Ask anyone the top 5 tourist attractions in Northumberland and Kielder Forest is bound to be a consistent feature. So after visiting Northumberland last year we decided that this year we would take a trip to the famous forest.
Kielder lies within the Anglican Parish of Falstone with Greystead & Thorneyburn and is located just 3 miles South of the Scottish border. The forest is currently owned and managed by the Forestry Commission.
The first plantings began in the 1920’s and the forest is now the largest woodland in England covering a staggering 650km squared feet. The forest is world famous for it’s dark skies, so dark that the forest was awarded gold tier dark sky park status by the International Dark Skies Association in December 2013. It is the largest dark sky park area of protected night sky in Europe and the 4th largest in the world.
While doing my research on Kielder Forest, I discovered that 85% of the UK population have never experienced a dark sky. A very surprising statistic to say the least! So if you are in that 85% then i would definitely recommend taking a visit to Kielder!
The reason why Northumberland has some of the best dark skies in England is largely down to the fact that there is little to no light pollution. The county itself is the 5th largest in England covering 1,936 miles squared, however there are only 163 people per square mile meaning that the majority of the county is just purely countryside which therefore results in no light pollution.
While we were on our way to the forest we passed Kielder water; the largest reservoir in the UK by capacity of water. The reservoir was built between 1975 and 1981 in order to meet the UK’s increasing demands for water. It is also the home of the UK’s largest hydroelectric plant which was opened by the Queen in 1982 and is owned by Northumbrian Water.
Due to the fact that the forest itself is 26 miles long and has various visitor centres throughout the park, we decided that we would base ourselves at Kielder castle. The castle is an 18th century hunting lodge built by the Duke of Northumberland and is now the home of various exhibitions and a cafe.
There are 7 different walks that you can go on if you park up at the castle. Like with most walks they all vary in degrees of difficulty and distance. I didn’t have a say in which walk we would go on, if it was down to me then we would go on the shortest and quickest trail. We ended up going on the deadwater fell trail which is the hardest and longest trail which was much to my dismay.
If you didn’t fancy a walk then you could always give mountain biking a go! The castle is a very popular destination for cyclists with numerous cycling trails, including a 26 mile trail! The bike hire centre is also located within close proximity of the castle which meant that we were having to dodge cyclists while walking down the hill towards
During the walk the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to make a dash to find shelter. That experience certainly made me realise that you should come prepared for all weathers when walking in the forest.
The walk itself wasn’t as challenging as I first thought. There were quite a few steep inclines, however the majority of the trail was flat which meant that we were able to complete the walk in just under 2 hours.
After completing the 8 mile walk we decided to take some respite at the Kielder castle cafe. Due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, I found the clotted cream and jam scone very hard to resist. The cafe serves a range of hot foods and desserts and is open from 11-4 between the months of November and March.
The castle itself has over 300 years worth of history and it is reported that a great football match between Tynedale and Redesdale took place at the castle in 1790. Tynedale won the match 3-2.
As you can imagine, the forest is home to many different species of wildlife with red squirrels commonly being spotted. Due to this, the forest have numerous wildlife hideouts where you can sit and observe the wildlife and potentially see a red squirrel. So after spending time in the cafe we decided to take the 10 minute walk to the nearest hideout. After spending close to half an hour at the hideout we decided that today wasn’t going to be the day that we saw a red squirrel, but there is always another time!
That brought to a close what had been a fantastic day out exploring the wonders of Kielder forest.
If you are interested in walking, cycling or even sailing then I wouldn’t think twice about visiting the forest! There are so many different trails that you can explore and maps of the forest are easily accessible too which means that as long as you stick to the correct trail, then you can’t get lost!
Thanks for reading,