OK, so this sounds like a ‘Bucket List’, but it isn’t. This is 5 things that will give enjoyment for having seen them. Unlike a ‘Bucket List’ which you tick off as done, these items should be revisited time and again.
There are so many things to see and do at Kielder Water & Forest Park that this list refers to the north end of Kielder Water, in the region of Kielder Village, (one of the most isolated villages in England).
1. The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park.
Due to the lack of light pollution, the sky around Kielder is very dark which means that the stars etc stand out much clearer than at most other places. The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park covers some 580 square miles and is Europe’s largest Dark Sky park.
Whilst the dark sky can be enjoyed anywhere in the park, some places are even better than others and THE place is at the Kielder Observatory. This world renown centre is so popular that advance booking is required. Obviously there is no guarantee that you’ll get a clear night on your booked evening, but even so you will certainly have a time to remember.
2. Kielder Waterside.
There is plenty for all the family at Kielder Waterside. The Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre is a great place to visit and see at close quarters, owls, falcons, vultures, a sea eagle, and other birds as well as fallow deer and wallabies. There are flying demonstrations, opportunities to feed the Great White Pelicans, and a petting zoo. With advance booking one can even undertake a ‘bird walk’, a falconry day course, or a photography day.
Also, at Kielder Waterside one can hire bikes to cycle along the lakeside tracks and trails, and I can particularly recommend hiring an electric bike. Not because it requires less effort, well alright, partially because it’s less effort, but also so one can enjoy the views in a much more relaxed state and travel further.
At the right time of year there’s a viewing area to see the osprey nest at the far side of the lake and if you’re lucky you might see an osprey diving for fish. Additionally, you can take a trip on the Osprey Ferry, hire a pleasure boat, visit a hide, buy a permit and fish, or learn new activities. If all this is too much, unwind in the pub, have a meal, visit the shop, or take a sauna and swim at the indoor pool.
There are also luxury lodges for hire so that you can really enjoy all that Kielder Waterside has to offer.
Some of these activities are seasonal and must be pre-booked, so visit the Kielder Waterside website for information.
3. Bakethin Nature Reserve.
Situated at the north end of Kielder Water there is plenty to see, so park the car in one of the car parks, take a packed lunch and enjoy the area to the full.
Kielder Viaduct, yes that’s right, a viaduct, who’d have thought that trains once travelled this way. That was a long time ago and more can be discovered about the railway at Kielder Castle, but in the meantime the viaduct provides a splendid viewpoint. Not to be missed is the ‘Otter Bench’, the craftsmanship of which is superb. Peep into the ‘Bug Hotel’ and try to spot its guests. When your legs are tired from walking the trails find the wildlife hides and watch the birds on the water and wildlife in the forest, (be sure to chalk up what you spot on the board).
4. Kielder Castle.
Close to Bakethin Reserve and Kielder Village is Kielder Castle and Kielder Cycle Centre. Kielder Castle was formerly the hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland and is cute rather than grand, decorative rather than defensive. There are a variety of exhibitions to see as well as a 5-minute video presentation, all of which are free. By the side of the castle is the Minotaur Maze and children’s play area. Be sure to visit the Café, and if it’s cold warm yourself by the large open fire.
Close by the castle is the Kielder Salmon Centre and well worth a visit to discover the lifecycle of the salmon. Also pop into the Red Squirrel Room and viewing hide.
By the side of Kielder Castle is the start of the longest ‘forest drive’ in the UK. It’s a toll road but the toll is modest and helps to support the forest park. The drive is seasonal so if you visit at the wrong time of year be sure to come back again, as we will do.
The Castle area is also the centre for cycling within the park and there are numerous trails for all levels from novice to advanced mountain bikers. Bikes can be hired, bought or repaired at the Cycle Centre and all things cycling are there.
This was supposed to be a list of 5 things to see at Kielder but has become so many more than 5, so item number 5 is.
5. Just SEE
See all there is to see, take time to be still and listen, take in the sights and sounds, store them in your memory to enjoy later as well as now. See Kielder at different times of year, experience different seasons to see how the water and forest changes its face and mood. See Kielder in different weather conditions and when there are plenty of other visitors as well as when you seem to be the only person there.
Retirement Rambles is penned by Harry Seddon who enjoys discovering Northumberland with his wife Liz.