A SOUTH Lakeland town is looking to shake off its 'gateway to the Lake District' tag and become a popular destination in its own right.

Sarah Williams, manager of Kendal BID and the brains behind 'Fantastic Kendal', the new tourist information centre, said: "Kendal has got history. It's got architecture. It's got culture. It's got absolutely everything. It’s got brilliant places to eat, brilliant places to see.”

Brian Harrison, director and vice-chair of Kendal BID, added: “It was always regarded as the ‘gateway to the Lake District’ - and what happens is you open a gateway and you go through it.”

As part of BID’s efforts to raise the profile of Kendal, it has organised a new scheme to encourage tour operators to use the town.

The Westmorland Gazette: 'Fantastic Kendal', the tourist information centre which opened on Finkle Street last year. Picture: JON GRANGER'Fantastic Kendal', the tourist information centre which opened on Finkle Street last year. Picture: JON GRANGER

According to Mr Harrison, there was nothing for coach drivers to do when parked at Kendal Leisure Centre, which they would drive to after dropping passengers off in the town centre. This caused the drivers to feel isolated and discouraged them from stopping in Kendal.

Now, however, Kendal BID has negotiated a package with Better Leisure which means that, as well as having their parking paid-for by BID, coach drivers can use the leisure centre’s facilities, free-of-charge, while they wait.

Alternatively, BID will pay for drivers to take a taxi - provided by Kendal-based firm Lakeside Taxis - into the town centre and back again, as well as a £15 gift card to spend in restaurants and shops while there.

Mr Harrison pointed out that the financial outlay by BID was, therefore, going straight back into the Kendal economy.

Tour guide Jan Nicholson, who runs the Kendal Hostel on Highgate with daughter Kristina, said: “I have to go and promote myself and there’s no point promoting myself if I cannot give coach drivers an incentive to come to Kendal.

“I know I personally have brought three extra coaches to Kendal that I wouldn’t have been able to bring in if we hadn’t had the scheme.”

Derek Jones, South Lakeland Partnership Manager for Better Leisure, said: “We’ve got up to 20 coaches now [booked-in] and before it wasn’t anything like that. One or two if you were lucky.”

The coach parking scheme is part of a wider plan by Kendal BID to raise the profile of the town and encourage people to use it as a tourist destination rather than a through-road to the Lake District.

The Westmorland Gazette: Kendal Market in the sunshine. Picture: JON GRANGERKendal Market in the sunshine. Picture: JON GRANGER

This is a view shared by Steve Scott, director of Kendal Mountain Festival, which attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to the town each November. He said: “I do believe Kendal should be a destination in its own right.

“It’s the combination of a small town with all the cultural offerings and the incredible landscape surrounding the town.

“You don’t have to go into the depths of the Lake District to access nature.”

He added: “There’s a real vibrant atmosphere in Kendal, with new businesses opening and a lot of new bars and cafes. It’s quite a cosmopolitan town with such a lot going for it, and long may it continue.”

Indeed, Kendal BID will be promoting the town in a variety of ways and it has outlined a five-year plan which includes a project entitled ‘Kendal is a Destination’.

Mr Harrison said it was hoping to get to a stage where Kendal was hosting one festival a month. Sarah Williams added that the board was looking at a scheme which would incentivise people to shop locally.


Simon Perkin, who set up Comida - a Spanish-inspired eatery on Highgate - with his wife, said: “The idea of making Kendal into its own destination is something that would be good for businesses, but at the moment we wonder if there’s enough of an offering in Kendal. I know people like ourselves have put a lot of money into food and drink, but some people think the shopping is lacking a bit.

“We’ve seen some new independent shops having to close because there isn’t the demand so it’s a bit ‘chicken and egg’. Demand isn’t always there, it can be unpredictable. If Kendal was marketed as a destination it might improve tourism and be a bit more consistent.”

To inquire about coach booking contact Fantastic Kendal on 01539725139.