Sky Den: in the bedroom on stilts in Northumberland that offers guests fantastic nighttime views
If you hit a big green button while curling up in a duvet with the love of my life, you might think I’m getting ready for some serious bedroom fun, and you might be right.
The button operates hydraulics that split a high roof, revealing above the double bed the inky Northumbrian sky and the kind of starscape now impossible to see in light-polluted cities.
We are in a bedroom on stilts, the highest part of the Sky Den, a three piece cabin/tree house combination at £180 per night designed in 2013 by cubbyhole connoisseur George Clarke. This sky-facing self-catering accommodation was part of the second series of the Channel 4 program George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.
The Sky Den, a three-piece cabin/treehouse combination from £180 per night, designed in 2013 by cubbyhole connoisseur George Clarke. It is composed of three different shapes, a circle, a square and a triangle
Sky Den featured in the second series of the Channel 4 program George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces
Up, up and away: Carlton launches his drone from duvet level in the Sky Den bedroom
The bedroom capsule sticks out in the trees, nearly 20 meters above a noisy burn, a tributary of the North Tyne
If an eco-conscious little-is-beautiful James Bond villain of the future were ever to make a micro-den for themselves, they could do worse than mimic the Sky Den’s roof-scraping design: It’s just amazing.
Located above the rippling Cranecleugh burn on the forest campus of the Calvert Trust charity, the Sky Den was built to take advantage of the literally amazing nighttime views in Europe’s largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park. This astronomy-based designation for the Kielder water and forest park – shared jointly with Northumberland National Park – was awarded by the International Dark Skies Association.
The Sky Den consists of three different shapes, a circle, a square and a triangle. Unlike the blockbuster Netflix series Squid Game, the shapes signify nothing more than Mr. Clarke’s desire for geometric symmetry.
The bedroom capsule, with the roof closed, is the triangle and is the highest part, jutting into the trees nearly 20 meters above the noisy burn, a tributary of the North Tyne.
The plaza is the main living space, with glass doors opening onto a balcony overlooking the burn. The circle is a giant corrugated drainpipe from the highway, which also faces the burn. It is an outdoor area with a wood burning stove, blankets and a folding table.
Waking up to a Sky Den sunrise. The Sky Den’s bedroom has room for a double bed only
If an eco-conscious little-is-beautiful James Bond villain of the future were ever to make a micro-den for themselves, they could do worse than mimic the Sky Den’s amazing roof-scraping design, Carlton says
The circle – made from a recycled highway drain pipe – houses a wood-burning stove
The Sky Den’s bedroom only has room for a double bed and the main living space is also on the small side, although the concertina style glass doors can be folded away to bring the outside in.
Despite its stingy footprint, the Sky Den can comfortably accommodate four people, two in the top pod, accessed via open-to-the-element steps, and a further two in single wooden beds that fold out of the wooden walls.
Living space is scarce when you enter, and figuring out how to build the stools, extend the dining table, or fold out a wall to separate the living space from the kitchen is a test of intelligence.
The Sky Den was built to take advantage of the literally amazing nighttime views in Europe’s largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park
The Sky Den comfortably sleeps four people, two in the top pod and a further two in single wooden beds that fold out of wooden walls (shown)
Carlton’s wife, Jude, is pictured on the left looking at the pull-out bed. Pictured on the right are the parts for the Sky Den’s stools, embedded in the walls
Parts for the stools are embedded in the walls, held in place by latches, and there are pull-out drawers and notches that hold the usual self-care trinkets. (We didn’t get to the room hiding the gin glasses until we cleared it out before we left – gin and tonic tastes great from mugs, though.)
The focus for those staying in the Sky Den is viewing the sky, but we also broke open the roof one morning to catch a precious few minutes of sunrise before the clouds came in. The view from the comforter was – briefly – remarkable, but I expanded the experience by launching my drone from the bed. While the red-and-gold sunrise in the bedroom was soon over, I could chase it with my gaze in the sky.
Through my iPhone screen, tied to the droneI could see Kielder Water in the distance, boats bobbing against a pink-purple layer of water. (Kielder Water is Northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, created in 1981 by flooding a remote valley close to the border between Scotland and England.)
Jude is pictured here cycling over a bridge crossing a Kielder Water inlet
On the Kielder Water sculpture path is Silvas Capitalis (a play on words on the Latin for ‘forest head’). The head is conceived as a spectator, an imagined presence that has observed the transient occupation of the landscape over the past millennia and how the environment has changed dramatically over the past hundred years.
Jude rides the Osprey trail – an undulating mountain bike trail for intermediate riders – above Kielder Water
Lush landscape: Kielder gets a lot of rain, so the forest is wonderfully green
Carlton and Jude are pictured here in one of the Janus chairs. These are made from laminated Douglas fir from the Scottish border, with polished stainless steel backs, the three one-piece seats – approximately three meters high and one meter wide – can be rotated or moved
Later that day, we drove along the lake, along the 45-mile trail along the water. We had rented electric mountain bikes from The bike place next to the 18th-century Kielder Castle, a former hunting lodge.
We took a detour through the woods and followed the Osprey trail, an undulating mountain bike trail for intermediate riders. (A small population of ospreys nest in the woodland, which is also home to half of England’s native red squirrels.)
Back on the water we explored the many sculptures those dots on the lake. On the drive back to our treehouse/hut combination, we passed the dirt road to Kielder Observatory, but we decided to give it a miss – we could open the roof of the Sky Den and gaze at the stars at our leisure.
The Sky Den is a Calvert Trust holiday residence in Kielder. It costs £180 per night, via Canopy and stars, and is usually fully booked many months in advance. Because of this popularity, there is likely to be little incentive — or time — for the charity to renovate the property. Still, it could use a revamp, get rid of mold from the roof space and give the entire property a much-needed deep clean. The campus—with a high ropes course and a roller coaster-style zipline—is home to nine other self-catering log cabins, including the five-star Straker Chalet.