, a Victorian Cumbrian street scene, a farming display, and several arts and crafts exhibits.
Opening times: see website for details.
Location: Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kirkland, Kendal LA9 5AL