If you happen to watch George Clark’s Amazing Spaces, then the Sky Den may already ring a bell with you. If you’re also a fan of the beautiful Kielder Forest and Water plus the rugged landscape of surrounding Northumberland, then put them together and you really do have an amazing space indeed. As a member of the Canopy & Stars blogger collective, I was recently given the opportunity to try out the Sky Den for a weekend, admittedly on one of the coldest and wildest weekends in November! But even the weather couldn’t diminish the wow factor of this building and needless to say the colours of the forest at this time of year were gorgeous.When we arrived on Friday night it was already dark of course but that only meant we were even more impressed with the starry night sky and the kids literally gasped with delight as we stepped out of the car. Due to the naturally low levels of light pollution, the night skies above Kielder Water & Forest Park are the darkest in England and therefore some of the best in the world for star-gazing.Due to the cold though we quickly piled inside to start warming up and check out the space. We’d been advised to wrap up warmly and bring hot water bottles but once we’d got the heating on, we were perfectly comfy. On the spur though, I’d bought the kids three matching bear suits to sleep in and they all got changed into them straight away before we settled down for the evening. They looked so cute – my three little bears in the woods! The Sky Den is built on two levels and is split across three main areas; the square living room, triangular bedroom and circular outside space. The square living/dining/kitchen space itself is small but cleverly designed to maximise the space so as a family of five we were cosy enough for a weekend – longer than that and I think we might have felt a bit hemmed in. During the summer months you could spill out on to the verandah and make more use of the outdoor spaces, which would make things easier though. The best bit is the way that the furniture transforms; a table pulls down from the wall as do two singe beds and a sofa. You piece together stools from wooden shapes that are stored in the walls, much like a giant jigsaw puzzle, which the kids found fascinating. The kitchen is well stocked with everything you could need including an electric hob and microwave so it was easy to create simple meals, heat up soup or make tea. Again, for longer than a weekend this might have been trickier without a proper cooker. But let’s remember, the Sky Den is meant to be a form of camping or rather glamping and we enjoyed getting back to basics and a simpler way of life (with the added benefits of warm shelter of course). We brought lots of books and board games (although there were also plenty supplied), cosied up and listened to the elements outside. While two people can sleep on the beds in the living area, they are technically separate to the other sleeping area in the triangle, in the sense that you have to go outside and climb a flight of exterior stairs to get to it. As our kids are still fairly young, we decided in the end that it would be nicer to all pile in to the one bed in the triangle as it was large enough and everyone was excited to be in this exciting sleeping area. In summer this aspect of the Sky Den really comes into its own as the two-sided roof can be opened during fine weather so that you may sleep under the stars – can you imagine how great that must be!? I really wished we’d been able to try it but the weather was just too wild! However, you can still look up at the stars through the overhead skylights.The next morning we woke up and looked out of the window to see the beautiful forest in all its glory and the river, which runs beneath the building, so you really feel like you’re right there in amongst it all. You can enjoy the views far better from the circle outdoor room though – the final piece of this amazing puzzle – complete with its own little wood-burning stove. The curved shelter is surprisingly warm even in winter and allows you to sit and watch the nearby river and wildlife, cuddled up with a hot drink and blankets which we really enjoyed. Toasting of marshmallows was of course compulsory thanks to the kids. I bet this space is very special on a summer’s evening too and has that lovely outdoors/indoors feel.Our weekend sped past as they always do but we managed to get out and about to explore the local countryside. Charlie has been studying the Romans at school and I’m fascinated by that period of history too so a walk along Hadrian’s Wall was a must. It still blows my mind how old it is. Afterwards we visited the Roman Army museum and would also recommend the nearby remains of Vindolanda Roman fort if the weather’s good.
As you may know, we’re already big fans of Northumbria and have been holidaying there for years but it was great to visit a totally different part and of course to have such an unusual and memorable place to stay. We’d definitely recommend a break in the Sky Den. If you’re more of an indoors glamper who still like the wilds of nature (like me), a design enthusiast who loves clever architecture, a wannabe astronomer (who isn’t?) or just a big (or little) kid, I think this place would really appeal. Just book early for summer – I can imagine the Sky Den is super popular during the warmer seasons, when it really plays to its strengths as an experience.
Let me know if you ever try it out!