Kielder Forest Park covers a whopping 250 square miles and includes Europe’s largest man-made lake plus walking and cycling trails aplenty. You can seek out stars in the night sky, have a forest adventure amongst the trees and spot wildlife including the Kielder Ospreys.
Kielder Forest is located in the beautiful Northumberland National Park and the beautiful natural scenery makes it a must-visit location whether you are looking for peace and quiet or energetic activities.
Take a look at some of our top reasons for visiting Kielder and plan your next short break or holiday to Northumberland.
#1: The dark skies are perfect for stargazing
The complete lack of light pollution at Kielder Forest makes it the perfect spot for stargazing. It’s part of Northumberland’s 580 square mile Gold Tier Dark Sky zone - the largest area of protected night sky in Europe.
Head to the Kielder Observatory in the forest and you can look at the stars through powerful telescopes and learn more about the night skies from experienced astronomers.
The best time for stargazing is during the autumn and winter months when the Milky Way is at its brightest and you can watch the Leonids meteor shower. Bring along a blanket, camping chairs and some binoculars and you can spend a romantic evening under the spectacular night sky.
#2: There’s lots of nature to spot
With a variety of habitats that range from woodland to marshy bogs, Kielder Forest is a haven for wildlife throughout the year. Call in at Kielder Castle visitor centre and you can pick up a free family activity sheet with details on some of the nature you can spot.
Species to look out for in Kielder Forest include:
Red Squirrels - Kielder Forest is home to about half of England’s red squirrel population who typically breed early in the year. March to May and September to December are the prime months to see native red squirrels in their natural environment.
Ospreys - After an absence of 200 years, Ospreys have nested and bred at Kielder Forest every year since 2008. The birds can be typically spotted over Kielder Reservoir between May and September with June, July and August the prime months to see them swooping down to catch a fish.
Roe Deer - Look out for Roe Deer throughout the woodland areas of Kielder - these graceful creatures are often spotted on the road to Kielder Observatory.
Water Vole - These little furry mammals were reintroduced to Kielder in 2017 and the best chance to spot them is to visit the wildlife hide close to the Kielder Castle Visitor Centre.
Otters - Keep an eye out for Otters around Bakethin Reservoir, which is just upstream of Kielder Water. Otters are semi-aquatic and can be seen at Kielder waterways throughout the year.
#3: Dogs can sniff out an adventure in the forest
Northumberland is very dog-friendly and has a wide array of pubs, cafes, shops and holiday cottages where canine companions will be made very welcome. Kielder Forest is a good choice for a dog-friendly day out - dogs on leads are allowed in Kielder Castle and there are lots of walks where you can let them off-lead for some fun in the forest.
Well-behaved doggies can join you in the Kielder Castle cafe for refreshments and the Boat Inn pub by Kielder Water is also a great dog-friendly option for food and drink.
#4: There are walking and cycling trails galore
The 26-mile Lakeside Way circles Kielder Water and this surfaced path is an easy access route for walkers, cyclists, mobility scooters and wheelchairs. The south shore includes a couple of visitor centres and Leaplish Waterside Park so you can break up the route into bite-sized chunks. You can also catch the Osprey Ferry from Lakeside Way if you fancy travelling by boat for part of the way.
A number of trails also go through the forest, including a selection of nine different wild walk routes. Our favourites include the Duke’s Trail, a 3-mile walk with observation points for spotting red squirrels and the Hindhope Linn trail - a walk through a pretty gorge where you’ll come across a hidden waterfall. You can find more details on all the walks in either the Kielder Castle or Tower Knowe visitor centres.
Cycle hire is available at Kielder Forest and there are a variety of biking trails from easy-going beginner routes to challenging mountain bike tracks. The Castlewood Training Loop at Kielder Castle gives a taste of the different trail grades so that you can pick an option that’s most suited to your ability and stamina.
Kielder is also home to a unique collection of art and architecture, and you can seek out pieces such as Silvas Capitalis (a giant head) and the rotating Janus Chairs as you explore the forest.
#5: It’s a great family-friendly day out
Kielder Forest is very family-friendly with lots to keep children of all ages entertained during your day out. Here are some of our favourite activities to try:
This free maze is located behind the Kielder Castle visitors' centre and perfect for a game of hide and seek; make your way to the end and discover a room that’s made from rocks of recycled glass. Along the way is a handy set of stairs so you can look out over the walls and get your bearings.
Shaun the Sheep Glow Trail
This fun trail is new for 2019. Download the free app containing a series of puzzles and challenges for children, along with an augmented reality photo op when Shaun the Sheep will appear as if by magic in the forest. An activity pack is available to purchase for £3.50 which includes stickers, a UV pen to unlock special challenges and Shaun the Sheep ears.
Kielder Forest Zog Activity Trail
Families can follow trail markers through the woods and discover characters from the Zog book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. There are stars to collect and challenges to complete along the way. An optional Zog activity pack includes a special lens that reveals hidden pictures during the trail.
#6: Forest bathing
Spending time in a forest can help to reduce stress and restore inner peace thanks to the therapeutic powers of the natural world. Forest Bathing originated in Japan and is the art of being mindful under a beautiful canopy of trees. We happen to think the clean air and vast tranquil spaces at Kielder Forest make it the ideal spot to practise a bit of this healing art.
Leave your electronic devices behind, find a peaceful spot and just relax. Forest bathing is all about using all of your senses to see, feel and touch the beauty of nature. It can help boost wellbeing, reduce blood pressure and aid sleep, so well worth giving it a try.
Plan your visit to Northumberland
Kielder Water and Forest Park is just one of the many reasons to visit beautiful Northumberland for a short break or holiday. Cottages in Northumberland have a range of holiday homes that are perfectly placed for exploring Kielder Forest, whether you are looking for an action-packed family getaway or a relaxing romantic retreat.