For many years, I was “not the outdoorsy type”. Despite a childhood spent camping, climbing and collecting snails, once I discovered hairdryers and MSN Messenger I was never too far from a power source.
Most of my twenties was taken up with living the city life – cocktail bars, 24 hour Tescos, impractical shoes, that sort of thing. I developed a reputation for being anti-outdoors and embraced a ~comical~ hatred of nature, bad weather and a lack of amenities. I probably became a bit of a Carrie-Bradshaw-in-the-country parody – all manicured nails and McDonald’s drive thrus. And then I married a programmer and our shared love of Netflix and wifi was strengthened.
In the last few years, though, I’ve started to actually enjoy being outside. And not just in a beer garden – I’ve done country walks, climbed a mountain and camped numerous times. So when Rob suggested we go camping together – just the two of us, no outdoorsy friends to help – I was a bit apprehensive but soon came round to the idea and within a few weeks we’d booked a weekend away, bought a tent and borrowed a large amount of equipment from aforementioned outdoorsy friends.
Check it out! Here’s me, with a successfully-pitched tent (I’ll gloss over the fact we had to ask a proper adult to help us erect it…), on a campsite in Kielder, Northumberland. We chose Kielder because it has the darkest skies in the UK – the area’s skies are actually protected from light pollution and it’s the best place to go star-gazing. We’d booked a slot at Kielder Observatory to look at Saturn and Jupiter and were ready to kick back, sans phones, for a proper outdoorsy weekend.
Hilariously, the wifi from the campsite’s reception reached our tent so we spent quite a lot of time lolling about on the airbed with our phones. But hey, it rained a lot.
Kielder is a 3-hour drive from Leeds so pretty easy to get to from the north. We arrived at 7pm on Friday night and after pitching the tent (with help… ahem), we settled down to a BBQ and beers in the evening sun.
Saturday started with cloudy skies and a totally deflated airbed, so we set off for a drive over to Gretna. Driving around this part of the country is just glorious – we dipped into Scotland and then back to England, crossing through Northumberland, Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria before picking up a new airbed in Gretna and heading back to camp.
Kielder is a beautiful little village – there’s a great pub just behind the campsite called the Angler’s Arms, and Kielder Water provides some amazing scenery. Our event at the observatory wasn’t until midnight so we drove to neighbouring village Falstone for a few drinks in the Blackcock Inn before heading down the long, pitch-black path to Kielder Observatory.
Devastatingly, the weather was truly awful on Saturday night so we didn’t get to use the telescopes at the observatory. Not much you can do about the Great British Weather, I guess! The staff at the observatory were great though – we got the guided tour of the building (which is beautiful and so cosy) then chatted about space for a few hours with a hot chocolate and wood-burning stove to keep us warm. The clouds didn’t clear and we left without experiencing the darkest skies in the UK, but we’ll definitely be back for a second go.
The rain hadn’t cleared by Sunday morning so we packed up the tent and had one last look at Kielder Water before heading home. Despite the wet weather and lack of starry skies, we had such a great time – there’s something really satisfying about building your own shelter and successfully surviving in ~the wild~.
And I’m already planning our next camping trip!