Decs up, cards written and posted, presents bought and wrapped, food organised. Time now to de-stress, so what is most likely to help us relax? Answer, water and trees. Where can we find an abundance of both? Answer, Kielder Water & Forest Park.
Kielder Water is the largest artificial lake in the UK by volume of water, and Kielder Forest is one of the biggest man-made woodlands in Europe. Don’t be put off by the words artificial and man-made as the area is especially attractive and very natural looking with more flora and fauna than you can shake a stick at. It is the perfect place for a relaxing break, whether relaxation means simply sitting and watching, running or walking, or hurtling through the forest on a mountain bike. Whatever floats your boat, oh yes and waterborne activities too, Kielder has it in spades.
Therefore, it was a no brainer, we decided to take a short break at Clear Sky Lodge Park by Kielder Village. We were welcomed by the owners Jackie and David and shown to ‘Oscars Lodge’. If the word lodge conjures up visions of a static caravan let me disillusion you from the start. The Clear Sky Lodges are to static caravans what a first-class transatlantic flight is to a Ryanair, (other budget airlines are available), trip to Benidorm. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve nothing against static caravans, Ryanair or Benidorm, but these lodges are in a different league.
Our lodge had 2 double bedrooms and 1 twin, an en-suite with a generously proportioned shower and a bathroom with full size bath. There was a lovely sitting area with fireplace and electric fire, and a dining area with room to seat 6 comfortably. The kitchen was complete with washing machine and dishwasher, plus all the crockery, cutlery and glassware one could possibly want. Outside there was a veranda with tables and chairs. The attention to detail everywhere was excellent and nice touches included, wi-fi, flat screen TV, DVD player, CD player, tri-pod telescope, binoculars, blankets to wrap around you as you sat outside stargazing, and down to washing up liquid and hand soap. The central heating was very efficient and kept us cosy and warm throughout our stay. Plus, the ultimate relaxation aid, no mobile phone reception, (at least not on our network).
In short, holiday heaven and the ideal spot for a romantic break, family holiday or even a honeymoon, in fact especially a honeymoon, (if only it had been there 46 years ago!)
Now imagine the scene, lying in a steaming Hot Tub, snow on the ground and the famous Kielder Dark Sky presenting the stars in all their splendour. Lying next to a loved one, glass of wine in hand, (plastic glass of course, health and safety), and the cares of the world drifting away. We did imagine it, but there was no snow although it arrived the day after we left, and although there was indeed a Hot Tub, we watched the stars fully clothed from the veranda.
The Northumberland International Dark Sky Park certainly lives up to its name and has to be seen to be believed, or rather not seen if you know what I mean. Clear Sky Park is an ideal location for viewing the heavens and is very close to the world renown Kielder Observatory, if one is fortunate enough to have secured a booking in advance.
In addition to enjoying the lodge itself, we walked around Bakethin Nature Reserve, marvelled at the skill involved in the making of the ‘Otter Bench’, peered into the ‘Bug Hotel’ and sat patiently in Bakethin Hide watching the water and forest. The Kielder Viaduct is great vantage point, and yes, trains did travel this way in the past.
We also visited Kielder Castle, which whilst not on a par with Bamburgh or Alnwick Castles, is what I would call cute. Formerly the hunting lodge of the Duke of Northumberland, there are a variety of exhibitions to view, a 5-minute video presentation, a Minotaur Maze, (not with a real minotaur), children’s play area, and of course a café. We partook of coffee and scones in the café, as we warmed ourselves in front of the large open fire. Well it wouldn’t be one of our blogs if we didn’t have scones would it.
Kielder Castle is the start of the longest forest drive in the UK, but it was closed at the time we visited, still it’s good to have an excuse to visit the area again. Also, across the road from the castle is the place for all things cycling, and the centre for numerous Mountain Bike Trails of varying levels.
The icing on the cake of days out and about was returning to Clear Sky Park, taking off our boots and relaxing in the warmth and comfort of Oscars Lodge with a glass of sherry and the anticipation of a cosy night in. One visit was not enough to see all that Kielder has to offer, and we will return to experience again the things we saw, and see the things we missed, and of course to enjoy a Clear Sky Lodge again.
Retirement Rambles is penned by Harry Seddon who enjoys discovering Northumberland with his wife Liz.