Kendal: Beyond the Festival

© gsum

The Kendal Mountain Festival takes place 17-20 November, with a packed programme of adventure films, speakers, events, and socialising. For an annual shindig devoted to the outdoors it's surprising how much time can be spent under cover (if not always necessarily very warm). But if you feel like dodging the crowds for a while, and actually participating in something hill- or climbing-related instead of just talking about it, then Kendal has plenty to offer the festival escapee. Here are some highlights.

North from Whitbarrow  © gsum
North from Whitbarrow
© gsum, Dec 2017

Local fells

With the whole Lake District and large parts of the Yorkshire Dales to go at, to a degree your choices for a fell walk or hill run are pretty much endless. But limiting the travel time, the fells closer to Kendal's doorstep have loads to offer, ranging from mini hill quickies to all-day epics. Some routes start from the middle of town, some are public transport-friendly, while others will be just a short drive away.

Outdoor events

Festival events that don't involve sitting down or drinking include...

Adidas Terrex Kendal Mountain Festival 10k Run - staged as a fundraiser for Kendal Mountain Rescue Team, this popular race takes you up onto local mini-fell Scout Scar before finishing through the streets and ginnels of Kendal town centre. If the race is sold out this year, why not come to the start/finish line to cheer them on and enjoy the atmosphere.

There's also a busy programme of guided walks and runs, night navigation training, E-bike rides, and yoga sessions - for details see here

Scout Scar sport climbing

Kendal's nearest crag, the limestone escarpment of Scout Scar offers some enjoyable sport climbing in a scenic setting overlooking the gorgeous Lyth Valley. With a selection of enjoyable routes from beginner grades up into the 7s, there are a few good hours here for pretty much everyone. Its west-facing position should mean you catch any afternoon sun that's going - well, at this time of year we've got to take what we can get. Duvet jacket highly recommended.

Unknown climber on Born Again  © airborne
Unknown climber on Born Again
© airborne, Sep 2020

If trad is more your thing, and mid E-grades your game, try the Red Wall at Trowbarrow - it's steep and stays dry in rain as long as there's no serious winter seepage yet.


There are several options for bouldering within half an hour of Kendal, the closest being either Kentmere Boulders or Brant Fell to the North, or some of the limestone crags to the south.

Kentmere has a decent range of boulders from Font 4, all the way up to 8B, so watch how much you drink at the festival. Brant Fell is a tiny outcrop near Windermere with a stunning view, great for solo boulderers who are after a quick hit. For those with a bit more time, it's worth venturing in the direction of Langdale and taking a look at the excellent Chapel Stile Boulderscircuit, or the classic Langdale Boulders.

The limestone venue of Fairy Steps to the south also has a variety of grades and a very different feel to the Lake District. Trowbarrow and Woodwell are decent options hereabouts too, although if the latter is suffering from damp conditions, Trowbarrow is the quicker drying.

Slab Climbing in the Jokers on the Chapel Stile circuit  © UKC Gear
Slab Climbing in the Jokers on the Chapel Stile circuit

Climbing wall

Real outdoor rock too miserable and greasy? Kendal Wall is a decent cold/wet weather alternative.

Wild Swimming

But if even climbing outdoors in November isn't masochistic enough for you, then perhaps you're the hardy type who thrives on a bracing 'wild' swim? Windermere is the obvious destination, and easy to get to by public transport.

Eating and drinking

Had enough fresh air? Us too. As this is the Kendal Mountain Festival you're probably planning on doing plenty of indulging. The town is well supplied with eateries and watering holes, so if you're looking for ideas here are some recommendations from local resident Clive Allen:


  • Comida 
  • Brew Brothers
  • Farmhouse Kitchen
  • Farrers Tea & Coffee Shop
  • Baba Ganoush
  • Union Jack Cafe (proper old-style greasy spoon)


  • Ye Olde Fleece Inn
  • The Shakespeare
  • Handsome Bar
  • The Fell Bar
  • The Factory Tap
  • Ruskins Bar 

Above the clouds on Scout Scar  © Chris Scaife
Above the clouds on Scout Scar
© Chris Scaife

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17 Nov, 2022

Has it always been this late in the year. Many years ago, I remember bumping into an editor of a climbing mag whilst climbing on White Ghyll. He was escaping the Kendal festival as the weather was too good to be stuck indoors.

I reckon it was sometime in October.


17 Nov, 2022
Adidas Terrex Kendal Mountain Festival 10k Run is on Saturday, not Sunday as currently written.
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