What is the Kendal Mountain Festival?
One of the largest outdoor festivals in the UK, the Kendal Mountain Festival is held every year in mid November. It celebrates all things outdoors – from hiking to climbing, running to mountaineering, skiing to swimming through a series of talks, speaker events, film collections and outdoor events over four days in a small town right on the edge of the Lake District National Park.
The Kendal Mountain Book Festival also runs alongside the main festival, with speaker and signing events, plus a fantastic mountain bookshop which you can browse and get inspired.
I have been to the festival every year since I moved to the Lake District in 2019 (apart from the COVID year when the festival was moved online). I always leave the weekend feeling super inspired to get outside and plan my next adventure.
Where is the Kendal Mountain Festival held?
Kendal is a small market town right on the southern fringes of the Lake District National Park. It’s easily by car from the M6 and the main north-to-south train line that stops at Oxenholme, two miles outside the town.
Most of the short film collections, book events, and the mountain bookshop are held within the Brewery Arts complex in the centre of Kendal, with
The ‘Basecamp’ marquee area hosts free talks and several stands from outdoor brands and organisations. This area was originally outside the Brewery Arts in the centre of Kendal, but due to needing more space post-Covid, it was moved to Abbot Hall Park. This proved successful and has now become a permanent fixture.
Additionally, there has recently been a popular free ‘gear repair’ service (run in 2022 by Patagonia) – get in early when it opens on the Friday as the queues can be huge!
Other venues around the town include Kendal Town Hall, Kendal Leisure Centre, and a range of yearly changing venues.
What kind of events are at the festival?
The festival programme changes every year but is broadly centred around these areas…
- Feature films
- Short Film Collections are split into categories such as Water, Run, Air etc.
- Speaker events (both ticketed and free in Basecamp)
- The Kendal Mountain Book Festival
- Secret Sessions are run by Montane and held at various locations around the town (these sell out REALLY fast, so get in there quickly when they go on sale in July!)
- Morning Yoga is held in Basecamp.
- A 10k trail run is held on the Saturday and climbing up to the small hill, Scout Scar, before dropping back into the town.
- In the last two years, the festival has also been running guided walks and trail runs in the local area, and even an art workshop on Scout Scar.
- Evening events such as DJ events and a ceilidh
A visual art and photography exhibition is also held in the foyer of the Brewery Arts Centre, exploring different themes each year.
You can find the full programme for the 2023 festival here
How do the tickets work?
There is no ‘one ticket’ that you buy for the whole weekend – instead, each individual event is ticketed. Choose your event, buy your ticket, and you’ll be emailed a digital e-ticket.
Note that not ALL the tickets go on sale at the same time!
The first events often go on sale in July, and popular ones (such as the secret sessions and morning yoga) or one-off events (such as the art workshop on Scout Scar) often sell out quickly, so it’s worth signing up for the newsletter to know when the main bulk of tickets go on sale. Events are then added throughout the summer and into autumn.
The main short film collections are usually announced in late September/early October.
Top tips when visiting Kendal Mountain Festival
- Sign up for the Kendal Mountain Festival newsletter so you know when the tickets go on sale, and the film collections are announced.
- As it’s November in the north of England – if you plan to spend a lot of time listening to the free talks in the Basecamp, pack some layers to keep warm as it can get really cold in the marquee, especially later in the afternoon. And pack a waterproof for moving between venues.
- Either order your programme in advance or pick up a free programme from Basecamp – these will have all the times and speakers for the free events in Basecamp.
- If you are on a budget, pack and picnic to enjoy in the seating area outside. There are also free water stations outside, so bring a reusable bottle.
- If you have tickets to an event at the Kendal Leisure Centre, leave plenty of time to get there (it’s around 20 min walk from town).
Food and Drink at the festival
Basecamp plays host to a great selection of local food and drinks vendors during the festival – my recent favourites include:
- Coffee from Fellside Coffee (now known Podda and Wren)
- Veggie burgers and falafels from Earthworm Kitchen
- Creative stews and burgers from Joey’s
- Fell Brewery for local beers
The Brewery Arts Centre also has a cafe and bar on the top floor, which is open throughout the festival.
Where to eat and drink in Kendal
If you fancy venturing outside the main festival for food and drink (it’s also great to support local and small businesses in the area), Kendal has a great selection.
Be warned, though, that popular places near the venues, such as Brew Brothers, get REALLY busy, and there are often long queues.
Below is a selection of my fave spots to eat/drink at in Kendal.
- Brew Brothers – for excellent creative breakfast options, toasties and cakes
- Mara – for sourdough pizza
- Comida – for tapas
- Podda and Wren – for excellent coffee and vegan cakes
- Bakery No.4 – for a super selection of cakes and savoury treats
- Kakaw – for a range of hot chocolates named after Lake District fells
- New Union – a proper pub with a range of local beers and a fantastic whisky selection
- The Factory Tap – a real ale bar with food pop-up events
- Fell Bar – local craft beer and pizza
Alternatively, there is a small Tesco and a Booths supermarket in the centre of town to pick up your own picnic lunch/dinner.
Things to do in Kendal (outside of the festival)
Whilst you can spend the entire weekend watching films and talks, you can also channel some outdoor inspiration and head outside. I’ve put together a few ideas of things you can do beyond the festival….
Wandering around Kendal’s distinctive ‘yards’ that run through the town
Try one of the themed walking trails around Kendal
Head up to Kendal Castle and explore the ruins
Explore Serpentine Wood and give the Alphabet Trail a go (leaflet available from Kendal Library)
Climb one of the local Kendal hills – Scout Scar, Cunswick Scar or Helm Crag
Venture into the Lake District for a walk, run, swim or climb!
There’s something magic about putting a whole range of people who love the outdoors together for a weekend to share their stories, and it really is one of my favourite weekends of the year!
I hope you have found this guide useful and have a fantastic festival!
You can find more about the most recent Kendal Mountain Festival here.
Join my monthly Letters from the Lake District newsletter
On the first Friday of the month, I share…
✨A mini letter from me with monthly insights into living in the Lake District
✨ Books, podcasts, essays and articles from the Lake District and outdoor community to inspire you
✨A Q&A with someone connected to the Lake District – think artists, runners, wild swimmers and indie business owners