Kielder is a very small and remote village in the far north of England. It sits just 2km from the Scottish border and lies just inside the county of Northumberland, with Cumbria being not to far to the west. It is also known to be the darkest part of Europe, and the 4th darkest area in the world – not because of its ghostly legends, but because it has a protected status from the Dark Skies Association due to its lack of light pollution. Because of its remote location, at night, you can experience a true dark night sky.
To put this into perspective, 85% of the UK population have never experienced a true dark night sky. And for this reason alone, our night vision cameras were important in the night. It is also the reason why Kielder Observatory is one of the best places in the Northern hemisphere to star gaze. A real contrast to when we were filming in Iceland and we started our ghost hunt at the Hvitarnes hut under the midnight sun.
According to the 2011 UK census, 218 people live around Kielder, a small settlement that has built up since the castle was built in 1775. There is evidence of ancient settlements, believed to be the Votadini, who lived in this area up until the time of the Roman invasion of Britain. There are ancient burial sites deep in the Kielder valley to prove this.
The castle at Kielder was built for the Duke of Northumberland as a hunting lodge. One thing to note however is that Kielder was a completely different place to what it is now. There was no forest back then, as this was only started in the early 20th Century to become Europe’s largest man made forest. Before then, this area was largely baron moors. Kielder Water was also only built in the 1970s, at the expense of a few small villages that were lost during its construction. Despite popular legend, there are no lost villages still at the bottom of the lake.
When the castle opened, it became a popular hangout for the Duke and many of his rich and wealthy friends. You can only imagine what kind of parties and social gatherings would have taken place in this very Male dominant environment.
So who haunts the castle? There are several disturbing legends that have been told over the years, starting with that of Sir Hugh Percy, the 3rd Duke of Northumberland who inherited the estate. He is said to have insisted that any servant who ever fell pregnant while living at the castle must be sacked immediately. However one young servant by the name of Marie was having a secret relationship with one of the Duke’s footmen, and soon fell pregnant. If she lost her job, she would be penniless and without a place to live, and a baby to look after. She decided to confess her secret to Lady Charlotte Clive, the mistress of the Duke, and together they decided to hide all evidence of Marie’s pregnancy. She would wear clothing that would hide her ever growing bump and the Duke suspected nothing.
However, the baby was stillborn and Marie was destroyed by this, but it was important to hide all evidence that this pregnancy occurred. It is said that Lady Charlotte removed the dead baby and one night, placed it into the fire of the great hall, cremating it until it was just a pile of bones, which she crushed into ash. The next morning, Marie cleaned out the fire, unaware that she was actually sweeping away the remains of the child she thought she would one day raise. A rumour even goes as far as saying that the baby was not stillborn, but born as a healthy baby, only to be killed in order to hide the secret.
Several people have experienced paranormal occurrences in this area of the castle. A ball of light has been reported around the fireplace, as well as the sound of a baby’s cry. Sadly this part of the castle is now part of the cafe, and not available during paranormal investigations. The ghost of Lady Charlotte has also been seen all around the castle, despite dying in London and being buried in Westminster Abbey.
And this isn’t the only tragic story of a servant living in the castle. The servants living quarters are said to be haunted by the ghost of a maid called Emma, who committed suicide by jumping into the castle’s well and drowning herself. She was left broken hearted after hearing that her lover was lost during the Boer War. It is her ghost that is seen at the window of an upstairs bedroom, as well as stood beside the well that she killed herself in.
A senior groundsman called Edward Ball had a room at the top of the castle in Attic 2 so that he could see the full area that he was in charge of. He was a strict man and feared by everyone that worked here. Other stories swirled around that he would also abuse young boys at the castle. He was found dead one day in bed, with his official cause of death being natural circumstances, but it is also said that a group of boys sneaked into his room at night and smothered him to death – something that no coroner would be able to notice back in the 19th Century. Many mediums have picked up on a man by the name of Edward, and he is also said to push people who enter what was once his former living quarters.
Tragedy struck a guest staying here in the early 1800s. Anthony Green was lodging at Kielder Castle, and on a hunting trip one day, he aimed his flintlock rifle at a stag, only for his gun to malfunction and it exploded in his face, taking half of his skull off. A man with “half a face” has been seen many times in the local area outside of the castle, and is a popular legend in the village of Kielder itself.
Another ghost picked up here is said to be a man on a horse, who is seen in the area outside the front of the building. Could this be the ghost of ‘Brewery Jack’, a smuggler who used to sell smuggled goods around Northumberland, only to be caught and hanged from a tree directly in front of Kielder Castle alongside 5 of his associates?
There are also some former stables here, with paranormal activity reported inside. Today they serve as a cinema/projector room for school visits, but a dark figure has been seen standing in the doorway, and the strong smell of horse manure usually gets sensed coming from the far corner of the room, and is usually experienced shortly before paranormal activity occurs.
Staff working at the castle have experienced all kinds of paranormal activity. From full apparitions, shrieks and ghostly voices, it’s no wonder that the old attic living quarters is a place nobody wants to be on their own.
After years of being derelict, Kielder Castle was sold to the Forestry Commission in 1932, and with the growth of Kielder Forest, the landscape is now completely different to how this place once would have looked. The building has been restored and well maintained so that it can be used for education visits. Rooms have been modified for learning, and the building no longer feels like the old castle it once was. But that’s not to say that the ghosts of those strongly linked to this place don’t continue to appear.
As of early 2020, plans for future paranormal investigations are unclear. Much of the upstairs areas have been stripped out for renovation later in the year as the castle prepares to move into its next chapter of its history. Whether this means the end of ghost hunting here, that is unclear. But for now, pull the duvet covers up, switch the lights off and enjoy the the last ghost hunt at Kielder Castle (hopefully not forever).
Visit Kielder Castle
Kielder Castle, Kielder, Northumberland
Phone: 01434 250209
Visiting Kielder is best done by car. The road leading to the village is known as The Border Forests Road? And is very scenic in the daytime as it meanders past Kielder Water. It is well worth stopping and taking in some of the views.
Kielder lies just over an hours drive from Newcastle, and the same distance in the other direction from Carlisle.
If you enjoy nature treks, this will be an area of the world that is ideal for you. There are plenty of trails through the forests nearby, and for the really fit, Kielder has its own marathon which takes in a full lap of the lake.
Every April, Kielder also hosts rallying, and has been a round in the British Rally Championship until 2019.
Kielder Castle is open on apart from Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the most of the year from 11am – 4pm. Visitors can access the cafe and have a small wander of the rooms around the building, although please note that the former living quarters that we filmed in are private and not accessible to the public. Entry is free.
There is free WiFi at the castle, but do bite that the area around Kielder gets no mobile phone reception at all, so when driving home, it’s best to set your phone’s satnav while still in a WiFi zone!
Paranormal Investigations at Kielder Castle
Links to groups that run public ghost hunts at Kielder Castle: