You don’t head up to the far north of Northumberland in February expecting to be basking in Mediterranean sunshine. Yet when I saw a week of heavy rain forecast for our trip to Kielder Water in the half term holiday I did start to panic about the potential for “cabin fever” and being trapped in a confined space with a five and three-year-old for the duration of our four day trip, being badgered for cbeebies.
But as soon as we arrived I realised I had forgotten one basic thing about kids, they love to get mucky. And within seconds they had piled out of the car and were knee deep in a muddy squelching puddle, laughing their heads off, oblivious to the misty drizzle. (Of course a few minutes later, one of them was face down in said puddle her wails echoing around the otherwise peaceful valley. But with holidays with young children you have to think of the bigger picture and enjoy those brief blissful moments don’t you before the idyllic swiftly descends into chaos..?)
We had visited Kielder Water a number of times on day trips but had long been planning to stay over so as to have more time to explore the area and many cycle routes around the lake.
Our log cabin at Kielder Forest Park was a perfect little hideaway, like a mini alpine chalet on a hill above the lake, and from the front you could just see the water, especially beautiful in the early morning sunrise.
It was equipped to a really high standard, with a really attractive and practical layout with very comfy beds, dishwasher and even washer/dryer (very handy for muddy clothes.)
Trip 1: Walk along the Lakeside Way to the wildlife hide
From the cabin you can set off straight onto the Lakeside Way, a circular route around the water. My children tend to walk around in circles rather than in a forward motion, so we weren’t expecting to get far, and the little bird/squirrel hide in the forest was a perfect distance (about five minutes for an adult, or twenty minutes for us).
And we were lucky enough to spot a red squirrel, (it is red honest!) as well as dozens of birds at the feeding station.
The walk back through the forest takes you back past little huts and art installations which the children loved hiding in.
Trip 2: Cycling on the Lakeside Way
With my five year old on her new birthday bike and the three year old on the back of dad’s bike we set off for our first cycle, once again on the Lakeside Way, but this time on two wheels we were able to speed past the hide and continue on around the lake.
Emerging out of the forest and looking across the expanse of water, with not another soul around gives you such an amazing sense of freedom and space and my daughter loved it, tearing off into the distance.
Trip 3: Walk, cycle and the maze at Kielder village
We took the bikes to Kielder Village to try out another route earmarked as easy that starts in the car park of the Anglers Ams pub and passes through the campsite taking you onto the path of an old railway line. Unfortunately, the very rough surface made it much to hard work for my daughter and we had to come back, although for adults it would have been an easy and pleasant route.
Instead we went for a walk around the castle, where there is a maze and a playpark. From here there is also a flat walk along the river, which we were tempted to try but ended up opting for a pub lunch instead at the Angler’s Arms.
Trip 4: Walk along the Lakeside Way to The Mirage
We cheated and took the car to one of the many car parks around the lake and then set off in search of The Mirage, a wooden structure deep in the forest, which my children now tell me is in fact a fairy kingdom…
The path winds around the lake and up into the trees where from a wooden platform you get a stunning view of the lake.
Despite our four day stay there was still plenty more we didn’t get to do.
There is a Bird of Prey Centre on site
Stargazing at Kielder Observatory – which was unfortunately fully book, so plan well in advance
And numerous other car parks around the lake where you can head off on more walks
If I had spent the week at home, I would never have dreamed of heading out for a walk let alone a bike ride in the rain and the cold, but with so much literally on your doorstep, we just got out waterproofs on and headed out to stomp in the puddles.
One bit of advice though is to bring plenty of food, as apart from a very small and pricey shop on site selling absolute essentials (and luxury biscuits) there is no supermarket for miles around.
If you want to eat out, then the child-friendly lakeside Boat Inn restaurant serves high quality food and we had a really enjoyable meal.
If you want a shorter stay, the grandparents joined us for a one night trip stopping at the nearby Pheasant Inn, and highly recommend it.