Situated to the South of the Lake District, six miles from junction 36 of the M6 Motorway, the town is home to a fine selection of shopping arcades, can boast two castles, two museums, a host of historical buildings and bridges, fine restaurants, a multitude of public houses, excellent local schools, low crime rates, quality hotels and views that would please the most demanding photographer.
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, and the M6 motorway some 6 miles away to the South providing easy access to Penrith and Carlisle and then onto Scotland. 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.
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.
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, and by the time the company was sold to rival mint cake makers Romneys, there were a number of local firms producing their own brands. 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; K Village, the Westmorland Shopping Centre, Blackhall Yard Shopping arcade, the Elephant Yard and Wainwright’s Yard. The Town Centre has recently mostly been pedestrianised and offers a safe connection point for all these shopping areas.
Kendal is home to a multitude of historically exciting buildings, including the parish church on the river side in Kirkland, a number of houses and office buildings designed and built by renowned local architects, the 14th century Castle Dairy, Kendal Castle and Castle Howe, Abbot Hall Museum, Kendal Museum, a host of churches and chapels and rows of houses built from the 1600’s right through to the present day.
In fact the radio 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.
From the Romans, who left us with the camp at Watercrook on the banks of the river Kent, to the Normans who left us with not one but two castles and a church that is only a few feet narrower than the mighty York Minster, to the Elizabethans and the Victorians, who left us with a wealth of architecture that can only usually be found in larger towns and cities, Kendal is a North Western gem that deserves a visit.