Ok, so since we’ve had children people have continuously sung the praises of center parc holidays and I’ve seen friends make trip after trip in close succession. I couldn’t help but wonder what all the fuss was about. Jump forward to Christmas 2016 and I was hit with the usual panic about what to get family members. With two young children time was short and I was reluctant to buy stuff for the sake of it. We all have so much. We decided to try something new….scrap the pressies for adults and instead go away for a weekend (after all memories are so much more important than stuff that normally ends up collecting dust somewhere). We quickly settled on a weekend at Center Parcs, opting for Sherwood Forest (it was a very manageable drive from our house in Alcester).
Ok so here are the plus points as I see them –
1. The accommodation was surprisingly nice – stylish interiors and spotlessly clean.
We opted for a 3 bedroom woodland lodge and it was perfectly spacious for 5 adults and 2 children. We paid the extra to have a lodge close to the centre although I’m honestly not sure how useful that was. We used our bikes to get from A to B so it wouldn’t have made much difference.
The kitchen was well stocked with a nice selection of pots and pans. The fridge could have been larger but thankfully we had a super-sized cool box that we kept outside (we’re talking January here!). We needed far more space for our wine! I think a drying rack/clothes airer would be a massively useful addition. It was near on impossible to get the swimming towels dry! The heating could also have been on more. We had to keep getting up in the night to put it back on. The views from the window were wonderful (and we weren’t over looked at all). It was amazing to wake up in the morning to watch the sun rise with geese, ducks and squirrels drifting around and pecking at the window. The children were mesmerised.
2. We all enjoyed getting on our bikes and having some fresh air.
I loved the pedestrianised roads and it certainly took the worry out of our toddler on her scooter. The cycling was far more limited than I expected – it was really just restricted to the outside circular road and the odd road running between the various areas. I also expected more in the way of woodland walks (we didn’t really find any).
3. The spa was mostly a wonderful experience. We opted for a pass for around £43 pounds. The range of different rooms and experiences (the steam rooms etc) was incredible – probably the best selection I’ve seen in a long while. The outdoor pool was beautifully warm and made for a real treat. The only downside, and for me a big disappointment, was the relaxation room upstairs. The promotional pictures promised forest views…. instead what we had was covered over glass and machinery and diggers outside the window. Now I appreciate that they were doing up the spa but the lack of view should have been made far clearer when we booked. Don’t forget to take a good book or magazine to make the most of the relaxation areas (and time away from the children!).
I wasn’t keen on the following:
1. The price. The weekend cost £600 for 3 nights (obviously not including food or drink). I can’t help but wonder where else we could have gone and what else we could have done with that sort of money?!? The restaurants (places like the much talked about pancake house), whilst reasonably good, were also, perhaps unsurprisingly, over priced. It cost around £60 for 5 adults and a toddler to have some pancakes! We didn’t do any extra activities (and that was fine by us) – but should you want to enjoy all the wonderful activities on offer you’d have to fork out considerably more money. It could end up costing an awful lot of money.
2. The swimming pool – I had great expectations of the flagship center parc pool. Now our toddler did enjoy it but I have to say, as an adult, I was disappointed. We nicknamed it the dome of hell….far too busy, changing rooms busy and slightly grubby and the water in the pool was actually rather chilly. There was hardly anywhere to sit and it was all a bit tired and shabby. The toddler and baby pool was dark and gloomy. I guess it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
All in all we had a nice weekend away and we certainly enjoyed spending time together as a family. I doubt we’ll return because it’s seriously overpriced. Since coming home I’ve found various other places that offer the same, if not more for considerably less money.
Other top tips:
- The supermarket shuts on a Sunday afternoon at around 4pm – so make sure you get anything you need.
- If you book a restaurant online via the center parcs app you are required to pay a deposit to secure your table. When we asked for our bill they initially forgot that we had done this and almost didn’t take the £25 off the final bill. Remember to check!
- We were glad that we had taken our own travel cot – the one provided was fairly old and didn’t look all that comfortable.
- If you plan to use the open fire in the accommodation then you need to burn the safety logs. You can buy them in various shops but you could also save some money and take them with you!