Kielder: Wild landscapes and art in Northumberland

Kielder in Northumberland

Top of the park – Kielder in Northumberland

Kielder in Northumberland is one of those outdoor locations where you can escape from the daily grind and enjoy the wilderness far from the madding crowd.

The view from the hills unfolds like a panorama in a stunning sweep of moorlands, coniferous forests, water and rolling landscapes.

Northumberland National Park is amongst the quietest of all Britain’s protected landscapes.

Kielder is one of its most popular locations with tourism largely based around its reservoir and woodlands.

Away from the main reservoir and tourist honeypots, it’s easy to drive a few miles up the road and find blissful peace and quiet.

Art spaces

Art lovers will want to head for James Turrell’s Skyspace installation  located in a pleasant wooded area near Kielder Observatory.

Skyscape at Kielder

James Turrell’s Skyspace

The Skyspace is basically a circular room with a hole in the roof where the artist plays with the visitor’s perceptions of light and space.

The light changes as the sky above responds to the time of day, seasonal variations and different weather conditions.

When we visited Skyspace the sky started with a grey and cloudy appearance shot through with the occasional glint of sunshine and mid-blue  hue.

Skyscape at Kielder

True blue – Skyspace

By the time we left it was starting to look slightly darker and angrier as a thunderstorm rumbled across the area, shooting bolts of lightning across the hills.

The light threw a gloomier hue across the space, creating deeper shadows and pools of black and dark grey.

As the storm brewed outside, the light picked out by the ‘sky hole’ changed to look like 15 shades of dark grey.

Skyscape at Kielder

Silhouetted in the Skyspace at Kielder

The Skyspace is not dissimilar to another James Turrell art installation – the Deer Shelter – at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The main difference is that the Kielder Skyspace sits majestically on top of a hill whilst the Deer Shelter is located underground like a weird burial chamber.

Both are contemplative spaces with an eerie ambience and strange resonating sounds.

Here’s Tammy’s short video tour of the Kielder Skyspace…

If you enjoy art, don’t miss the other 22 public art installations around Kielder Reservoir including  the Wave Chamber (a camera obscura in a hut), Belevedere (a stainless steel shelter) and the Minotaur maze (at Kielder Castle).

Further on from the Skyspace you can cycle or walk to the nearby Kielder Observatory  which runs events and star camps for sky watchers and astrologists.


Cloud burst – Skyscape

Tammy’s top tips

Kielder Reservoir covers a large area so pick one of its many visitor centres to start your journey of discovery.

Leaplish Waterside Park is one of the main tourist sites with a car park and visitor centre as well as  a cafe and birds of prey attraction.  Sporty visitors will enjoy the water skiing club at Leaplish Ski Bay. There are cabins available for overnighting on this site.

Bakethin on the northern rim of the reservoir is slightly quieter and it’s a good location for wildlife watching.

Tower Knowe visitor centre on the southern tip of the reservoir is another visitor honeypot and boasts a sailing club.

There is a handy parking area next to the reservoir dam… and this is a good starting point for a walk or bike ride.

The Kielder Castle area has an exhibition centre, cafe and art installations – this is a good place for a picnic amongst the trees.

Minotaur maze

Minotaur maze @ Kielder Castle

Think bike. Kielder’s 27 mile cycle trail can be completed as a circular loop or as shorter sections.

There area many different bike trails designed for a range of abilities. Tammy suggests the Lakeside Way trail which follows the shoreline and isn’t too tricky in terms of terrain. It also offers good access to many of the outdoor sculptures in the park.

Bikes can be hired from The Bike Place and Purple Mountain in Kielder.

James Turrell’s Skyspace is a one and half mile walk each way from the car park to the north of Kielder Reservoir. Follow the sign posts to ‘Skyspace’. Disabled visitors can arrange a drop-off at the top of the hill next to the Skyspace.

The Calvert Trust runs water-based activities for disabled visitors from its lakeside centre.

There is a large 70 site caravan & RV park as well as camping sites located near the reservoir lakeside.

For quieter areas of Kielder head further north or take a walk or bike ride around the far side of the reservoir.

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