10 tips for visiting Kielder Forest in Northumberland

We bundled the kids and dogs into the car and set off on a mammoth drive to Kielder Forest. After setting up camp at the beautiful Kielder Village Campsite, we embarked on an epic battle with mud, rain and midges. Here are our top tips for visiting Kielder Forest.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

1. Be prepared for the midges

We thought we were prepared for the midges. We had both cream and spray repellant with us and we knew we’d need to keep the tent doors closed to avoid letting them in at night. But this really wasn’t enough. Our first mistake was that the insect repellant was packed away.

My husband put up the tent whilst wearing shorts with no protection against the midges until he found the spray. In the time it took him to put the tent up, his legs were literally covered in bites. Once we’d found the repellant, it did the job and we didn’t get bitten whilst wearing it. That said, the midges were still swarming around, particularly in the evenings. We ended up buying face nets to wear if we were outside in the evening.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

2. Visit Kielder Castle first

Here’s the first thing you need to know about Kielder Castle: it’s not a castle. It is in fact the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Northumberland. What it does have is a café and a little tourist information centre. Here, you can find out everything that’s going on in the area. It is the starting point for the Gruffalo Trail and various mountain bike tracks. There is also a park just around the corner. The café is lovely too.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

3. Take a bike

Or if you can’t take one, hire one from The Bike Place. Kielder is just the perfect place for mountain biking. The tracks are graded like a ski resort, so whatever your level you’ll find the right ride for you. Some of the paths are so easy that Libby (age 5) managed it on her mountain bike and my husband pulled Lia on a trailer.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

4. Book in advance for the observatory

The Kielder Observatory is incredibly popular due to Kielder being so remote. The lack of light pollution results in some of the darkest skies in the UK, perfect for stargazing. By the time I looked at their website, all the after-dark sessions had already sold out for the week we were there. There were a few early evening children’s sessions still available, but we weren’t sure what we’d be doing each day so we didn’t book it. And of course, by the time we tried again, these had sold out as well. It is supposed to be an incredible experience so don’t make the same mistake as us!

5. Plan for bad weather

Much like our plans for the midges, we thought we had it sussed if the weather was bad. We had a good tent, wellies and waterproof coats. That would be fine, wouldn’t it? Erm, no. The first disaster was that the tent awning basically flooded. It remained damp and muddy for the rest of the week. The next issue was that the waterproofing on part of our tent gave up one night. Luckily, it’s a canvas tent so it was easy to re-waterproof. However, we should have done that before we left. We also should have taken extra pairs of wellies. The girls and I had holes in ours by the end of the week.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

The next issue was that we hadn’t done our research properly for wet weather activities. We didn’t really have days out planned for bad weather. We ended up researching it when we were there and heading to the Roman Army Museum when it was terrible weather. Later in the week we went to Vindolanda, which is both inside and outside. Both were brilliant, educational days out that I would highly recommend whatever the weather!

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

6. Be prepared to be incommunicado

There is absolutely no phone signal in Kielder. This means no sat nav if you’re using the one on your phone. The WiFi at Kielder Campsite was intermittent. When it wasn’t working, we were able to get WiFi in either the Angler’s Arms pub or the Kielder Castle Café. But in general, I spent most of the week resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t manage to blog or post to social media.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

7. Look out for wildlife (and gruffalo)

Kielder Forest is a great place to see a variety of wildlife. Approximately half of the red squirrels in England live in Kielder. There are also ospreys, deer, salmon, frogs, water voles, otters – the list goes on. Head to Kielder Castle for directions to the bird hide. In the castle café you can watch the ospreys on their nest via a live camera. The castle is also the best place to find out what wildlife walks and events are happening. While you’re there, you can download the Gruffalo trail app. The app brings the characters to life on your phone as you follow the trail.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

8. Visit Scotland

In Kielder, you are just a few minutes from the Scottish border. We headed over into Scotland to visit Traquair House. This is an hour and a half drive from Kielder, but it was a lovely day out. It is Scotland’s oldest inhabited house. The grounds are dog friendly, there is a maze and playground to keep the children entertained and they brew their own beer. Pretty much the perfect day out for us all.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

9. Book restaurants in peak season

If you walk along the path through Kielder Campsite, you’ll come to the Angler’s Arms pub. We were very impressed with this place. They allow dogs in the bar area, have a good children’s menu and serve excellent food at reasonable prices. However, it is understandably popular. So if you intend to eat there, do book in advance. On one occasion we didn’t book and they were full. We ended up having a very average, overpriced meal at the Boat Inn on Kielder waterside. This is a smart looking place with a great menu and friendly staff but the food just isn’t up to standard.

10. Visit Kielder Water

Kielder Water is an enormous man-made lake in the middle of Kielder Forest. Despite not having the weather to get into the lake on a boat, it was well worth a visit to the lake. We cycled there from Kielder campsite. The tracks were a little difficult for Libby so it took quite a long time, but the views were spectacular and the lake itself is beautiful.

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

Kielder Forest Northumberland UK | Kielder is the most remote village in England. From here, you have easy access to Kielder forest and Kielder Water manmade lake. The forest is the perfect place for mountain biking even with young children. The area is dog friendly and a great place to see wildlife and get back in touch with nature. But look out for the rain and the midges!

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16 Comments

  1. August 7, 2017 / 5:55 pm

    Hi Nat, Kielder Forest looks really beautiful, I love your photos. Stepping away from technology every once in a while is good for the soul, I bet you had a fab time. Being able to cycle with the whole family must have been nice, Leah looks like she has either been enjoying some chocolate or is covered in mud. The Gruffalo trial sounds like fun too, although are Gruffalos friendly by nature?

    zz
    Debbie recently posted…Monday Morning Blog Club 07/08/2017My Profile

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:42 pm

      Thank you Debbie, it is a wonderful place. Lia is covered in mud from the bike trailer!
      Nat.x

  2. August 7, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    That’s a really useful post Nat 🙂 When we camped in Scotland years ago we found that the midges really loved Matt, so I suggest taking him with you on camping trips to act as a lure, leaving everyone else free to enjoy the evening air! Perhaps being born in Fort William gave me ancestral immunity to the little devils, but I didn’t have a lump on me while poor Matt was covered.
    Maz Hopwood recently posted…Fancy a little Microbit of Raspberry Pi?My Profile

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:42 pm

      Thank you Maz. Sadly the midges love me too!
      Nat.x

  3. August 8, 2017 / 12:00 pm

    I have always fancied visiting Kielder Forest and the surrounding area, and I didn’t realise it was so close to the border with Scotland. Not sure whether my teen and tween would cope with intermittent wifi though, but otherwise sounds a beautiful place x
    Tracey Williams recently posted…36 Hours in EdinburghMy Profile

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      Haha yes I can imagine it would be a matter for some debate for tweens and teens!
      Nat.x

  4. August 9, 2017 / 8:50 am

    Wow, I didn’t realise there was so much to do around Kielder! We’ve been to Traquair before and had fun getting lost in the maze, not been in ages though. It’s also not that far from my in-laws! Why is it that wellies seem to get holes in them so easily?! That was my downfall camping too, should have brought 2 sets each for the kids as they would inevitably go too deep in the water and would go inside their wellies, a day to dry them out would be good. 🙂

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:28 pm

      Traquair is lovely isn’t it? You’d love Kielder, definitely worth a visit!
      Nat.x

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:24 pm

      Aww thank you! It is a lovely place.
      Nat.x

  5. August 10, 2017 / 7:49 am

    It looks beautiful and I love that you are close to the Scottish border to pop over for a visit. I think a forced break from technology would do me good x

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      Yes, it definitely benefitted me to have a tech break!
      Nat.x

  6. August 11, 2017 / 12:14 am

    Gorgeous photos! Lovely scenery, & I do love a castle or a manor house! I love stepping back in time.

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:19 pm

      Ahh me too, castles are so much fun!
      Nat.x

  7. August 15, 2017 / 7:24 am

    Your comment about having no wi-fi made me smile. We’re just back from a visit to another Dark Sky Park – Galloway Forest, in south-west Scotland. No wi-fi there either, and I’m up against it, having to catch up with tons of stuff! Amazing experience, though. I love the fact that you can visit places this remote in the UK.

    • monsterid August 15, 2017 / 10:03 pm

      Yes, it is hard work when you get back! Sounds like you had a great time though.
      Nat.x

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