Whitelee Moor

Whitelee Moor - Geoff Dobbins

Whitelee Moor. Image by Geoff Dobbins.

Whitelee Moor is one of Britain's most important upland nature reserves. It's a site of European conservation importance due to its active blanket bog and heather heaths.


Carter Bar
near Byrness

OS Map Reference

NT 700 040
A static map of Whitelee Moor

Know before you go

1510 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Parking at the tourist car park at Carter Bar and on laybys on the forest track at the reservoir end.

Grazing animals

Whitelee is grazed as it has been for hundreds of years, but levels of sheep and cattle are carefully controlled.

Walking trails

The reserve is remote and wild, and the weather can change quickly. Visitors should have hill-walking experience if attempting long walks. The public footpath from Carter Bar leads directly onto the ridge, which is then followed across the higher part of the reserve before leaving via the southern boundary. The path is mostly unmarked and crosses inhospitable terrain which can be very difficult in poor weather. There is a permissive footpath along the forest track, with open access onto the moor, but the terrain is often difficult.


There are three main access points from the A68. From the public car park at Carter Bar (OL16 NT698068), a 5-bar gate on a latch and a single swinging gate give access via a public footpath to a broad and level track leading onto the reserve. This track is usually very wet and boggy, but after a short walk, a second gate gives access to the moor. A footpath enters the reserve beside a livestock shed and yard (OL16 NT719046). A narrow single gate leads directly to a steep flight of ten steps onto rough grassland. In the south-east corner of the reserve, a 5-bar gate gives access to a forest track NT698068 (permissive footpath) beyond which a undulating track with a reasonable surface leads to the south-eastern boundary of the reserve. The terrain is generally rough and marshy, although the lower forest track provides negotiable access for wheelchairs for a short distance.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times


Best time to visit

Spring to autumn

About the reserve

A large part of the reserve is rare blanket bog, which is home to a variety of plants including sphagnum mosses, cloudberry, bog asphodel and cotton grasses. The site includes blanket bog, heather moorland, rough grassland and acid grassland, with pockets of valley fen and a few calcareous habitats. The River Rede and its tributaries add to the habitat diversity on the reserve.

It was bought by Northumberland Wildlife trust in 1999 with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Whitelee is grazed as it has been for hundreds of years, but levels of sheep and cattle are carefully controlled. Former drainage channels have been dammed to make sure the bog stays wet and over 35ha of new woodland has been planted, largely birch, rowan, willow and hazel. Some aspen has also been incorporated in the scheme while small amounts of ash and oak have been put in more sheltered spots.

On the lower slopes the heather moorland is home to birds such as red grouse, and birds of prey including merlin, buzzard, peregrine falcon and hen harrier. One of the moor's most striking insects is the northern eggar moth - its brown woolly caterpillars emerge as a large brown day-flying moth. Butterflies such as ringlet, small heath and green veined white are seen in summer. Skylark, stonechat and meadow pipit are common across the site, while on the high ground dunlin and golden plover arrive in spring to breed.

Otters often hunt along the Rede. Adder and common lizard are common here as well as palmate newts on small pools along the burn. A herd of feral goats can sometimes be seen on the border with Kielderhead. There are interesting flush areas with plants such as early marsh orchid. High up the Bateinghope Burn, near Buzzard Crag, are two sets of limekilns, which burned limestone from a nearby quarry and mine.

Contact us

Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Contact number: (0191) 284 6884
Contact email: mail@northwt.org.uk

Environmental designation

National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)