Guide to Kielder Water and Forest Park

Kielder water is the largest man-made lake in the UK and is surrounded by woodland area. The skies above Kielder are the darkest in England and are a great place to stargaze. And of course, the entire area is completely remote and really out in the open. Kielder is a perfect place to escape busy life, get some exercise and take in some fresh air.

The path right around the lake is around 27 miles long and would take between 8-10 hours to walk it. I have added to my to-do list for the summer next year (if covid ever buggers off!) because I bet that would be an amazing day out!.

It takes around an hour and a half to get there from Sunderland, and the drive up is a little confusing so take a satnav! You pretty much head for Hexham and then turn off the motorway and head into the wild from there.

Some blue sky over the lake


Parking is £5 all day across the whole park. Most of the car parks only accept coins, however the tickets can be bought from the visitor centres. These are currently closed under tier 3 restrictions, so if you are planning on visiting, you can pre-book parking through their website HERE. Alternatively you can buy a year long visitors pass which is £40 for the year. If you’re going to visit more than 8 times in the year then it’s definitely worth it!

Some of the artwork around Leaplish visitor centre

There are 3 main visitor centres around the water, all with parking and facilities such as toilets/cafes. Of course under tier 3 restrictions, the only facilities open are toilets. Hopefully this changes soon and the world starts to fix itself. The three visitor centers are;

  • Tower Knowe, postcode: NE48 1BX
  • Leaplish Waterside, postcode: NE48 1BT
  • Kielder Castle, postcode: NE48 1EP

Most of the walking trails start at one of these locations so they are good places to use as a base. Depending on which option you choose, determines where you park. Personally, I think Leaplish is the better place to park as there are the better facilities here (the restaurant and shop). And the view of the water is best from here!

View of the water from Leaplish Visitor Centre


If the 27 mile walk right around the water isn’t for you, there are a great number of other options for you. You can download their trails guide PDF HERE. Please note there is no/very little phone signal throughout the park so if you were planning on just using your phone for maps, think again!

There are over 20 pieces of artwork around the park. The most popular is the big heads? I’ve never been to this one, but when you search Kielder on Instagram its always within the first photos that come up. More information about the various pieces is available HERE. Planning a walk that stops by as many of these pieces would be a really fun day out!

One of the pieces of art on the Bull Crag Peninsular

The PDF contains information such as difficulty, length and how long it will take to complete each walk so it’s definitely worth having a look at this before going! I think it’s worth noting that there is only one walk that has been given maximum stars for difficulty and this is the one that head up to the observatory. So if you are planning on just walking around the various waterside paths, it shouldn’t ever be too difficult.

When I have visited, I have parked most often at Leaplish and walked in either direction around the lake. The Bull Crag Peninsular walk is a really lovely one, which is nice and flat but offers both spectacular views of the forest and the lake!

Me pretending to be a photographer!

Things to remember

There are both people and wildlife living within the park so please be respectful of those who live their. Don’t forget to take your rubbish with you. Under current restrictions, only travel when necessary. And of course;

Stay Safe and Happy Adventuring!

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