Holiday Review: CenterParcs, Whinfell Forest
31st October – 4th November 2016
This was our first stay at Whinfell Forest. We stayed at Woburn Forest in 2015, our first CenterParcs holiday. We loved our stay there and knew we would have a CenterParcs holiday again. So here’s my review.
What’s to love:
- The Setting. We were in the forest, which makes a beautiful setting for a holiday. You have the security of the facilities and the beauty of the forest. We love being outdoors as a family so this was perfect for us.
- The Accommodation. You have a variety of accommodation to choose from. From the splendid to the basic. We stayed in a 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge. It was open plan, spacious enough for our family of four, modern and clean. Our lodge although in a group still felt private. Through the front door is a lobby area, perfect for leaving the pram and muddy boots. The bed was soft and very comfortable, the type that you sink into (shame we didn’t get much sleep as our 9 month old was poorly and unsettled!). One of the main things I love about CenterParcs are the provision of essentials needed by families, for example a highchair and a travel cot, bath towels and hand towels. Meaning you don’t have to load up your car with bulky items! The kitchen was kitted out with everything you could possibly need for a family holiday. Dishwasher, microwave, oven, fridge with freezer compartment, cooking utensils, wine glasses, crockery etc. You don’t need to bring dishcloths or tea towels as they are provided, along with a few dishwasher tablets and a sachet of washing up liquid.The views outside our window were of the forest, just gorgeous and so relaxing. Overall the accommodation was comfortable, clean, modern and perfect for a family.
- The facilities. The two main areas within Whinfell forest are the Village Centre and the Sports Plaza.
- The Village Centre is home to a variety of restaurants including Bella Italia, The Pancake House, Cafe Rouge and Hucks American Bar and Grill.There is the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise, this is a huge complex of pools, slides, jacuzzis and a cafe. After getting changed in the family changing rooms you go through the showers into the pool area. It was lovely and warm and buoyancy jackets are provided free of charge. There’s a lovely children’s pool area with small slides, water fountains and a shallow area for the babies.There’s the Activity Den with craft activities for the kids. These activities are plentiful but come at an extra charge, which we felt were reasonable but definitely not cheap.The Green Room is for entertainment, we never used this purely because the entertainment was on a little late for us. Shattered from lack of sleep we just wanted to get back to our cosy lodge, get the kids in bed and open a bottle of wine.There is the Parc Market for groceries and a couple of shops. All of this is under a glass roof and inside you are surrounded by greenery.
- The Sports Plaza, which is only about a 5-10 minute walk from the Village Centre is home to The Sports halls, Climbing walls, Caving experience, a Starbucks and The Sports Cafe. Nearby is the outdoor activity centre with quad biking, archery, clay pigeon shooting etc.
- The Activities. So many activities to choose from. A handful for the babies, plenty for younger children and lots for older children. The activities are held throughout the week. If you don’t want to bring your own bikes you can hire them at the cycle centre. I love the fact that all of this can be done online prior to your holiday. This means that once you are there you can start enjoying your holiday immediately.
- Family orientated. I love that the whole place is geared up for families. You never feel like you’re the only ones with kids making a noise. You never need to worry about finding a baby change room. The staff we encountered were all very helpful.What I learned whilst there is that you can hire a pushchair too. So thats one less thing you need to squash in the car!When booking, you can choose which area you want to stay in. The website states estimated times to get around. I would say they are pretty accurate.
What’s we didn’t love:
- Restaurant bookings. To be fair this can also be done online prior to the holiday. If like us though, you like to decide on the day whether you will cook, order in or dine out (depending what mood the kids are in!) – you may be left with no room at the inn if you decide to dine out! Having young children we prefer to eat about 5-5.30ish. It seems 5-7 is the busiest time slot and tables get booked up in advance. You could of course order in. But again, you need to book a delivery time slot in advance to guarantee your preferred time to eat. This can be done from 3pm. The other option is The Sports Cafe where you don’t book a table, you just turn up. We never ate there so I’m unable to comment on this venue.
- Activity cost. Having younger children the activity session costs were reasonable but the cost could easily mount up if you booked lots. Looking at the range and costs of activities it does appear that the older your children the more expensive the activities get. To me, they did look rather expensive. That said, the Sub Tropical Swimming paradise is no extra charge and you could easily spend half a day in there
What we did:
Baby Sensory session. This was a half hour session, which could have done with being an hour really. We sung a couple of songs then free play. There was lots for the little ones to play with. However no sooner had our son started to explore we were ushered to sit in a circle again for a last song. For the cost, we would have liked a bit longer. Especially as there was so much for him to do.
- Roller Tots. This was great. Our 4 yr old was given all the gear. Knee, elbow and wrist pads, a helmet and the roller skates. The instructor was fab. He taught the kids the right way to get up on their feet and helped them gain confidence with some games. This was pretty funny to watch too, like little ducks on a frozen lake! She loved it and so did I.
- Cupcake Decorating. Lovely 45 minute session. The instructor again was brilliant keeping the kids engaged throughout. My daughter really enjoyed this activity.
- Mini Trek. This is basically the tree top rope adventure for the little ones. My daughter was disappointed she was too short to do the high ropes so we booked her this. They get to feel like they are high up but actually its only about waist high to an average adult. The instructor again brilliant at keeping them interested and having fun by getting them to play a game during their session.
- Ordered in from ‘Dine In’. Luckily we dropped in (you can phone) about 4.45 after realising that all the restaurants were booked up. We booked the 5.30-6 delivery slot. It arrived at 5.40. Hot. Delicious and an ample portion size. Again a little more expensive than your regular take away though.
- The Lakeside Inn. We went here on our first night. This one we had booked online a few week previous. The food was delicious and again portion size was ample. They had your usual kids menu and meal deal with a drink and dessert. We were seated in an area where there was room for our pram and a highchair provided straight away.
- The Pancake House. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Great service. Great kids menu.
- Rajinda Pradesh. After being told they were fully booked for the evening we had decided we’d try the Sports Cafe. On passing the Indian restaurant about 5pm we thought we’d chance it and see if they had a table. It had only just opened and we were seated straight away. Our son being under the weather was unsettled this evening which made it hard work. But we didn’t feel uneasy as it wasn’t busy and the other tables were also occupied by families. We really enjoyed our food. They had a varied menu and again the kids had a choice of a mild curry like mummy and daddy or the usual kids menu items.
- The Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise. Warm, huge and something for everyone. Our daughter loved the water slides, proud that she’d just tipped over the 1m height minimum! That slide was fast, I can’t believe she went back for more. She went on it 4 times! There was a baby area where our son could crawl around in shallow water. We ventured around the maze of swimming pools inside and outside. We went here twice in our 4 night stay and even our 9 month old lasted more than his usual 30 mins.
- A walk/bike ride. At CenterParcs, once unloaded at your lodge you return your car to the main car park, there it stays until you go home. So everywhere you go, you walk or bike it. We loved this. We walked with the pram and our daughter rode her bike. With only the odd maintenance van on the road (and they drove really slow) it was perfectly safe for her on her bike.
- The Fireworks. These were fabulous. We stood viewing them from across the lake. All wrapped up in the cold autumn air. The colours lighting up our faces and the water in front of us. A lovely memory for us to take home.
Would we recommend it?
A big fat YES! Once you unload and leave your car behind, you begin to unwind. You can pack your holiday with activities or do as little as you please. You have the tranquility of the forest but the safety and reassurance of the facilities. Best of all its totally geared up for families, so you never feel out of place or a nuisance. We thoroughly enjoyed it and we’re already thinking of booking again for next year.
Please note we were not paid for this review. This was a holiday we enjoyed and like it that much wanted to share our thoughts with you.