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An Introduction to Kendal and District
Note: Links are provided so you can find more information on the attractions you are interested in. Please check the relevant sites as some attractions are not open all year round.
Links in BOLD type denote the property is owned/managed by the National Trust.
The National Trust owns and manages a large proportion of the land, houses and attractions in the Lake District and many of the car parks in the countryside. Joining the National Trust before, or at the start of your holiday, may save you a lot of money on entry and parking fees.
Kendal Mint Cake
We cannot start this page without a mention of the most famous export to come out of this lakeland town. If you're a hiker or climber the name Kendal is probably very familiar to you - even if you've never been to the town itself. Yes, Kendal is famous for Kendal Mint Cake
Joseph Wiper was making glacier mints one day in 1869. It is said that he turned away from the pan for too long, and when he turned back the mixture had turned cloudy. Luckily he didn't throw it out, as the resultant confectionary has become world famous. Although made by only 3 firms and only in Kendal itself, it is popular with walkers, climbers and athletes all over the globe. It was taken as an energy source to the very top of Everest in 1953.
Being relatively cheap it's an excellent memento to take home either for yourself, or as presents for friends and family.
Kendal - The Town
Known as the Gateway to the Lake District Kendal is situated on the south eastern edge of the Lake District National Park - only 50 miles away from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so it's possible to explore both parks if you make your base in this town. Kendal is easily accessible from north and south as it is located only 6 miles from the M6.
With a long history Kendal has the remains of a Roman camp at Watercrook, two Norman castles - Kendal Castle is now a ruin but has good views of the town, and Castle Howe has just the earthworks of an early motte and bailey castle. There are two museums here, churches and chapels, and houses dating from 1600. A pretty town with a good town centre.
Alfred Wainwright, famous for his guides to walking 214 fells in the Lake District, was the borough treasurer for Kendal for 20 years until 1967. There is a recreation of his office and Wainwright Gallery in the Kendal Museum. Wainwright lived in Kendal from 1941 until his death in 1991.
Kendal plays host to the largest Mountain Festival event of its type in the world each year, billed as the main social event for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK.
The town is also home to the Museum of Lakeland Life which tells the story of the Lake District and the people who lived here through recreations of period rooms and workshops. The museum houses a collection of Arthur Ransome's (Swallows and Amazons) books and belongings.
The Lakeland Climbing Centre in Kendal has the tallest indoor climbing wall in the country and offers indoor and outdoor climbing experienced for all skill ranges, from beginner to expert.
If you want to get out of the rain and undertake some retail therapy the town has five shopping centres and a pedestrianised town centre.
Six miles south of Kendal is the pretty village of Levens best known for Levens Hall. Having its origins as a medieval pele tower, the main residence dates from the 1590s. Apart from the historic house a visit here should incorporate the historic Grade 1 listed garden dating from the late 17th century including an impressive topiary. In Levens Park you will see Norwegian black fallow deer, and Bagot Goats. A living willow labyrinth and play area provide entertainment for children, and the traction engines will be enjoyed by all the family.
Not far from Levens is Sizergh Castle. Sitting in a an 1,600 acre estate Sizergh Castle has an impressive 700 year history. The interior of the castle has original Elizabethan panellings and is richly furnished, and there are a range of walks around the estate.
Sedbergh is an old market town which is actually in the Yorkshire Dales National park, but close to the Lake District's eastern fells including Alfred Wainwright's favoured Howgills. With a market dating from the 1200s and an historic staging point for routes crossing the Pennines Sedbergh is full of history from cobbled streets to buildings which bear the marks of the old knitting and woollen trades. It is home to the famous public school.
In 2001, following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth, Sedhergh began it's project to become a Book Town to increase the number of visitors to the town. A Book Town has a number of bookshops and businesses based writing and publishing. If you want to find a secondhand or out of print book, a Book Town is the place to look for it. Sedhergh is now one of the UK's three official book towns, so it's well worth a visit and a browse whilst you're in the area.
Outside of the town is Farfield Mill. Housed on four floors in a restored Victorian woollen mills are heritage displays, working looms, exhibitions, craft demonstrations and arts and crafts for sale. Fun things to do for youngsters, and older children and adults will enjoy watching crafts people at work.
If you want to visit a traditional dales working farm then Holme Open Farm is situated between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Children are given the chance to touch, feed and hold many different types of animals including lambs, goats, kids, chicks, pigs, ponies and kittens. The farm holds badger watching evenings and has a children's play area and nature trail.