Keep Kendal in Mind: Why You Should Visit the Gateway to the Lake District

Kendal, in Cumbria, with the River Mint running through it, is a pretty spot to stay in during your Lake District holiday
Kendal, in Cumbria, with the River Mint running through it, is a pretty spot to stay in during your Lake District holiday | © V. Dorosz / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Cecilia Pidgeon
2 November 2020

The charming market town of Kendal, in Cumbria, is a great place to spend your holiday in the Lake District, in England. And we’ve found the perfect spot for you to stay in.

Kendal is a delightfully old-fashioned town, with cobbled streets and pretty independent shops – many of which sell the town’s most famous export, Kendal mint cake – and the pubs are quaint and cosy, too. The ruins of Kendal Castle, once owned by the family of Catherine Parr (the sixth wife who outlived Henry VIII), looms over the town on a ridge that’s only 10 minutes’ walk away. In return for this short hike, you’ll be rewarded with views that are spectacular.

Rooms are cosy in the County Hotel | © County hotel

The 41-room, Grade II-listed County Hotel is the perfect base from which you can explore the delights of Kendal and the Lake District beyond. Owned and operated by the family-run Daish’s Holidays – which has 10 properties in some of Britain’s favourite holiday destinations, including Scarborough, Newquay and Blackpool – it underwent a full renovation in May 2019, and all the communal areas have since been made Covid-secure, with sanitiser stations throughout and clear arrows to enable one-way movement throughout.

If you’re travelling round the region by train, the hotel is particularly well placed next to the station, with the exit ramp only 5m (16ft) from reception. Lake Windermere is only 15 minutes away by train, but don’t rush off in the morning, because you won’t want to miss breakfast.

Enjoy a huge breakfast in the County Hotel dining room | © County hotel

It comprises a whopping two courses, with porridge or cereals followed by a cooked breakfast and as many cups of coffee as you need to set you up for the day.

A full English is served after the porridge or cereal | © Cecilia Pidgeon

At 10.5mi (17km) long and 1mi (1.6km) wide, Windermere is the largest natural lake in the UK. You can take a boat trip from numerous points around the perimeter, either a round trip or better still, one way. Make Bowness-on-Windermere your first stop, to explore the magical world of Beatrix Potter, which has fabulous displays depicting the life and works of the celebrated children’s author. As well as bringing Peter Rabbit to the world, Potter left almost all of her property to the National Trust and is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park.

Lake Windermere is the largest natural lake in the UK | © Cecilia Pidgeon

From Bowness, take the boat to Lakeside and enjoy a ride on the steam train to Haverthwaite, a beautiful 20-minute ride on the route made famous by appearances in Thomas the Tank Engine and the Agatha Christie thriller Dumb Witness (1937).

Near to Windermere is the small but no less jaw-dropping Coniston Water. Numerous attempts have been made here to break the world speed record on water; Donald Campbell died tragically in 1967 when his Bluebird K7 hydroplane somersaulted and crashed. The lake is also the scene of the infamous Lady of the Lake murder, whereby the body of Carol Park, missing since 1976, was found in 1997 by amateur divers. Yet despite these macabre and tragic stories, Coniston Water is a truly spectacular setting.

Brantwood, former home of John Ruskin, sits on the shore of Coniston Water | © Paul Heinrich / Alamy Stock Photo

The former home of John Ruskin, on the shores of Coniston Water, is well worth a visit. Brantwood, a Grade-II listed building, is now a museum dedicated to the life of the leading Victorian art critic, and you can stroll through the exquisite gardens on one of the trails that run down to the water. From here, head to Crag Head, the highest point of the Brantwood Estate, with panoramic views not only of Coniston but also the hills and towns beyond.

The natural beauty of the Lake District makes it worth a visit at any time of year | © Cecilia Pidgeon

After a long day’s exploring, head back to your hotel where you can enjoy an excellent home-cooked meal in the restaurant. The staff at County Hotel are friendly and helpful and will make you feel properly at home; it almost feels as if you’re staying in the home of a family friend.

One positive outcome of the 2020 travel restrictions is that more people in the UK have been holidaying at home, and when you experience the unrivalled natural beauty of the Lake District, you’ll wonder why you ever wanted to go abroad. The County Hotel offers delightful customer service, in a beautiful location, with some of the UK’s most stunning scenery on its doorstep. It really will provide a staycation to remember.

You can expect a warm welcome by friendly staff at the County Hotel | | © County hotel

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