on May 2, 2011
We spent this Easter break in the beautiful county of Northumberland in the North East of England. We were spoilt for choice firstly due to the exceptional Spring weather, but also because there really is plenty to do and see here. One place we thoroughly enjoyed spending the day at was Kielder Water and Forest Park, in the western egde of the county. Kielder is not terribly difficult to get to, although the roads to and from it can be small and twisty at times. We approached from the town of Bellingham, and came firstly to Kielder Dam which is at the most easterly point of the main made lake that is Kielder. In fact, Kielder is actually the biggest man made lake in Northern Europe, as well as being the biggest working forest in England. According to the fact files and noitceboards that you will see, the park covers 250 square miles, so it is worth setting aside at least a day, if not more to really experience this place. If you haven't already picked up a map either online or at a tourist office before coming to Kielder, it is a good idea to stop at the Tower Knower Visitor Centre, not far from the Dam to pick one up, and plan your day or two. With each map, there are helpful details about the locations that offer the best views which are scattered around the lake, as well as information about fishing areas, restaurants, cycle hire, sailing, accommodation, and even just information areas. There are two main ways to see the most of the Lake, and that is either by car or by bicycle. There are some hardy souls who will walk from the Dam to Kielder Castle, which is at the furthest end of the lake, but be prepared for a long though scenic walk. We met very few people hiking, but many many families cycling the length of the lake. If you are taking the car, it is really only the left hand side of the lake that is accessible, as the main road runs alongside this side of the lake, with turn offs to the various locations and viewpoints as your travel. As I said, we started at Kielder Dam, where there are some information boards, as well as some lovely views of this side of the lake. You are able to drive across the dam, as well as walk across it, although on this occasion we just chose to enjoy the views. The Dam itself is the height of Nelson's column in London, and there is further information about all its workings at the Tower Knowe Visitor Centre further along the road. In fact, it was the Tower Knoew Visitor Centre where we stopped off at next. Be warned however, the peace and calm that you expect to find at this beautiful lake can often be disturbed by the astounding number of motorcyclists who enjoy the open stretch of road along the lake. Many park in this visitor car park, but the noise of the bikes is hard to miss, and seems somewhat out of place with the quiet scenery, but that's jsut a personal opinion. Inside the visitor centre is a little cafe, a shop, and an interactive exhibition which is interesting. Many visitors call at this visitor centre to book and then board the Osprey ferry that takes them across to the other side of the lake, but it is necessary to check out timetables prior to planning your visit around this. This is also a popular sstop for those coming to the lake for fishing as you can purchase fishing gear and packs on these premises. There are also toilets at this site, which is useful to remember, as although others may be marked on the map, not all are open. Beyond this there is the Leaplish Waterside Park, which is a mega attraction for families. We didn't stop here on this occasion, but if offers food, a Birds of Prey Centre, a swimming pool and sauna, mini golf, accommodation and caravan sites, and a children's play area. It is also a popular spot for families to rent pleasure boats and to start off bike rides. We decided instead to drive further along the road to the much quieter car park of Matthew's Linn. From here, we brought our picnic bag, and decided to walk the well marked route to the Bakethin Weir, further along the lake shore, or the Lakeside Way as the path for walking or cycling is known. Although we met plenty fo families on bicycles along the way, there was a sense of peace and tranquility around this area, away from the noise of the visitor centre, and you really feel that you are getting away from it all. We started from the car park, and followed the trail that led us under the main road bridge and then to a lovely though small suspension bridge taking you over the Lewis Burn stream/river. The path then leads through forest track, and there is one place in particular that is worth stopping at, and in fact if you time it right, there is are a few rocks that partially resemble a table and chairs, that you can take yoru picnic at, called Patterson's Pause. You would be forgiven for thinking that you are in Canadian Rockies with the exception of the mountains, as the scenery is really outstanding. Beyond this, you will cross back under the bridge and come to more forest where there is mirage to stop and admire high up in the trees and not far from this is both the Kielder Column, and the Bakethin Weir, where we decided to take our picnic lunch, although there weren't any picnic tables as such. We did the round loop back again to our car, taking under 2 hours, with a stop for lunch along the way. The scenery and surroundings were beautiful and it really is a place, particularly on a sunny day, to make your forget about the world and relax. Beyond this, the last main stop off area is Kielder Castle Visitor Centre. It is here that there is a very popular bike hire centre, as well as a large car park. There is also a lovely cafe area with outdoor seating, and children's play area. Inside the castle, is a souvenir shop, and a very interesting exhibtiion with a short video of the 'working forest' that is Kielder. Not far from Kielder Castle is the Kielder Viaduct, which if you have time is worth the five minute walk to from the designated car park. By the time we had down all this, we were tired and it was approaching early evening. There is no doubt that if you have a family, there really is ample to do and see. You are spoilt for choice between cycling, swimming, walking, boating etc, and with good weather Kielder is a difficult place to beat for the views and tranquility and your will see and experience. A great man made place to visit!
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