Stood on the elevated decking, gazing out over the glassy, still lake, no sign of civilisation to be seen, I take a deep sigh and leave behind the week’s stresses! All I can see are verdant forests, rolling hillside and water stretching into the distance beneath gloomy skies. The smell of pine cones teases my nostrils and the faint aroma of mouth-watering chicken lingers on the air.
Northumberland weekend escape
We are tucked away in a cosy, log cabin for a Northumberland weekend escape to celebrate my step-son’s eighteenth birthday. It’s hidden in the depths of Kielder Forest, almost within skipping distance of the Scottish border, a 250 square mile paradise surrounding the largest man-made lake in Europe. Just 52 miles from Newcastle, it’s a nature lover’s paradise with 27 miles of shoreline beckoning the work weary.
Don’t be deceived though, this is totally unlike the Cumbrian lake area where bus-loads of tourists descend on Beatrix Potter attractions and bustling lakeland villages. This is nature untainted without throngs of tourist shops, tea shops and country pubs. This is unspoiled beauty, where the only sounds are those of birds swooping and twittering. There’s no cell phone signal, limited wireless and at times intermittent TV.
In short, this is a place to escape – a destination for weekend romantics, families looking for action-packed adventure and people seeking a break from the endless whirl of everyday life. Now that’s luxury that you can’t put a price on!
The perfect Northumberland weekend bolt-hole
We are staying at the Leaplish Waterside park which offers lodging in 32 cabins perched above the water. They are spread across the hillside behind reception, giving sufficient privacy for even the noisiest family (the only sounds we hear all weekend, apart from birds, are those of my teenage step-children raiding the drink in the fridge!)
We pick up our keys from the bright, airy reception and dash up the hill to check out our home for the weekend. The bright, open plan living area greets us with a dining area big enough for six, a living area with panoramic views out to the tree line and water beyond, and a modern white kitchen. Floor to ceiling doors lead out onto a decked balcony, which in turn descends to an elevated deck housing an outdoor seating area and the piece de resistance – the hot tub.
We have stayed in plenty of places with hot tubs but never one with views as sublime as this. From our deck we can gaze unobstructed over the water. If you too want to take advantage of these views, I strongly encourage you to book one of the cabins 29 – 32. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this view?
Yes these cabins have the longest walk from the pub, restaurant and shop but they are perched on the hill with great views over the water and all have hot tubs. There are other lodges further down the hill which have hot tubs but without quite such a magnificent a view.
There are seven styles of lodge to choose from, sleeping between four and six, in two or three bedrooms. Some lodges have en-suite to the master and come with or without hot tub.
We are visiting in March and although it is grey and cloudy, it doesn’t detract from the gorgeous morning and evening views over the water. It’s easy to imagine sitting outdoors in the summer with a glass of wine admiring the views over the lake. I certainly want to return.
Facilities on site
This site is incredibly well laid out with a plethora of activities for young and old alike to make the most of a Northumberland weekend escape. There is a swimming pool and sauna to the side of reception, a charming shop selling divine chocolates, crisps and snacks such as these below, as well as a chillout area where you or the kids can surf the internet for free.
There’s plenty to keep the little ones amused too with a huge central play area with towering slides and castles for little princesses and knights to feel at home. A range of other small park areas are spread throughout the site so there is no need to worry about the little uns wandering far.
Next to reception is the Boat Inn with a cavernous restaurant overlooking the water and a bar area where you can grab a coffee, or maybe even something stronger. You are after all enjoying a perfect Northumberland weekend getaway!
Leaplish is part of the Hoseasons Go Active Breaks Collection and has an extensive list of activities available on site. You can try your hand at archery, fencing, snorkelling, crossbow, table tennis and many more. There’s even a few activities you may not have come across before such as disc golf, target sport and water walkers.
What’s more the prices are great value. An hour of crossbow is just £8 per person, table tennis is £2.50 for hire of equipment and boules is just £5. Now that is a bargain, as that game entertained all five of us for an hour!
In addition, there’s a range of activities such as high ropes, swing and climb and sharp shooter days which are available periodically throughout the year. If your heart is set on such activities, be sure to check the site for availability beforehand as I’d hate for you to be disappointed.
You can view all the activities and prices on the Leaplish site allowing you to pack your Northumberland weekend with as much action as you would like.
Of course, you don’t need to spend any money to enjoy the perfect Northumberland weekend at Kielder. With 250 square miles of forest on your doorstep, you can simply head out of the door on foot or bike and take advantage of the many paths skirting the lake.
For those who like a challenge, there’s the Lakeside way, 26 miles of stunning native trails around Kielder’s shoreline, perfect for the marathon which is held there every October. If that is a bit too far, there’s also a 10km bike race and half marathon.
If you are here in summer, and don’t fancy walking or biking the entire circuit, you can also always opt for the ferry boat to bring you back to base. Beware, if you are visiting in the off-season, the ferry may not be running, so be sure to check before you set off on a long walk and get stranded !
The Kielder Birds of Prey Centre is also on site and has one of the largest collections of birds of prey in the north of England with hawks, falcons, owls and kites. You can witness exciting demonstrations, hunting days and falconry courses here.
Eating and drinking
It is a good idea to come to Kielder prepared. The nearest supermarket (more like a mini-mart) is in Bellingham around 20 minutes and 15 miles away. There is a small shop on site which sells staples but if you come with nothing, you might not find many options to prepare a meal.
The Boat Inn is a modern, bright facility with a huge restaurant overlooking the lake. It doesn’t have a huge selection but the food is generous and tasty. Mains range from £9.95 for risotto to £17.95 for steak so you certainly won’t starve!
If you are travelling with children, relying on eating out options could be both expensive and a challenge. The nearest pub is the Pheasant Inn, a few miles down the main road towards Bellingham. It’s a traditional place with cosy rooms, comfy cushions and friendly staff but I can’t stress enough to come prepared.
Other things to do on your perfect Northumberland weekend
Bare in mind that the real attraction at Kielder is the great outdoors and a wealth of physical activities rather than shopping or bar hopping between country pubs.
There are however some interesting attractions in these parts.
Enjoy dark starry nights on your Northumberland weekend
Take for instance, the Dark Skies Observatory which hosts an exciting variety of astronomical events throughout the year. It is part of the only Dark Sky Park in England, and has the largest expanse of dark sky night in Europe. Pretty amazing hey? All this time you have been thinking you needed to fly off to Iceland, Canada or Sweden, when in fact the northern lights can occasionally be spotted in your very own back garden.
It is one of only four Dark Sky Parks in the world so if you want to get in touch with your dark side, this is the place to visit during your Northumberland weekend. Dark winter nights are best for viewing galaxies, but in summer you can witness a star-tastic visual display of passing comets, the Milky Way, or shooting stars. Don’t forget to make a wish!
If you want to get a preview of the stargazing experience, be sure to check out this video.
Tower Knowe visitor centre
From here you can explore the visitor centre, shop for souvenirs, head out for a walk to the dam, go fishing or simply enjoy a brew in the on-site cafe.
Kielder castle was formerly the hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland and is now the centre for bike hire, as well as housing a maze and cafe.
Art and architecture
Kielder is home to the largest open air space for art and architecture. 37 permanent and temporary works are exhibited within the park, many along the Lakeside Way.
If you don’t fancy a visit to Lapland, you can visit Father Christmas a little closer to home from mid November when Kielder forest transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland. Santa and his reminders and elves will help the little ones have an action packed day of festivities.
Book your Northumberland weekend break to Leaplish
If you are feeling sufficiently inspired to book your own Northumberland weekend escape, visit Leaplish to check out the range of lodges on offer and make your booking. Be sure to let us know you are going and share some pictures while you are there! Just tag @VisitKielder and @TTGLOBE4L.
Yay we found a destination that all the family liked! Despite the lack of evening entertainment, all three teenagers enjoyed the weekend and never once said they were bored. Now that is a result! Surprisingly they loved the crossbow and even said they wanted to do it again!
The location is fabulous, there’s ton of outdoor activities to enjoy and it really is a perfect Northumberland weekend for all the family.
Have your say…
Maybe you have visited and have some other suggestions for things to do. Please feel free to share them in the comments below. We love to hear your stories.
Disclaimer: We stayed three nights courtesy of Leaplish, however the views in this post are our own and unedited. Under no circumstances would we recommend you to visit a place we didn’t enjoy. My only warning with this destination is that it is not going to suit people looking for nightlife and evening entertainment.