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Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts

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Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  | Rowan Hut Exterior

You'll find Hesleyside Huts in Northumberland National Park, just outside of Bellingham and under Northumberland's Official Dark Skies (the largest area of dark skies in Europe). The group of 5 Luxury Shepherd's Huts feel like they have been picked up and dropped in the middle of nowhere but are actually just off the A68 and not difficult to find at all. Each hut is furnished to a super high standard and provides everything you need to relax, unwind and switch off from the world for 48 hours.


Arrival at Hesleyside Huts

We stayed in Rowan hut which officially sleeps 4 and is ideal for families. If you're looking for a larger hut, I'd recommend checking out Bramble which is the largest of the Hesleyside Huts.

We were sent comprehensive driving instructions, a list of everything that was included in our lodge, walking routes and ideas for places to eat and visit nearby which was a nice touch. The drive took around an hour from Cramlington and we found Hesleyside Huts without getting lost or taking a wrong turn which may be a first. As you drive through the gates and along the tree-lined avenue, the magic starts. It looked so beautiful in Autumn.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - glamping entrance


Hesleyside Huts are self check-in which I personally prefer. The owners are available if needed and you'll have their number but generally, you're left to get on with it and aren't bothered by anyone. Each hut is nestled in the woods with it's own space. They aren't accessible by cars so we parked up and loaded the provided wheelbarrow with our luggage for the night. The huts are a very short walk away - I could probably do it in 30 seconds if needed but as we walked through the woods we took it slow, marvelling at the giant trees, oddly shaped mushrooms and forest floor littered with pine cones.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - wheelbarrow to transport luggage

It definitely was a case of love at first site with Rowan for us. We all said on more than one occasion that despite it being small, we would just love to live somewhere like this. Harry immediately hatched a plan to buy some land and build his own hut and sitting on the rocking chairs on the decking I felt like I was playing a part in The Notebook and sitting in America's deep South. All very exciting!

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - Rowan Hut at Dusk

Home Comforts - a step up from glamping 

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut kitchen

Hesleyside Huts describe themselves as glamping but we all agreed it wasn't really glamping - it was definitely a huge step up from this. Heidi describes it as glamping in a 5* hotel. With central heating, luxury bedding, a power shower and your own flushing loo, a homemade cake on arrival, your own stash of marshmallows, a double outdoor bathtub and unlimited hot water - this is camping at it's most luxurious.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut bell

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut rocking chairs and outdoor bath

It was tricky to capture the layout of Rowan Hut in one photo so I'll do my best to describe it. Your hut overlooks a field and woodland and has it's own firepit. There's plenty of space to explore and it feels very private. There is woodland behind the hut and a path to the car park. We loved the huge decking area of Rowan Hut with it's rocking chairs and outdoor bath tub - all very relaxing.

As you enter the hut you have a well-equipped kitchenette (with gas hobs, oven, fridge, sink and all the crockery you'll need) and a wood-burning stove to your left, a chair bench in front of you and a small wooden table and stools to your right. You'll also see a steep staircase leading up to the mezzanine double bedroom which is where you'll also find books, dominos, cards, binoculars, a radio, plug socket and USB points. There's mood lighting upstairs too which the kids loved playing with during their game of cards.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut cooker

Back downstairs and there are two closed doors to your right. The first one is home to the bathroom with a loo, large power shower and sink and the second door opens up into a hidden bunk room. The kids absolutely adored their own little space and there were little hatches from their bunks into the main part of the hut where they'd poke their heads through. Although the space has been very cleverly used, we found that Rowan Hut really lacks storage - there is nowhere to put anything so we ended up storing our bags in the shower. I'd recommend packing very light or if you're staying for more than one day, maybe keep some things in the car.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut bunk beds

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut double bed on mezzanine

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut copper sink

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut pans

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut lighting

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut double bed

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut towels

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut shower and toilet

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut porch

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut bunk bed shutter

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut lemon cake

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut coffee and marshmallows

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut hot water bottle


A Digital Detox at Hesleyside Huts

We found that some of the huts had pretty good phone signal and others didn't. If we stepped two paces into the woods we had 4G but in front of our hut there was nothing. I had phone signal in the bedroom upstairs but not in the kitchen.  This gave us the perfect excuse to stop worrying about Social Media and take a bit of a break. There's even a special box for you to surrender your phone into and Steve mentioned last night that we should maybe implement the idea at home as not being a slave to our phone did us all the world of good.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut lanterns

My three love playing in the woods and made the most of the hour or so before darkness crept it. They grabbed the provided lanterns and scoured the surrounding woods for kindling for our fire and other treasures (mostly acorns). This was so much more fun than playing X Box and they actually did a pretty good job of finding the right sort of twigs for the fire.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - kids exploring in woods

Later on we had a family game of dominos and the kids enjoyed a couple of card games together too.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - kids playing dominos

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - mobile phone box

Time to reconnect as a family 

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - family time on the deck

The large decking area just drew us in and it's where we spent most of our time. The area is covered and well-lit  - just such a welcoming space. Sitting on the rocking chairs we had many interesting chats over the weekend - everything was discussed from sustainable living to our favourite bands and space travel. As a busy family it was so lovely to have a space and the time to just talk like this. It was a pretty mild October evening but I suspect we'd still sit out here in the snow.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - chatting in rocking chairs

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - kids outside at dusk



Building Campfires at Hesleyside Huts 

Now I don't want to boast, but we're pretty much experts at building fires now. We had a private lesson last year and the kids learn this kind of thing during residential weekends at school. Steve even has his own fire-making kit should we ever need it. If there's a chance to build a campfire, we'll do it. Rowan Hut has it's own fire pit and you can cook on here if you really want to go back to basics. We played it safe with marshmallows and s'mores. Toasting marshmallows around a campfire is one of the best activities you can do with your kids. We all can't get enough. 

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - rowan hut fire pit

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - building a campfire with kids

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - Rowan campfire

Steve has a special 'campfire songs' playlist on his phone so we popped it on and all had a dance around the campfire. It was the perfect way to let loose and have a bit of fun. We joked that we were like Druids dancing around the fire and if anyone could see us I'm sure they'd wonder what on earth we were doing.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - toasting marshmallows

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - making s'mores

A bath under dark skies

Something that really added to the magic of Rowan Hut was its outdoor bath tub. There is ample hot water (we filled it up three times during our stay) and it's lovely and deep. Harry is 12 now and I think it's a bit of an awkward stage in life where your emotions are all over the place and anger and frustration can appear pretty quickly. It was lovely for me to be able to run him a bath and he said that lying under the stars in the hot water was the most relaxed he's been in ages.


Too much information alert but later on in the evening, Steve and I set the kids away playing UNO inside the cabin and jumped in the bath ourselves. I can't remember the last time we did this. However, we had only just cheers'd our Prosecco glasses when we could hear the game of UNO descend into chaos inside. This happens every single time when Jack plays. He just can't handle losing! So we brought Jack outside with us and he sat on the rocking chair and let his tantrum run it's course whilst we tried to enjoy our romantic bath for two. The three seconds of romance were nice while they lasted.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - outdoor bath

Eco-toiletries are provided and we loved the bath scrub. If you'd like bubbles, remember to bring your own.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - eco toiletries

Star-gazing and ghost stories

Hesleyside Huts sit under Northumberland National Park's protected dark skies. We have stayed in Kielder in the past and experienced these skies before yet despite also living in Northumberland myself, the skies in this part of Northumberland will really blow you away every single time. You literally can't see your hand if you hold it in front of your face. It's amazing! You can borrow telescopes if requested in advance and you'll find binoculars and star-gazing books in your hut. It was cloudy during our stay but we still spotted a couple of stars, loved looking at the moon and were just astounded at how dark it was.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - binoculars in rowan hut

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - reading stargazing book at night

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - stargazing at night

A torch is provided and as Halloween was approaching, we couldn't resist sharing a couple of ghost stories on the decking before bed. 

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - telling ghost stories

The best wake-up call and breakfast delivered 

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - kids playing in bunk room

We all slept very well.  Our house in Cramlington has street lights glaring through the window and again, the fact that it was pitch black dark in the huts was a novelty. Our beds were super comfy and we were lovely and warm with our hot water bottles and central heating.


I woke up to Heidi and Jack whispering that there were chickens and peacocks outside and that we needed to get up and have a look. They turned out to be pheasants and the field in front of our hut was covered with them - maybe 30 or so pecking the grass and walking around in their silly way. For the second time I felt like I was sitting in a movie (this time it was Danny the Champion of the World). We opened our hut doors and being surrounded by wildlife like this was just the best way to start the day - definitely beats scrolling Facebook.


We also realised that we'd left a packet of cooked chicken drumsticks outside overnight by mistake and were delighted to discover that the packet had been opened and they'd all been eaten. We're pretty sure a fox must have visited us overnight. The kids spent the morning looking for wildlife trails and clues and we were so excited that a fox had visited our decking.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - pheasants in the morning


For £20 extra you can opt to have breakfast delivered at a time to suit. I'd definitely recommend doing this and our breakfast basket of treats was delicious and set us up for the day. With warm bread and croissants, Northumberland sausages and local bacon, cereal, fruit juice, eggs and milk, there was plenty to go around and we even brought some of the eggs home with us for the following day.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - breakfast basket delivered

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - family breakfast basket


Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - fresh croissants

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - kids cereal

Who'd have thought an al-fresco breakfast with the family in mid-October was possible? But it is and it was lovely.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - al fresco breakfast

Homeward bound 

Check-out is a fairly early 10am at Rowan Hut. We only stayed for one evening (we were squeezed in - a 2 night minimum stay usually applies) and as we didn't arrive until after 5pm and had to leave at 10am, I don't think we had the chance to fully appreciate what Hesleyside Huts had to offer or to fully relax and unwind. We were getting there though. It felt as if our morning was spent trying to rush around cooking breakfast, washing up, putting dishes away, taking the bins out and stripping the beds and it wasn't a relaxing end to our stay. I 100% think you need to book two nights to really benefit from the magic of Hesleyside Huts. A lie in and slower paced morning along with a full day here would have been perfect.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - kids in woods


Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts  - walk back to car

We were sad to say goodbye to Rowan Hut and none of us were ready to leave. Steve wants to return in the summer and I imagine sitting on the decking with the sun on your face is wonderful. I think Winter would also be an ideal time to visit as you'd be lovely and snug and it's the perfect place to escape the Christmas madness for a few days. I loved our autumnal trip though and think this time of year is perfect for a little glamping retreat. It's not too cold outside, the woods look gorgeous and it gets dark pretty early so you can experience Northumberland's dark skies.


After packing the car up we popped to Carriages Tearoom Bellingham which is just under 2 miles away. The tea room is a converted train carriage and serves a wide selection of meals, afternoon tea, Sunday lunches, cakes, scones and drinks. We loved it and think if you're visiting Hesleyside Huts you must pop in. The kids will love it. Heidi and Harry were so cute sharing a pot of tea.

Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts - train carriage tea room in Bellingham

Other ideas for visiting the area with kids include walking to Hareshaw Linn ( again under two miles away - New Girl in Toon has the details here) or perhaps trying the free Highway Rat Trail at Kielder.


Want to read more? Check out these blogger reviews: 
Disclosure - we were invited to stay at Hesleyside Huts on a complimentary basis in exchange for this post. all thoughts and words are our own. 


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Experience Northumberland's Dark Skies with a Stay at Hesleyside Huts




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9 comments

  1. I love the rocking chairs, such a nice touch and who doesn't dream of having their own cabin with a front porch, it really does look like a scene out of a movie!

    So glad you had such a lovely time, nothing beats escaping to the country with no mobile phone signal!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I honestly felt like I was in a movie! x

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  2. I love the distressed wood look of this place! So cool. Your attempt to have a romantic hot tub moment made me smile. Isn’t life like that these days??

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  3. Looks ace!!! Will def keep in mind for the spring. As you know I’m not going back camping now I’ve discovered glamping ��

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  4. ooh I love the look of this. It looks great and perfect for those maybe not quite into camping. It looks a lot of fun x

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  5. What a great review, well done Sam. It sounds magical and you’ve described it so well, I really feel like I can visualise it. And look at you getting all Stef Michalak and getting out the car to get it in shot! Isn’t that just life with kids, 2 minutes of romance before all he’ll breaks lose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha I needed to open the gate ;-)

      Yep! Romance is dead xx

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  6. This looks lush, I bet it was so relaxing and beautiful - I love the Northumberland countryside. The kids really want to go camping but I said maybe glamping and this looks ideal, we have been looking for somewhere for a little break after the wedding to chill out with the little two so I will add this to the list x

    ReplyDelete

I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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