Last Friday I rounded up the troops in the form of my two best mates, Cath and Emily, and their children, and we went on the latest castle hunt in the heart of Kielder Forest… Kielder Castle.
Kielder Forest surrounds a huge man-made lake (the largest in Europe), with a dazzling array of activities from cycling to water sports to art spotting to star gazing.
I’ve written about Kielder Forest and Lake before as Mike and I went on a date with a difference a while back. It is stunning and such is the draw of Kielder Forest, Emily and Cath were willing to drive over an hour and a half to join us.
Kielder Forest and Castle
We set off fairly early (for us) on the morning of our visit, armed with an epic picnic and our Regatta waterproof suits we were ready for any weather. Which was a good thing.
We are working as Regatta ambassadors for our next 4 castle trips and I’d been joking with Lauren, the marketing manager, that we were praying for rain…well we certainly got it. That and all the other weather types, except snow I think!
The drive to Kielder is just under an hour and it’s a stunning trip. The A68 is both beautiful and fun. The hill summits are so steep you feel like you’re on a roller coaster at times. And then we plunged into the Northumberland National Park. The Castle is on the northern tip of the lake, so you have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the views of the lake as you drive, dipping in and out of the forest until the castle appears out of nowhere, just past Kielder Village.
We parked a short walk away, and once everyone was fully clad in their all-in-one waterproofs and given a snack to fend off hunger until picnic time, we set off down the hill.
Kielder Castle is actually a “Castellated Folly”. Built during 1771-75, it was the hunting lodge for the First Duke of Northumberland, Earl Percy, who also owned nearby Alnwick Castle. It was a seasonal home but it grew to the point that in the 1860s the castle employed 19 servants.
The Forestry Commission bought the castle in 1930 and nowadays it houses a visitor centre, cafe and exhibitions for both Kielder Forest and the Birds of Kielder, which were fun for a wander around.
There’s also a small kiddy corner with books and information about their latest trail walks. The current one involved the Gruffalo and worm hunting!
After a swift coffee break we took a walk down the hill to Kielder village where we were told we’d find an adventure playground and a spot for our picnic.
The walk was just short enough for the kids to cope but took in some lovely scenery, including the river…
and a forest path.
When we arrived at the park, you could still see the castle poking through the trees.
Emily and I hotfooted to get the cars and left Cath with all the kids, including baby Sam, promising to be as quick as possible. Good thing as when we got back poor Cath was having to deal with Reuben and Beau at loggerheads over a swing whilst simultaneously dealing with a nappy explosion. Ah, motherhood!
Then, just as we were ready to enjoy our picnic, the heavens opened. The kids were fine in their suits, it was just us mums that were a sorry for ourselves!
It soon cleared and we spent a lovely hour or so, soaking up the views while the kids played nicely (most of the time).
I have to say I can’t believe I’ve not invested in a waterproof suit before. Even though it wasn’t raining for most of the trip, it came in so handy for keeping them cosy, dry and clean. It even meant going through the slide puddle was no problem. He slide straight off the end, which was apparently the best thing ever!
Then just as the sun was starting to dip and the nearby houses were lighting their fires, we reluctantly made the trip home.
I’m already planning our next Kielder visit, maybe even this weekend. I had a waterskiing lesson there years ago as a surprise Birthday present from my mate Dan and I really fancy having another go with the family. If not that then at least a bike ride through the forests and by the lake.
Have you been to Kielder Forest and the Castle? What did you do during your trip?
I’d love to hear what you did and any recommendations for activities with kids.
This trip to Kielder Forest and Castle was made in association with Regatta who provided the kids’ all-in-one waterproof suits (plus another 25 suits for my local kids charity). They are brilliant and I seriously don’t know why I’ve never got one for Reuben before. The kids stayed cosy and dry, despite the picnic in the rain and the slide puddle!