To be clear right off the bat, this information is not about Kielder Forest wild camping for free. It’s not. Free, that is. So if that answers your question and it isn’t something you’re willing to consider paying for, you can probably stop reading here.
If however you’d like to know more about our experience wild camping in a van in Kielder Forest Northumberland, the best places to pitch up, the cost and what you get for the price, this is for you.
Kielder Forest Wild Camping
The only form of wild camping allowed in Kielder Forest, Northumberland is in a campervan. Prior to 2020, there were designated areas where you could pitch up a tent for the night. However due to the amount of rubbish being left behind, this was banned.
If you want to camp in a tent in Kielder Forest, you can now only do so on official camping grounds. Frustrating? Yes. Is there anything to be done about it? At this stage, probably not.
So from here on out when I refer to Kielder Forest wild camping know that I am referring specifically to having your old self contained accommodation on wheels.
Kielder Forest Overnight Parking
The cost to park overnight in Kielder Forest is £10 per night and there are five designated spots where you can stay. There are toilets open at the visitor centres, but there are no facilities open overnight at the park ups. It is simply wild camping in nature.
If you’re coming in from the South, you’ll come to Tower Knowe and Hawkhope parking spots first, then a little further into the forest, Elf Kirk viewpoint. The other two camping spots for campervans are at the north of Kielder reservoir near Kielder Castle Visitor centre and at Skyspace carpark.
Somewhat confusingly you have to purchase tickets for Kielder Forest overnight parking at different places.
For Tower Knowe and Hawkhope, you need to pick up a ticket from Tower Knowe information centre in person. For the other three, you can buy tickets either at machines in any of the parking spots, or in person at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre.
Only the ticket machine in the Kielder Castle Visitor Centre car park takes card payments. To pay at the other machines you’ll need to come prepared with plenty of change.
And yes the rangers do come round and check at night. So if you see someone knocking about in the dark with a torch outside your van, don’t be alarmed. They’ll just be looking for your Kielder Forest wild camping ticket. So have it easily visible so you don’t get disturbed.
In our opinion, the best spots are Elf Kirk viewpoint and Skyspace carpark. Simply because they are a little more remote. There’s lots more space at the others. Although the lower part of Tower Knowe in particular isn’t actually very flat.
Kielder Forest Camping Do’s & Don’ts
Leave it better than you found it. If you see any litter laying around, pick it up and take it with you. Whether it’s the dirty deed of an overnight camper or not, we always get the blame, and we don’t want to end up banned like tents.
No campfires or BBQ’s. However careful you think you are being, wildfires in this type of natural landscape are almost always started accidentally. Don’t be that idiot.
Don’t park in undesignated places. It would actually be pretty difficult to do as there aren’t actually that many roads through Kielder Forest. You’d be spotted pretty easily by a ranger.
Kielder Forest Campsites
There are of course benefits to staying on one of the official Kielder Forest camping sites. So if you’re on a longer road trip and needing to fill up/empty your tanks this could be an option.
All of these Kielder Forest campsites include waste disposal, fresh water supply, electric hookups and showers as standard. Check each place for additional facilities on offer.