The roads got windier and mobile reception faded to zero as we made our way into Kielder Forest. There's one main road that tracks alongside Kielder Water, with exits made up of boat docks, hiking points and accommodation amongst the trees.
We turned off the main road and began the winding route, down to the water and through the forest trees, lodges sprouting out inbetween the woodland. Home for the weekend was Kielder Waterside, a private lodge that was completely off the grid unless you made the effort with the intermittent wifi.
No matter where I'm staying, I always get the thrill of exploring my new home, whether for a night or for a week. Looking in all the cupboards, noticing the little details, mentally planning a to-do list for our trip. Getting a whole lodge to explore was great to satisfy my inner adventurer.
Once the essentials had been unloaded, we did a Superman change into our swimmies and sunk straight into the hot tub. This trip was a pretty off the cuff idea, but when we were looking at where to stay in Northumberland, a hot tub became an essential. It's where I spent most of the weekend, whether it was sipping on the customary hot tub prosecco, or where I let all my joints get loose after an unexpected 13 mile walk.
For me, the off the grid trip was an opportunity to do nothing but see some of the local nature sites and soak up the bubbles in the hot tub. We had a couple of things to do while we were there for our long weekend, one being a walk around Kielder Water.
The whole reservoir is 26 miles around, we managed to make it around nearly half of it after missing the last ferry to allow us to put our feet up. The parks surrounding the water have hidden treasures that made the unexpected length of the walk that little bit more bearable by way of an art trail. My favourite find was Freya's Cabin - only around two miles from Kielder Waterside, so you don't need to do the full 13 mile trek for this reward - looking out over the water, shaded from the sun and beautifully carved to fit into the nature its embedded in.
Eating our picnic two miles in, running out of water four miles in, breaking in new walking shoes and not realising how early the ferry service stopped may not have been the best strategy for our relaxing weekend. But, despite the poor planning, it was a great walk and an ace way to see the area, next time we may double check some of the timings before we set out and get the final art installations ticked off our list.
On the final night, we made the trip out to the Kielder Observatory. This area of the Northumberland National Park has a protected night sky, meaning there will never be any big developments or anything out of quiet countryside life to disturb the open sky peace. Off the main road again and a route that disintegrated into a dirt track winding through more of the forest, out of GPS range, before you reach the peak of the hill and the observatory pops out of the trees. We arrived at dusk, ready for an education of our universe.
The sheer expanse of education in an evening is mind blowing - we were taken through, in great detail, the universe we're living in, the might and might nots of what may happen in the future and also had the chance to see Jupiter and Saturn up close which was pretty great. Despite a long, sunny weekend, our trip ended in a night of thick cloud, so stargazing wasn't on the cards, but with or without this, I would highly recommend making time for the observatory if you're in the area.
And as the rain clouds rolled in over night, we we finished our trip. I'm always going to have a hot spot for trips up north and Kielder Forest didn't disappoint. We had one last morning dip in the hot tub before we absolutely had to leave, before heading out of the forest and back to civilisation.
English postcard perfection.