I have always spent my holidays abroad apart from some camping in the UK and was very weary of a holiday at Center Parcs, my fear was that it would be like Butlins in the late 1970s. I heard great reports from family and friends so decided to take the plunge last November. This article is very much based around my experience of Center Parcs at Longleat but I believe it is one of the smaller parcs so anything I mention here is probably bigger and better at the other locations.
There are currently 4 Center Parc villages across the UK.
- . Whinfell Forest - Situated in Cumbria
- . Sherwood Forest - Situated in Nottinghamshire
- . Elveden Forest - Situated in Suffolk
- . Longleat Forest - Situated in Wiltshire
The accommodation at Center Parcs is well maintained, the lodges are clean, well equipped and comfortable. There are 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom properties available in a variety of different styles. There are villas, lodges and Apartments to choose from and all have different levels of equipment depending on the type you choose. The accommodation is offered in a variety of forms of comfort, in order of specification these are:
- . Comfort
- . Comfort Plus - adds dishwasher, DVD Player, Bathroom Toiletry pack and Towels
- . Executive - adds hairdryer, telephone, daily towels and daily cleaning of apartment
- . Exclusive - adds an outdoor hot tub
All of these specifications change according to the number of bedrooms and type of accommodation e.g. Villa of lodge. Here is an actual example of the Exclusive 4 bedroom lodge at Longleat -
- . For a maximum of eight people
- . Four bedrooms:
- . Double beds x 2, Twin beds x 2
- . 4 En suite bathrooms
- . Bathroom toiletry pack
- . TV, clock radio and hairdryer in all bedrooms
- . DVD Player
- . Mini hi-fi
- . Dishwasher
- . Steam room, sauna and outdoor hot tub
- . Telephone (call charges apply)
- . Towels are provided and daily
- . Servicing is included in the price
All center parcs have an indoor and outdoor swimming complex, these complexes are excellent fun and from experience you can easily pass 2 or 3 hours with the children in the pool. There are many little slides and flumes for the younger children and also plenty of more daring water slides for the adults. The air is kept very warm and there are facilities for sitting and eating within the complex whilst the older children play.
The swimming complex is within a huge glass dome that also incorporates the village centre, here you will find a supermarket, shops, restaurants and the visitor information centre.
We ate out most evenings and it was very nice to be in an environment where children are welcomed (and expected) and you could have a glass or two of wine with dinner before a leisurely walk home.
In another area of the village there was a Sports complex providing badminton, snooker, squash, pool, a soft play area and another couple of restaurants.
There is also a gymnasium and yoga classes.
Most parcs provide activities including Archery, horse riding and tree top climbing. There are numerous playground areas for the younger children.
Some of the Parcs are large enough to provide golf, sailing and canoeing.
There are babysitting services available (at extra cost) and parents can spend quiet time at the Spa whilst their children are at the creche.
The Parcs do not allow cars onto the site so therefore cycling is the most popular mode of transport. Many people take their own bikes but there is a very well organised bike hire facility available. You can hire bikes for toddlers, children and adults, there are also baby seats for the adult bikes and pull-alongs for those wanting to take 2 children on the back (beware Longleat Parc is very hilly). I found this was an excellent way to get around the site and the children also love the cycling (especially the pull-along).
The cycle hire is cheap and easy, you can also hire helmets and purchase locks.
Each accommodation has a bike rack provided.
Discounts and Offers
Center Parcs are continually offering discounts for midweek breaks and short weekend breaks. If you can go out of the school holidays then I would firmly recommend to do so as it will be considerably cheaper. Once you have been to Center Parcs you may also receive an instant discount if you book your next break within 28 days of leaving.
We personally loved the walking and cycling and the selection of restaurants available. We were never bored and found the whole experience a pleasurable one. We went back for another week in February this year so I guess that says it all really!
To find out more for yourself visit Center Parcs