Newest Review: ... walk from the Dam to Kielder Castle, which is at the furthest end of the lake, but be prepared for a long though scenic walk. We met very ... more
One day just isn't long enough!
Kielder Water and Forest Park (Northumberland)
Member Name: jeffjen
Kielder Water and Forest Park (Northumberland)
Advantages: Beautiful scenery, plenty to do and see.
Making the most of the lovely weather last weekend, I drove up to Kielder Water and Forest Park here in Northumberland. Fortunately this spectacular reservoir and forest isn't too far from where I live. It takes less than an hour to reach Kielder from Newcastle, so we didn't have to spend much of the glorious weather stuck in the car travelling.
Kielder Water is northern Europe's largest man-made lake with a surface area of over 11 square kilometres and the forest is the largest in England. Therefore it may not be possible to see all Kielder has to offer in just one visit. I have visited several times over the years at different times of the year. It looks very picturesque in the winter time, but can also get very cold at Kielder. Even in the milder months it can be windy and quite chilly, so it is lovely to visit here when we do get a warm sunny day or when we are experiencing one of those rare heatwaves!
Visiting Kielder is a great day out and there are also lodges available for holidays and breaks. We spent our recent visit stopping off at the waterside parks and visitor centres around the lake as well as visiting Kielder Castle which is the base for the forest drive and walks.
~~Kielder Castle & Visitor Centre~~
This is an ideal place to begin your visit to Kielder and if you are visiting for the first time, I highly recommend you visit here first.
The castle was built in 1775 as the hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland. These days, on visiting the castle you will see various exhibitions on the history of the castle, the management of the vast forest and also exhibitions on the forest wildlife.
The exhibitions do change and there are also monthly art displays by local North East artists in the Duchess Gallery.
I was pleased to discover that new for this year there is now a 'Red Squirrel Centre'. I love red squirrels and a room has been set aside at the castle and devoted entirely to red squirrels.
I particularly enjoyed the live 'Squirrel Cam' where you can view the squirrels feeding in the forest. We were lucky enough to be able to see some on our visit.
Children will enjoy the squirrel room with its fun and interactive displays, that teach about red squirrel conservation, the threat of grey squirrels and what is being done at Kielder to ensure the future of the red squirrel.
The highlights of the room for the children visiting at the time of our visit seemed to be the squirrel 'feely' box and the interactive computer.
The Duke's Pantry restaurant serves meals and snacks, but on this occasion as the weather was so nice, we had opted for a picnic which we ate at the picnic tables in the grounds.
This is ideal for families, as nearby there is an adventure playground, bird viewing platforms and also a maze which is built of basalt stone and glass. There is also a gift shop.
I have fond memories of visiting here once when my daughters were much younger, when on suggesting to my eldest daughter that she might like to go to the fort (in the adventure playground), she asked what a fort was. I was about to reply when my youngest daughter piped up that a fort was a place where you go to think about things! That was one of those moments I shall never forget, what a shame children have to grow up!
The castle is also where the mountain bike trails begin, as well as three walking trails and the impressive (and long) forest drive which is 12 miles long and is one of England's highest roads offering some spectacular views. There is a toll of £3 to drive along this, but it is worth every penny. It also will take you quite a while as the speed limit is 15mph.
The walking trails range from gentle strolls to those more suited to the more serious walker. There is also a link from the castle to join the Lakeside Way at Bakethin Viaduct, which again offers stunning scenery. We were the only people at the Viaduct for a while and it was really peaceful. Many visitors spend their time around the castle and grounds, or the other waterside parks, but I recommend you take a walk and explore a little if you are able.
~~Tower Knowe Visitor Centre~~
I mentioned there are other visitor centres and waterside parks at Kielder and Tower Knowe is the place to visit if you fancy a trip out on the reservoir courtesy of The Osprey ferry.
I didn't take a trip out on the reservoir on my recent visit but have done so in the past. It is a great way to discover Kielder Water and again the views are stunning. Full and part sailings (from waterside park to park) are available and prices range from £4.15 - £6.40 depending on your choice of trip. There are also concessions for children and over 60's as well as family tickets.
Tower Knowe is also popular with those who enjoy fishing, with tackle and starter packs available in the shop. There is also a cafe here which has lovely views out across the water.
~~Leaplish Waterside Park~~
Leaplish is where you will find the luxury lodges available for self-catering holidays and breaks. It also has a caravan park for touring caravans. You don't have to be staying at Leaplish to visit as some of the facilities are open to day visitors also, such as the Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre, miniature golf, squirrel hides and playpark. You can also board the Osprey ferry here.
I love Owls and you will find them here at the Birds of Prey Centre along with great white pelicans, eagles, falcons and vultures, as the centre cares for these birds as well as fallow deer and wallabies.
There is also a route from here which links up with the Lakeside Way I mentioned earlier which takes you to the viaduct.
There is even an observatory at Kielder for star gazing enthusiasts, as this part of the country is famed for having the darkest night skies in England due to minimal light polution.
Visit www.kielderobservatory.org for more info and event lisitings.
Visitors to Kielder I am sure will not be stuck for something to do. It remains one of my favourite places to visit. Its remoteness and beauty is quite breathtaking. I personally enjoy driving from park to park and walking around enjoying the scenery, rounding off my visit with a drive along the forest drive, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I also love going to see the owls if I have time.
The parks and visitor centres are open daily from April to November with restricted opening during winter months.
Please note you will have to purchase a £3 parking ticket, but this is valid to use at all of the car parks throughout your visit.
Kielder Water and Forest Park is a great place to visit and can be enjoyed by the whole family, but I do believe one day really is not long enough to experience everything Kielder has to offer. Even if you can only visit for one day, Kielder is highly recommended by me!
Kielder Water & Forest Park
Tel: +44 01434 251000
Summary: One my favourite places in Northumberland.
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