Kendal is a quaint market town in the picturesque county of Cumbria in the UK. The town is considered the “gateway to the lakes” thanks to its close proximity to the Lake District.
There are many interesting things to do in Kendal from browsing the market and boutique shops, to discovering some of the wonderful museums, castles, gardens and other attractions the area has to offer.
However, the primary reason for any visit to Kendal should be to take in the stunning Lake District scenery that sits on its doorstep! From gentle ambles to more intense hikes, those of all fitness levels can enjoy this beautiful part of England!
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and discover some of the best places to visit in Kendal!
Getting to Kendal
By car: Kendal is 1h30m drive from Manchester and around five hours drive from London. Take the M6 to junction 36 (Crooklands interchange) and follow signposts for the town.
By bus: to get to Kendal by bus, you must first get to Lancaster. From Lancaster take the 555 bus straight to Kendal. The journey time from Lancaster is 1h20m and buses run hourly from 07:15 to 20:40.
- London to Lancaster: 7h30m £23.30
- Birmingham to Lancaster 4h0m £25.00
- Manchester to Lancaster 1h25m £9.00
By train: there are daily trains from London Euston to Kendal with a change in Lancaster. The journey time is 3h6m including the change and costs start from £80.00 if booked in advance.
By plane: the closest international airport is Manchester. From there take the train or bus to Lancaster and complete the journey by bus or train as detailed above.
Best Places to Stay in Kendal
Budget: Being a small provincial town, there isn’t much in the way of budget accommodation such as hostels. However, there are plenty of campsites in the vicinity for those wishing to really experience the outdoors. The closest is located at the Station Inn two miles from town. Pitches start at £15. The best way to book a spot is to call them 01539 724094
Mid-range: The Shakespeare Inn is situated right in the centre of Kendal close to all the shops and amenities. The hotel is set within a period building of white walls and wooden beams and is not only a great place to stay, but is one of the best pubs in Kendal, too. There is an onsite restaurant and breakfast is included in the price, which starts from just £99.00. Book a stay at the Shakespeare Inn here.
Luxury: The Stonecross Manor Hotel is located on the outskirts of Kendal just 15 minutes walking distance from the town centre. This charming stone-bricked hotel includes a heated indoor pool and an excellent restaurant serving local produce. Standard double rooms start from £150.00 (breakfast extra). Book a stay at the Stonecross Manor Hotel here.
Top Things to do in Kendal
There are so many wonderful things to do in Kendal. It’s one of the best towns in the Lake District to explore with plenty of museums and shops as well as fantastic nearby hiking.
1. Explore the Town Centre and Markets
The first thing any visitor to Kendal should do is explore the centre of town. With its weekly outdoor market every Wednesday and Saturday, boutique shops selling everything from antiques to local produce, cafes, restaurants and bars, allow at least half a day to walk around this charming northern English town.
There is an additional market open from Monday to Saturday inside Market Hall/Westmoreland shopping centre. On the last Friday of every month there is a farmers’ market in the town where local farmers sell their own organic meat and vegetables.
The River Kent runs through the middle of the town with many pretty, stone bridges crossing back and forth. Following the river is a great way to explore the town and it’s possible to walk from the museum all the way to Kendall Castle and Abbotts Hall following the Kent (five miles – two to three hours).
2. Visit Kendal Castle
The ruins of this 12th Century castle are one of the more interesting Kendal attractions and offer great views over the town. The castle was once occupied by the Barons of Kendal who were instrumental in the development of the town.
Although the ruins are a shadow of the former castle, it’s not difficult to let your imagination run and take a step back in time to medieval England. The location of the castle above Kendal makes it the perfect place for a pleasant stroll and picnic, with incredible views in every direction!
History Buffs will be interested to learn that one of the castle’s former inhabitants, Katherine Parr, went on to become one of King Henry VIII’s wives (and she was one of the lucky ones to survive to the chopping board)!
Entrance to the castle ruins and grounds is free and it’s just a short walk from the town centre.
3. Explore Kendal Museum
Kendal Museum is one of the oldest museums in the whole of the UK and is dedicated not only to the history of the town, but also to the nature that surrounds it. The museum specialises in natural history and wildlife, making it an excellent place to visit for the whole family.
The museum houses exhibitions including local paintings, but the animal exhibits from around the world including Africa, Australia and even the arctic make this museum worthy of a visit in and of itself.
Where else are you able to see a lion, musk ox, aardvark, kangaroo and even a full-size polar bear in the same place? Granted, they are not alive any longer, but no less impressive for it!
The museum really is one of the best places to visit in Kendal and deserves at least half a day to admire all the displays.
Tickets cost just £5 for adult and £2 for children aged five to 18. Children under five go free.
5. Hike to Scout Scar
There are two main hikes to Scout Scar from Kendal. There is an easy three-mile round trip that is suitable for all levels of fitness, and a tougher eight-mile trek that starts in the town centre and ends up at Sizergh Castle (see below).
The easier route should take around 90 minutes to complete and the more difficult, three to four hours. The scenery on both routes is fantastic and on a clear day you can see all the ay to the estuary of the River Kent near the coast.
To make a day of it, pick up supplies at the market and enjoy a picnic up on the fells overlooking the town.
The circular walk starts from the car park at the bottom of Scout Scar, and the longer route starts from the town centre.
6. Visit Sizergh Castle
Unlike Kendal Castle, the 15th Century Sizergh Castle remains completely intact with an impressive tower. The grounds include a selection of beautiful gardens, a lake and an award-winning limestone rock garden.
Sizergh Castle is also home to an impressive and diverse habitat that includes orchards, wetland and woodland. The entire estate is over 1,600 acres so you can easily spend the best part of a day exploring the castle and grounds.
Sizergh is located four miles south of Kendal and is easily reachable by bus (530, 551, 555 or 755).
Tickets cost £13.00 for adults, £6.50 for children (castle and grounds). If you just want to visit the grounds then you can do so for £9.00 for adults and £4.50 for children.
7. Marvel at the Gardens of Levens Hall
The impressive Elizabethan Levens Hall dates back to 1250 and the entire estate is set within 9,500 acres of land. Here you can find the oldest topiary gardens in the world (for the uninitiated, topiary plants are those that are trimmed into different shapes to resemble animals etc).
The onsite Levens Kitchen serves food sourced within the grounds of the estate. You don’t need to pay the admission fee if you just want to eat at the restaurant, and they also offer a takeaway service.
Entrance to the house and gardens costs £14.50 for adults and £5.00 for children. For those just wishing to visit the gardens, the cost is £10.50 for adults and £4.00 for children.
The house and gardens are open Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 to 17:00. The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 10:00 to 17:00.
8. See the Works at Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Abbot Hall is a Grade I listed building that houses a museum and art gallery. The townhouse was built in 1759 as a place for the Abbot to stay when visiting St Mary’s Abbey in York. The house was converted into a gallery in 1962 and houses the largest collection of George Romney’s paintings in the UK as well as other 18th and 19th Century works.
The gallery also contains paintings and sculptures by more contemporary artists such as Barbara Hepworth (see our St Ives Article for information on how to visit Hepworth’s gallery).
Abbot Hall hosts different events and exhibitions throughout the year so check the website to see what is currently on. For lovers of art and architecture, Abbot Hall is definitely one of the best places to visit in Kendal!
Please note: Abbots Hal is temporarily closed for refurbishment and is due to reopen in summer 2022.
9. Visit Lakeland Museum
Lakeland is home to a museum charting the social history of the Lake District. The museum houses collections of artifacts and photographs dating back hundreds of years and also includes period rooms.
Lakeland Museum is located next to Abbot Hal in the centre of Kendal. As with Abbot Hall, the museum is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen in the summer of 2022.
Things to do near Kendal
If you’ve been to the Lake District before, you may want to consider exploring some things to do near Kendal while you are exploring. The town is at the heart of this region and a great base to explore more.
10. Lake District National Park
Kendal is located just eight miles from Lake Windermere, the jewel in the Lake District’s crown. Windermere is the longest natural lake in the UK and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Windermere is the perfect place for messing about on the water from lake cruises to kayaking, swimming and fishing.
There are also plenty of wonderful hikes around the lake. From easy ambles such as to Gummer’s How or Orrest Head, to more difficult treks to Wansfell Pike or Loughrigg.
There are multiple trains and buses between Kendal and Windermere each day. The train takes just 15 minutes and the bus 24 minutes.
11. Lakeland Maze Farm Park
For a fun day out for all the family, head to Lakeland Maze Farm Park which is located five miles south of Kendal close to the village of Sedgewick.
Raines Farm is part of Lakeland Maze and is a working farm with a diverse range of animals. You can see cattle, sheep, horses and donkeys to more exotic species such as lamas and alpacas. It is possible to visit at feeding time and even have a go yourself if you want to get up close and personal!
The highlight of a visit to Lakeland Maze Farm Park has to be the different mazes on offer. The maize maze is open from July to September each year and here you can try and find your way through narrow alleyways in the tall maize fields.
There are also two other permanent mazes to get lost in including a wooden panel maze and an indoor “bunny maze”.
There is also a children’s play area and a café with indoor and outdoor seating (take away also available). Lakelands is definitely one of the best things to do near Kendal for the whole family!
Entrance to Lakeland Maze is £10.45 for adults and £9.95 for children (there is a discount available if you book online).
So, is Kendal worth visiting?
As a gateway to England’s beautiful Lake District full of sweeping, mountain vistas, small villages and charming market towns, Kendal is definitely worth a visit. There are plenty of Kendal attractions to suit everyone from hikers to families and those seeking a rural romantic getaway in the UK. No trip to England is complete without paying this beautiful town a visit!