Wednesday 27 June 2018

A First Time Visitors Guide to Kielder Water and Forest Park

How have I been living in the North East for five years but still not made it to Kielder? As one of the most well known tourist attractions and beauty spots in the region it may seem a little odd that we only made our first visit last week but, truth be told, I think I've been "saving it for best". You know when you have something really special in your wardrobe that you're just leaving for the perfect day? Kielder has always been my special dress, I've been saving it for a day that might never arrive!

A First Time Visitor's Guide to Kielder Water and Forest Park

So with some sunshine on the forecast we decided to finally begin planning a day trip to Kielder, something I soon realised was pretty overwhelming, so I've put together this first time visitor's guide to Kielder Water and Forest Park to help any of you who may also be visiting for the first time.

The Visit Kielder website is a fantastic tool to help plan your first visit and really opened my eyes to how much there is to see and do there. If you are visiting for the first time I highly recommend a good look at the site before you go and download and save any information you may need as the phone signal at Kielder is pretty non existent!

Kielder is around an hour and 20 minutes drive from our home in Newcastle but the journey was so beautiful it felt like our adventure began as soon as we got out into rural Northumberland. The roads to Kielder offer the most beautiful views and the rollercoaster style roads certainly keep you entertained. Make sure you keep your eyes open for wildlife (we saw a stoat and a deer ran right in front of our car!)  We got our first glimpse of Kielder Water from the road and we both just turned to each other and said "wow" - it is pretty breathtaking!
First Time Visitor's Guide to Kielder Water and Forest Park
Kielder Water is the UK's largest manmade reservoir, created to support the sudden demand for water  in the 1970s, the lake took over 10 years to build and then a further 2 years to fill. Holding 200 billion litres of water it has 27.5 miles of shoreline and attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year, no surprise when the park also boasts 250 square miles of beautiful forest and the darkest skies in England.

We are so lucky that this wonderful spot is in Northumberland.

First Time Visitor's Guide to Kielder
There are three main carparks on the south side of the Reservoir that all have their own facilities and attractions. If you prefer to enjoy the more remote parts of Kielder then the other side of the water has no carparks or facilities so a great option if you truly want to get lost in beautiful views and nature.

As it was our first visit a lot of people had recommended that we navigate our way round Kielder by car so we could get a real feel for the place. Parking costs £5.00 for the day and you can use the ticket all day to park at all of the carparks across the site.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder
Waterside Park

We began our day trip by parking at the Kielder Waterside Carpark, the best place to stop if you want to enjoy some Mini Golf (I'm still not sure how I managed to get Simon away from that!), the Falcon Centre and the Boat Inn restaurant and bar.

We decided to have a little potter through the woods to the Bird Hide to see if we could spot any Red Squirrels. Kielder is home to around 50% of the country's red squirrels and having seen reds in Northumberland a few times before we were hopeful to see some during our visit.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Red Squirrels

We crept our way to the bird hide and found a fellow bird and animal enthusiast inside who thrilled us with tales of his wildlife spots throughout the North East (his Kingfisher photograph made me so jealous!)  We sat for an enjoyable hour or so happily chatting about our favourite beauty spots in the area and spotting some of Kielder's beautiful birds. Unfortunately the red squirrels were in hiding so in the end we had to admit we were defeated.

Widlife spotting is hungry work and with plenty of stunning picnic spots we were spoilt for choice deciding where to have our sandwiches. If the weather is nice I highly recommend taking your own food to enjoy rather than eating indoors, we found a lovely spot to eat with some amazing views of the water and didn't see another person in the whole time we sat there - bliss!

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Waterside Park
Matthews Linn

Make sure that you have the Kielder map downloaded on your phone when you travel between the carparks as it points out all of the best viewing points with a few near some of the smaller carparks.

Between Waterside Park and Kielder Castle we decided to stop at Matthews Linn for a short stroll to a viewing point.  Unfortunately when we got to the viewing point a family eating their packed lunch had beaten us to it, luckily there are endless beautiful views at Kielder, so if you can't enjoy one the chances are if you walk a little further you'll find another.

We decided to carry on a little further and were blessed with some lovely views from the top of a hill that we battled to walk up in the blistering heat. Although it's very tempting to go "just a little further" every time you take a step we just about managed to drag ourselves away to get back to the car and discover our next stop of the day.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Matthews Linn
Kielder Castle

We moved onto Kielder Castle next, the best base if you want to explore Kielder Forest - a welcome change of climate on a hot day, strolling under the shade of the trees was such a relief. There are loads of walks to do in the forest with plenty of leaflets available to guide you along the way. We spent quite a bit of our time at trying to find another red squirrel hide that we're not sure even exists. The maze of paths through the forest is quite overwhelming and even my husband's expert navigation skills didn't help us this time.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Kielder Castle

Getting lost in the woods made us crave some home comforts so as soon as we managed to make it out we were straight to the tea room for a cuppa and a couple of scones. I have to say we weren't too impressed by the food on offer at Kielder Castle and our scones were really lacking any flavour (we happily rectified the situation by covering them in jam!). The cake selection was pretty poor and even the ice-cream freezer was lacking any excitement.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Scone

Tower Knowe

Our favourite part of Kielder was our last stop of the day, Tower Knowe and I think this will be the place that we'll be returning to on our next visit to enjoy a longer walk. We had a short stroll from the carpark and discovered the most beautiful views at the edge of the water, it was the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen in the North East and I could have sat there for hours and hours enjoying the sunshine and taking in those dreamy views.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Tower Knowe

I did not want to leave and refused to move until Simon had promised me that we would return soon for a longer walk.

In desperate need of a cool drink we stopped by Cafe on the Water and soon realised that this was the place where we should have got a treat from. Far better than the tea room at Kielder Castle, the cake selection was great and there was also a freezer packed full of ice-cream. Despite having just had a scone we couldn't resist getting a scoop of ice-cream each and grabbing ourselves a chair outside on the sunny terrace to enjoy it.

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder - Cafe on the Water
We absolutely loved our first ever visit to Kielder and I have dedicated a lot of my time since our return looking up the best places to stay so we can make a proper weekend of it next time. I just can't believe that it took us so long to discover the beauty of Kielder and I can't wait to go back!

Sometimes the most fantastic places are right on the doorstep!

First Time Visitor Guide to Kielder Water

Find Kielder at:

Kielder Water and Forest Park
NE48 1BT


  1. What a fabulous guide! Ah I'm sad you were disappointed with the castle coffee shop. We popped in for drinks to takeaway during our last visit and everyone seemed to be enjoying home cooked soup etc....

    The views at Kielder really are like no other aren't they. Such a lush place!

    1. Thank you! We had such a lovely time, I can't wait to go back and have a long weekend, there's still so much we want to see!


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