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Things To Do In Kendal

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published January 22nd 2014
The Town Built on Mint Cake
The Town Built on Mint Cake

Author: Henry Bolton,

Towns have been built from many things such as wood, bricks, and steel, but Kendal was built on something altogether different. Wool, snuff, and cake. It may not sound particularly sturdy, but these three things have kept hikers and mountaineers going in the toughest of conditions.

Kendal is a market town in the Lake District of Cumbria, which today supports itself through a strong tourism business. Back in the day, however, the town's motto was Pannus mihi panis, which translates to 'wool is my bread'. They manufactured huge quantities,including a hard-wearing material known as Kendal Green, which was worn by their local archers and was instrumental in the English victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt. Wooly jumpers also come in handy when climbing cold mountains.

Another strong industry in Kendal is its production of snuff, which dates back to 1792. The founding company, Samuel Gawith & Co., still runs to this day, and is sure to get many adventurers through a hard trek.

What really put Kendal on the map, however, is its famed Kendal Mint Cake. There are two theories as to its invention. One is that it was discovered accidentally by Joseph Wiper while he was trying to make a clear glacier mint. The other was also an accident; allegedly a batch of peppermint creams were left overnight, solidified, and turned into 'cake'. Whichever - if either - of these is true, Kendal Mint Cake is loved throughout the country. It is particularly popular among hikers and mountaineers because of its high source of energy.

But apart from supporting pioneers through long treacherous journey's, Kendal is wonderful place to visit, whether you are going for a day trip, weekend break, or full blown holiday.

Places For History Buffs

Kendal Castle
Castle Hill, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 7BL

Kendal castle
Image from

Although Kendal Castle has remained in ruins since the Tudor period, it is well worth a visit. In 1897 the twelfth century site was designated a place for 'public enjoyment' to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. As well as being a great place for picnics and walks, there are also displays of medieval objects, castle reconstructions, computer displays, and various activities such as coin rubbing.

Kendal Museum
Station Road, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 6BT

Founded in 1796 by William Todhunter, Kendal Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country; it is free to visit, and has a large collection of fossils, plants, antiques, minerals, and taxidermy, which includes a stuffed polar bear, and a model dodo.

Castle Howe
Bankfield Rod, Kendal, LA9 4LA

castle howe, motte, obelisk, kendal
Photo taken by Humphrey Bolton, 2006,

Castle Howe was the first castle to be built in Kendal, and was constructed in the late eleventh century, by Ivo Taillebois, some time after the Battle of 1066. Unfortunately the castle was destroyed when a public park was built on the land, but in 1788 an obelisk was built on the site, overlooking the town.

Places For Shopperholics

There's no shortage of shopping to be had in Kendal. If you are driving up, the best place to park is inside the K Village Outlet, where you can stay four hours for 1. Here you will find factory names of all the bigest brands, including Clarks, Cadbury's, Cotton Traders, Whittard, and The Works, which is Britain's leading discount book shop. At K Village you can get things up to 60% off.

Westmoreland is the main shopping centre, with all your usual high street names. More unqiue to the town, however is the indoor market just inside the Westmoreland entrance.There are still some local 'butter ladies' selling their homemade produce.

Then there is the outdoor market on Wednesdays and Saturday. As this is at the other end of the town, we often end up arriving just as everyone is packing up, but on the odd ocassion when we do make it, we're always on the lookout for our taupaulin man. Many years ago we bought a large taupaulin cover for our outdoor pet hutch; it cost a 1. 'Daylight robbery,' we joked. Since then we always keep an eye out for him.

So what is between K Village and the market that takes us so long to get there? More shopping of course. Amongst several charity shops there are also two shops in particular that we like to visit. The first is a rock shop that also sells handmade goods and spiritual gifts like dream catches, wind chimes, worry dolls, and jewllery with Celtic symbols.

The Exchange Designer and Vintage Dress Agency is another favourite. Located on Highgate Street, my aunt loves trying on their hats, while my mum and friend love mooching the racks. You can get designer items at reasonable prices or get a discount if you exchange your own unwanted good quality items. It is a wonderful place to find an outfit for a wedding.

All of this shopping of course gives one an appetite. There are two places we have ventured to in the past. Most often we go to the Artisan, a cafe in Wainwrights Yard, underneath Booths supermarket. It specialises in bread, which you can buy at the counter, along with preserves. As it is situated in a court yard, you have the option to sit outside on the patio; if the weather is good, I would recommend it, as it gets busy indoors.

We once tried the 1657 Chocolate House on Branthwaith Brow. I can't remember if we had any lunch, but we definitely delighted in a whole range of hot and cold chocolate drinks. To exit, you have to go downstairs to the basement, where they have a chocolate shop full of goodies.
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Why? Escape the city
Where: Around Kendal
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