Northumberland, England: the UK’s last wilderness?

Why go there?

Home to the largest man-made lake in Northern Europe and measuring in at a mighty 250 square miles, Kielder Water & Forest Park is the largest working forest in England, and officially one of the UK’s best places to visit after winning the VisitEngland’s 2013 gold award for tourism excellence.

What to do

To explore the park’s most dazzling autumnal displays, start from the Kielder Forest Park Visitor Centre and head down the scenic Kielder Forest Drive. This 12-mile stretch of unsealed forest track is one of England’s highest roads, cresting at over 1,500ft at Blakehope Nick, where you are guaranteed unparalleled views of the colourful woodland patchwork. The road surface can be challenging at times, though a bit of preparation will save you any red-faced moments. Forest Drive continues until it meets the Pennine Way, through which you can reach other parts of the forest.

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Where to stay and eat

Steeped in history, with a provenance that dates back to a cousin of William the Conqueror in the 11th Century, Otterburn Castle Country House Hotel is not your average overnight option. Nestled in 32 acres of grounds stretching down to the village of Otterburn, the hotel boasts 18 comfortable en-suite bedrooms, all individually decorated. Sumptuous as these are, you may prefer to lounge around the Garden Room with its Florentine fireplace, high ceilings and French windows overlooking the lawn and lake. Or there’s always the bar housed in the old stables, which provide buckets of ambience for pre-dinner drinks.