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  • Writer's picturePolaris Overland

In The Footsteps Of Caesar and Wainright

Roman Soldier

Day 1 – 230 Miles

Home to Bellingham Campsite Via Kielder Forest Track

A boring journey travelling south to Edinburgh on the motorway a journey we have done a hundred times with a stop off at Kinross for obligatory toilet stop and Greggs Sausage Rolls before continuing south.

From Edinburgh we headed off the bypass to the A68 passing Melrose and Jedburgh towards Otterburn.

Kielder Forest Drive East Start Point

Before Otterburn we turned onto the Kielder Forest Drive a forestry road that takes you across Kielder Forest and on a good day with great views to Kielder Castle and village. The Forest Road is a 12 mile (19km) unsealed forest toll road and travelling from east to west you are requested to pay the toll (£3.00) at the western end.

It’s an easy drive, certainly 4wd is not required although a sign at the start states it is recommended. For us we didn’t get the views as the rain was drizzle and clouds low but still an enjoyable track to drive with the Blakehope Nick Art Installation on the way.

Once we exited the forest drive, we parked up and visited the castle. Only it’s not really a castle, it was a hunting lodge and at our time of visiting it was fenced off with a couple of catering trailers out the front.

After mooching around and stretching our legs after the drive we headed south again.

Passing the turn off to the Kielder Observatory we headed up the track.

There is a car park at the base, but we continued up onto the hillside to the observatory. You have to book so we couldn’t enter but we stopped off at Kielder Skyspace to have a quick look around. From here it was onto the campsite at Bellingham.

Bellingham Campsite Sheltered Pitch

Day 2 – 55 Miles Bellingham Camp Site

Housesteads Roman Fort

Vindolanda Museum & Archaeological Site

Roman Army Museum

Day 2 was a lazy start to a Roman day. We headed to Housesteads Fort. As we have National Trust for Scotland membership, we got access to the fort for free however Househeads has a mix of ownership / management.

The fort is preserved by English Heritage but is on National Trust Land so we got free entry but the parking is Northumberland National Park so we had to pay.

Thankfully the rain stayed off and we enjoyed walk around the ruins on the hillside of what is left of the fort.

Then it was back to car to search out Vindolanda. We had booking for 1pm so we headed across and arrived early enough to grab some sandwiches in the Colonel before heading into the museum.

The museum tells the story of Vindolanda in pictures, artifacts and leads out to the garden outside with a small temple and would be lovely on a sunny day which today wasn’t.

Vindolanda Gardens

From the garden it’s another walks up the hill to walk around the ruins and in Dominic’s case play in the Wooden and Stone Forts built using some of the techniques of the time.

By the time we had finished it was time to head to the Roman Army Museum. Here you learn about the different soldiers that made up the Roman Army, and through a 3D Movie about life living as a soldier on the wall. There are models and graphics and artifacts found during excavation of the wall and forts.

We then headed home passing by Sycamore Gap said to be the most photographed tree in England and with cameo appearances in various movies including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

Sycamore Gap

Day 3 – 50 Miles Bellingham Camp Site

Kielder Waters

Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre

Kielder Forest Drive

Hindhope Linn Waterfall

Another lazy start, not much chance of anything else when you have to get Dominic motivated and ready.

Dominic enjoying the Birds Of Prey

First stop was Kielder Water Birds of Prey. Parking was £5.00 but we heard later once you pay once you can use in the same ticket in all other affiliated car parks that day.

Initially the Birds of Prey Centre wasn’t really anything better than other Bird of Prey Centre we have visited and at £22.00 for the 3 of us a bit steep. However, the staff let Dominic hold an owl and gave him a little talk on owls which he really enjoyed. Your ticket allows you to come and go as you like so we headed out for lunch in the van and a walk around the shoreline returning for the flying show. This was possibly the best demonstration we have seen with the birds and the spectators interacting throughout. Dominic got to hold numerous birds of prey and assist in the demonstrations. He was absolutely thrilled.

Hindhope Linn Selfie

We were hoping to go a bike ride, but the weather combined with our inability to find anywhere safe enough and flat enough for Dominic meant we ended up heading to Hindhope Linn Waterfall back along the Kielder Forest Road.

Forest Walk in Kielder Forest

After a nice walk through the forest, we headed back to campsite for tea and a few drinks and to meet up with our friend from Overland Bound who was popping in on for a few nights to say hi whilst on his trip from Wales.

Day 4 – 0 Miles Bellingham Camp Site

Bellingham Carriages Tea Room

Hareshaw Linn Waterfall

Cheviot Hotel with Steve Homer for dinner

Hareshaw Linn

Our now repetitive lazy start and today we decided not to do any driving. Steve was heading off to do the Kielder Forest Road and we were walking into Bellingham to visit the Carriage Tea Rooms (Converted Train Carriages from the old railway now long gone) and a walk up to Hareshaw Linn Waterfall.

Dinner was a nice relaxing affair in train carriages of the style we remembered travelling on as kids (showing our age) before we headed off for the waterfall. The walk was a good bit longer than we expected but still a lovely walk and a nice waterfall at the end.

Returning the heavens opened but the woods offered some protection and by the time we emerged at the bottom it was back to the Kielder drizzle.

Angela went on ahead and Dave and Dominic held back to give Dominic a chance to have some fun in the play park.

After getting back to the campsite we met up with Steve again and all up to the Cheviot Hotel in Bellingham for a few beers and some pub grub. A great night and nice to catch up with Steve properly.

Hareshaw Linn Selfie

Day 5 – 95 Miles Waterside House Camping, Ullswater

Bellingham Camp Site


Packing up day, our time at Kielder over we were heading to Ullswater in the Lake District just a short 1.5-hour drive.

Packed up we were away by 11 and headed slowly west. Rather than head straight to the campsite we headed into Keswick for a few hours to do a bit of outdoor shopping and couple of bags of chips with scraps for lunch.

As expected, parking was not cheap, around £5.40 for 4 hours and after getting everything we needed, a nice cup of tea at George Fisher we headed to the campsite Waterside House Camping on the banks of Ullwater Lake.

Our pitch on the campsite was set back from the lake behind a Hawthorne bush. We were disappointed but as we would find over the next couple of days this would be a godsend.

Waterside House Camp at Night

Day 6 – 55 Miles Waterside House Camping, Ullswater

Aira Force Waterfall



Aira Force Bridge

Once again, a lazy start and we headed to Aira Force Waterfall. By the time we arrived the car park was rammed full, but we found a layby next to the lake along the road and parked up there.

The weather today was being good, and we enjoyed a lovely circular walk through the forest however it was impossible to get close to the waterfall as the viewing platform had been smashed by a fallen tree and the path down was closed.

After returning to the van, we enjoyed lunch by the lake before driving into Glenridding. This is where in the past Dave has started his walks in both Winter and Summer to climb Helvellyn and Striding Edge.

It doesn’t take long to walk through town and we ended up at the Lake Ferry Jetty where we stopped in the sunshine for views along the lake and coffee.

Ullswater Steamer

Ullswater Layby

From here we drive over to Windermere and into Ambleside. We had a walk round the shops, Dominic got to play in the park and we bought some wood and coals for the BBQ before heading back to the campsite.

BBQ Evening and a fire

In the evening we enjoyed a BBQ tea, a roaring fire a few drinks and Toffee Vodka.

Although the weather was dry the wind off the lake was getting stronger. Behind our Hawthorne bush the clue it was windy was the treetops swaying.

Toffee Vodka

Day 7 – 0 Miles Waterside House Camping

Pooley Bridge – Dunmallard and River Walk

Waterside House Campsite Sunny Morning

Morning broke looking ominous but cleared up. However, the wind overnight had taken its toll on a few awnings on the pitches by the lake side with a number collapsed and one pretty much destroyed.

We had slept through the destruction with no indication of how windy it had been. Not sure that was down to our sheltered pitch or the Toffee Vodka.

Dunmallard Hill Walk

Another lazy start and today no driving. Instead, we made pack lunches and headed for a walk along the lake side to Pooley Bridge and then a circular walk around Dunmallard Hill sign posted from the car park just over the Bridge from the village. It’s a short walk around the hill with some nice views and Dave took great pleasure in throwing the dry fallen leaves over Dominic.

Back at the car park we decided to head along the riverside for a few miles before crossing a footbridge to the other bank and returning into Pooley Bridge.

Once in town we headed to the Sun Inn for a few pleasant drinks in the sunshine whilst Dominic made friends in the children’s play area.

Evening was another bonfire and fire for company and a few drinks to chill out.

Ullswater heading to Pooley Bridge

Day 8 – 250 Miles Home

Waterside House Camping

Today the forecast was ominous and we woke up to rain. We made the decision to get packed away and head back up the road a day early to give us a chance to dry everything at home before Dave went back to work.

The drive home always seems longer and harder than the drive going on holiday. However, we made decent time, stopping for coffees and Greggs Sausage Rolls at Stirling Services before continuing up to Aberdeen.

It was then just a matter of unloading and clearing out bedding etc for washing before a Chinese for tea.

Ullswater Lake Afternoon Sunshine


Kielder is lovely but there are restrictions on using the lake and the area around seems to be solely with the aim of extracting money. That being said we loved the area. There are lots of cycle routes but nothing we could find or could be recommended by locals for a 5-year-old. To Kayak or Paddleboard on the lake you have to have qualifications and insurance. Out with Kielder in the surrounding area Roman History can be seen everywhere. But again, if you intend to visit a lot of the Roman attractions be prepared to spend money. A Heritage England or National Trust Membership will offset some of the costs but as we found not all of them.

The Lake District everyone knows is expensive however a National Trust Membership will help here as many of the Lake Side Car Parks out with the towns are National Trust and as a member free. By visiting in October we avoided the crowds that the Lake District is renowned for. However, the weekend we were there the English half Term holidays started and the campsite quickly filled up on the Friday. The weather in the Lake District can be hit and miss hence all the lakes so be prepared. However, the October days we experienced were sunny and dry almost spring.

Angela Wrapped Up Cosy

The Van and Awning performed flawlessly. The diesel heater was hardly every needed and only when it was it was more in the morning to dry out any condensation.

Kampa Awning Heater

The awning can be cold, but we used a Kampa Low Wattage Fan Heater run off the Electric hook up. This extended the time in the evenings we could sit out of the Van whilst Dominic slept in the pop top.

Weather Forecasting Old School

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