Hawick and Kielder Forest

We had a very quiet night in the Hawick car park. 

Hawick Aire

The following morning after bacon butties, we visited Morrisons to use their facilities again before we set off for Kielder Water arriving at the start of the forest drive, a 12 mile long gravel road through Kielder forest.

I had read all the warnings that the forest road was only suitable in a 4×4 vehicle , but I worked on the basis that if the track became impassable we could turn around. The track was a toll road with a payment machine costing £3 and a notice warning about the need for 4 x 4.

I really enjoy driving these forest tracks

Kielder Forest Drive

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A stop over at the six mile point for food and beverages

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The 12 miles of track came to an end near a main road, so we turned around and went back along the track to travel another 12 miles doing the return trip.

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As can be seen from photos the road is a fairly level gravel surface with some steady gradients that you could drive along in your Granny’s Fiat 500 without any bother. Not as challenging as I would have liked, but certainly an enjoyable drive.

It was starting to get late, so somewhere to overnight was a priority before it got dark. There was a pub that allowed motor homes to over night in their car park if you had a drink and a meal in the pub, but It didn’t appeal to us.

I had heard that overnighting around Kielder water including the forestry drive was banned and checked by the forestry agents. All the parking areas had barriers across the access.

We gave up after driving around aimlessly and decided to head back to Hawick car park for another night.

You’ll note that this was the third night we had stayed off grid

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Like a night in the Forest

After leaving Castle corner caravan site we headed into the Galloway forest area on the A712. Along this road are various stop offs, like the deer park, the goat park, Bruces stone and the visitors centre.

The Goat Park

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I eventually turned off the A712 on to a dirt track. Two miles along the track is the payment machine and after paying our £2 fee we were driving “The Raiders road”, basically 10 miles of forestry track.

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Halfway along the track is Otters Pool with a toilet and parking area. This was to be our overnight stop for the night, but it was teeming with day visitors who departed about 5pm, leaving behind the remains of their picnics, litter and broken chairs. There was a group of lads who were camping out in a tent with a large fire. It was obvious that they were there to party the night away, so we decided to move on further along the Raiders road and found a car park at the end of Stroan Loch.

Otters Pool

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It’s a shame that Otters Pool is so neglected and the main culprits are the locals. It will eventually lead to camping restrictions like the ones being enforced in the Loch Lomond area. (sorry, rant over)

The Otter statue and Ruby

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We were alone in the parking area at Stroan Loch and the sun was setting  across the Loch. The forest area is a designated dark skies area and as night fell I scanned the sky, but unfortunately the clouds blocked my view of any stars or galaxies.

The sunset over the Loch

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Sunset on Loch Stroan

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We woke to find an eerie mist sitting on the water. All was quiet as the road doesn’t open for visitors until 9am. Two red kites circled above the Loch and a couple of walkers stopped to have a chat. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

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It’s good that we are comfortable to rock up in a pitch black forest, miles from anywhere without any radio, TV, internet or phone signal and have a peaceful nights sleep. We have an agreement that if either of us feels uncomfortable with an overnight stop, we will move on to find somewhere else.

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Puffin covered in dust from the track

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We seem to have fallen into the habit of having a lazy start to our days, just being, without any pressing commitments. It was getting near midday when we pulled on to the forest track to continue our journey, so it came as a surprise that I had to brake hard to avoid an owl that swooped down in front of the campervan.

The forest area is amazing and well worth a visit despite the minority of inconsiderate visitors.