Kendal Castle was heaving as hundreds of rain-soaked Cumbrians cheerfully welcomed the Olympic Torch to the historic spot.

Events kicked off at 8am when the first torch was lit at the landmark, while hundreds more lined the route down from the castle into town.

And the first leg of the relay was as much a family affair as it was a celebration for the town, as popular Kendal Judo coach Mike Liptrot, 49, became the first to carry the torch.

The martial arts enthusiast said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be involved in the Olympic Games. He has been inspirational in the judo world, and has played a major role in developing Kendal Dojo as a pre-Olympic training camp.

Before the torch was lit, he said: "I am feeling a bit nervous. I hope I don't fall on my backside going down. It will be great here today, I can't even feel the rain. I think the turnout is excellent."

He was watched proudly by members of his family, including dad John, 84, also of Kendal, and nephew Jon, 29, who had travelled from Lancaster for the momentous occasion.

Mr Liptrot senior said: “It is brilliant that he is the first torch bearer here, and that the torch has come through Kendal. It rains here more than anywhere so it’s probably appropriate to be so wet.”

Jon said: “It was a very proud moment; today was not to be missed.”

After the torch was lit, Mike proudly posed for photographs with local dignitaries before setting off down the hill to the first ‘kiss-point’ on Castle Drive, where the torch was handed on to the next torchbearer.

Many of those gathered at the castle hurriedly made their way back into the town, to line the streets around the centre as the relay continued.

The Revill family - dad John, 34, mum Meredith, 35 and children Arran, 4, Brodie, 2, and six-month-old Celyn, braved the weather for the occasion.

John said: “It has been absolutely brilliant. We’ve all been excited about it and the children have been busy making their own Olympic torches at school.

“It is great Kendal was chosen to be on the route and will be something for them to remember when they are older.”

Sylvi Glynn, 30, the town said: “Everybody deserves a medal for coming out in this rain today, but it was really nice for the kids to see it.”

Ray deVial, 73, added: “It is just one of those exciting moments. It is good to see Kendal coming out and having fun.”