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Britain > Northumberland > Kielder Water

England's largest man-made lake and forest, near the Scottish border

Just south of the Scottish border, England's largest man-made lake sits inside Europe's largest man-made forest. The entire area may have been constructed by humans, but you wouldn't know it by looking. Kielder is as lush and bountiful as any of nature's creations. The distinct lack of buildings and modern conveniences means that there is minimal light and noise pollution. At night, the stars shine like bright street lights against the unusually dark sky.
The best place to see them is at Kielder Observatory. They organise regular events in the evenings, where you can examine the facility and its instruments. The astronomers will show you the night sky, and then explain what you're looking at.
In the morning, the sun's light once again turns Kielder into a colourful wonderland. Altogether there are 600 square kilometres of vivid green forest. Spreading out amongst the trees are more paths and trails than you'll ever have time to walk. Whichever route you choose, make sure to keep your eyes peeled. Attentive walkers will spot several dozen works of art hidden along the way. Some of the prettiest views can be found at the reservoir's edge. A path runs for 43 kilometres along the entire circumference.
The lake itself is usually covered in boats, canoes, yachts and ferries. Some people prefer to fish quietly, while others zoom around on jet-skis. Nearby, the Calvert Trust's outdoor centre organises similarly exciting pursuits, including archery and abseiling.
At the water's southern edge is the Tower Knowe Visitor Centre. This is where you can get started with your activity of choice. They have an outdoor shop, sailing information and guides on local walking routes. There are even more facilities at the Leaplish Waterside Park, on the reservoir's western side. They have a wildlife garden, a mini-golf course and a restaurant with views of the lake. Two dozen lodges provide ideally-placed accommodation.
Also on-site is the Kielder Water Birds of Prey Centre, where you can watch England's most vicious killers in action. They have 75 specimens, including hawks, eagles and vultures. There are daily flying displays but, if you want to get to know the creatures a bit more intimately, you can sign up to one of the courses. The staff will teach you the art of falconry, and before long a bird of prey will be under your command.
The Kielder area is full of other interesting animals. Otters, ospreys and deer can regularly be spotted in or around the water. The forest is also home to half of England's red squirrel population.
To the north is Kielder Castle, a former hunting lodge built by the Duke of Northumberland. Inside, a series of exhibitions explain how the forest is being managed and conserved. Upstairs, the Duke's old sitting room is filled with the work of local artists. The castle also provides plenty of convenient facilities for visitors, from a bird viewing platform to a bike hire centre. Cyclists are a common sight, as this is the start point for a variety of mountain bike trails. These range from the easy "green" standard routes, to the hair-raising "black" category.
Visitor Information
Kielder Castle Visitor’s Centre is open weekends from 11am to 4pm. Entry is FREE. Kielder, Northumberland, NE48 1ER. Tel: 01434 250 209

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