So, here it is my Centre Parcs Longleat review…
Firstly, Bluestone vs Centre Parcs?
We live in Cardiff and so in the past we’ve always been to Bluestone, because it’s close.
However, last time we found it to be getting a little overcrowded. New cabins are shooting up very quickly and there was lots of building work going on. This meant that the guest only swimming, which happens for an hour first thing, was so packed, that the fear of brushing feet with total strangers beneath the water was no longer just a fear, but a total reality. Don’t like touching my own feet let alone anyone else’s. (shudders)
We were also disappointed, last time we went, by the fact the pub/village square kids disco and activities seemed to be no more. We always loved that. The kids were entertained for an hour whilst the mums and dads squeezed in as many pints as possible before heading back to the cabin for dinner. Everyone was happy, or at least pissed.
Lastly in my opinion, the activities had gotten a bit lame. One example was an activity that was billed as ‘puppet theatre’. Now, my kids do actually go to the theatre. They also own a really cute shadow puppet theatre, and quite often produce shows, which are pretty entertaining. Ok maybe not fit for a West End transfer, but still.
The Bluestone puppet theatre however was just a video played off YouTube. I KNOW!!! Keith Harris turning in his grave right? My 4 year old was horrified and about 2 mins in she turned to me with a face like thunder and said “Mummy this is not real theatre.” Very middle class, but also spot on kiddo.
So How about Centre Parcs?
This year we thought we’d try Centre Parcs. My girls are 6 and 4 and to be fair, they loved it. It’s worth bearing in mind that is definitely a ‘doing’ holiday and I was knackered after five days there, to the point where I actually could have done with another holiday. On a remote island. Alone.
Was my Timetable too Loaded?
We did book a LOT of activities, which I maybe wouldn’t do next time. This meant we spent a lot of time rushing from one thing to the next, with me like Anneka Rice on whizz screaming ‘WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE!!!!’ at my poor family at least 70 times a day. This kind of sometimes did make the vibe a bit, how should I put it… stressy?
The Centre Parcs Review…
Instead of just rambling on I thought I’d cover what I think are the 5 main important areas –
1. The Park (or Parc?)
Nego stuff: Centre Parcs is a forest, so kind of cold and dark even when the sun is out. It’s also very big so if you are staying in the Fir area (which we were) it does take a good half hour to cycle or get the train (or as my mate’s mum calls it ‘The Wally Trolley’) over to the other side where the Plaza/pool are.
Personally, I didn’t like the big barbed wire fences at the perimeter. It felt a bit Hunger Games if you ask me. To be fair, there have been cases of people breaking in to steal bikes, so I guess that it’s for security.
The Centre Parcs Village Square is NOT a village square. I was expecting a shop and a bakery and a cosy pub. All it had was an ok-ish restaurant, a take-away, and lots of activity huts in a very strange layout. Not a hanging basket in sight.
The shops/eating places are all VERY expensive. If you are on a budget make sure you pack essentials like snacks, all your food and most importantly your booze.
Pozzo stuff: It was a very beautiful forest, which was full of wildlife. We even saw a deer one morning in our back garden, which was lush. Oh and also a pheasant which my littlest kept calling an ostrich. They’re city kids, so nature is not their strong point.
The Facilities were pretty good…
Clean and well maintained, (eeew did I just say well maintained?) especially the pool, which had loads of fun slides and areas for the little uns to play. Worth noting that some of the slide signs can be a bit confusing. I ended up dragging my too short 6 year old on a ‘very fast/slightly dangerous for a small person who can’t yet swim’ slide only to be aggressively whistled at by the spotty, teenage life-guard. Mum ‘lej’ status through the roof though yeah?
The outdoor treetop climbing area by the lake was VERY COOL. It had a real buzz about it during the day. This was by far the best Centre Parcs activity. My husband and 6 year old LOVED IT.
There are LOADS of exciting playgrounds at Centre Parcs, cheaper than the activities as they were free, and sometimes just as much fun.
2. The Cabin
Nego stuff: Ok let’s not kid ourselves here, basically a middle-class caravanning holiday innit? Our bottom of the range cabin in the Fir area was packed in with all the other cabins and was basically a very unattractive looking wooden shed. View out the back was a load of brambles and a massive barbed wire fence so nothing to write home about.
Centre Parcs do not provide things like washing up liquid, a sponge and a good knife. These are always things you need, so make sure you pack them.
Pozzo stuff: It was pretty nice inside and we had everything we needed. Clean and cosy and comfortable which was fine as we only really slept there anyway.
3. The Activities
Nego stuff: Sometimes the activities were quite far apart and so it was a bit of a faff getting form one end of the park to another. Especially the Outdoor Activity Centre, which was located about a 10 minute walk outside of the main entrance. It took at least 45 mins to get there from our side of the park as the Wally Trolley goes nowhere near.
WARNING; do not do the treasure hunt with little ones. The clues were so spread out it was a mission on par with an SAS training session. It was supposed to take an hour and a half but it took us 3 hours! This actually included 2 pub stops towards the end when we were losing the will to live.
By some miracle we did manage to come third. I’m still convinced we tagged on to the next scheduled hunt and that we stole someone else’s certificate…oh well, the kids were happy.
In case you fancy cheating the answer to the hunt anagram is ‘TREEHOUSE’. Half-way through the hunt I did actually Google ‘Centre Parks Treasure Hunt cheat/answer’ and nothing came up so yeah, now something will… Oh shut up, it’s not really cheating, it’s using your initiative.
A Health and Safety Warning!!!
If you do the off road mini jeeps. You have to walk alongside your kid in their jeep, helping them steer. My kid decided to drive over onto my foot. It really hurt. Not only did she drive over my foot, but she also took her foot off the gas at that crucial, bunion crushing moment and the power cut out. That deceptively heavy toy vehicle was right on top of my foot for a good 30 seconds before I figured out how to turn it back on and reverse it off. I howled like a banshee, which made my 4-year-old burst into tears because she was so frightened/upset she’d hurt me. So yeah, that was not fun.
The mum behind was giving me pure evils throughout may I add, and was looking at me as if I’d actually taken a shit on the bonnet of her kid’s car. Wasn’t my bloody fault. Cow bag.
4. The Cycling
Pozzo stuff: We took out own bikes but the hired ones looked pretty good and the cycle-centre staff were really helpful and efficient (we forgot to pack helmets so went down there to hire them). I did a recce on day one as I had heard rumours of a flat-ish route across the top of the park from our shed to the Plaza. It’s called Wessex Way, and is the ONLY way to go with little ones who are not very confident at hills.
I loved the cycling. Surely it’s what Centre Parcs is all about right? It was lush seeing my 6-year-old growing in confidence on her bike. More importantly all that cycling meant that I could consume more calories, which I find is always a bonus.
Nego stuff: The hills. Pretty hilly in places which was a challenge for my 6-year-old at times as well as being a total thigh burner for me with my 4-year-old on the back of my bike. It’s also worth noting that Centre Parcs is meant to be car free, but there were still lots of housekeeping vehicles on the road as well at the Wally Trolley you did still have to be very careful.
5. The Food
Nego stuff: Centre Parcs has pretty unimaginative, bland, chain, family friendly junk food as you would imagine. Also the prices!!!! You may need to think about re-mortgaging your house if you want to take your family of 4 out for a meal when you’re there. You’ll also need to book well in advance at busy times as we found trying to get food in the Plaza on our first night pretty impossible.
Pozzo stuff: We only ate out a few times. Once in the Sports Bar where the burgers were actually pretty good. (They’d have to be for £15 right?) We also ate in the Pancake House, which was tasty and did the job… If the job is filling your kids with sugary shite so that they don’t sleep until gone 9, even though they’ve done enough activities to presume unconsciousness for a WEEK! Hmmm, maybe not so positive after all?
So that’s it my friends, my honest, frank (tad funny?), Centre Parcs Longleat review. We enjoyed it on the whole but would we go back? Not sure. Personally I’m not a fan of revisiting the same places so any suggestions of alternatives are very welcome…
Thanks as always for reading and please share with anyone you think will find useful.