CENTER PARCS WHINFELL FOREST REVIEW
Taking a little one abroad seems a daunting task when they do not travel lightly. So we opted for a visit to Center Parcs at Whinfell Forest, Cumbria as we could pack the entire contents of our house and put them in our car to take with us!
It was approximately one hour and fifteen minutes away from us along the A66, so wasn’t a bad drive at all to do with a little one, although it was his longest time in the car to date.
We managed to get one of the older three bedroomed lodges for under £400 mid-week at the end of April, which seemed like a great deal compared to the prices we’ve been quoted when we’ve looked at other times. From the moment you enter the drive-in check in you know that Center Parcs is well run – they’ve thought of everything!
We did not know how ‘old’ and used it would be as neither of us have been within the past five years, but we had nothing to worry about as the accommodation was well kept and modern inside.
If you’ve never been to Center Parcs before, you are able to access the facilities ahead of your check-in time, which for us on the Monday was 3.30, so access to swimming is popular! Some of the restaurants are closed on the Monday as this is a changeover day. You are able to view and book activities before your stay through the website or app, although you can do this while you are there, please note that things such as bike hire is cheaper if you do it beforehand! I think I paid £29 per bike for booking it beforehand and if I’d done it on the day it would be £41. If you require trailers or child bike seats, I now know that you have to re-enter your booking as you cannot do this at the time of booking – apparently there wasn’t enough room on the web page! As I missed this minor detail, I had to pay when I got there for a trailer for RLT at a cost of £29 for the four days. Children are able to use the trailers from six months, they are a good way to get around with a little one!
There are lots of activities to do with kids of all ages – but most paid activities start for around 18 months plus. The swimming is great for little ones as it is indoors and the pools are heated but also separated so that there is an area for babies only as well as toddlers and then many various deeper pools, rapids and slides. There is a wave machine, which starts off OK but goes wild – floation devices are OK for babies and they also have vests for them to wear, which is useful.
The village centre (pictured below) contains the swimming pools, bowling, starbucks, cafe rouge, Huck’s, and other eateries, clothes shops and a grocery store/bakery (which wasn’t really that badly priced!). Everything is an additional extra at Center Parcs, they’ve made it so easy for you to spend money without realising – you add your card details to your wrist band and they debit your card at the end of your stay! There is the option of taking all of your food and drink with you in your lodge, which is advisable as the prices are a little bit more expensive than you’d usually expect. Swimming is free, however if you need towels it is a £2 per day towel charge.
The accommodation is comfortable and open plan living did make it feel big, but there are lots of sharp edges around the fire surround and a full length radiator on the wall next to the patio doors – so we had to move the leather chair to obstruct it in order for the little one not to get it. It tried to snow a few times while we were there, so it wasn’t the weather for keeping the heating off.
There are cots and highchairs supplied for anything over a two bedroomed lodge, so you don’t have to request them. The cot is extremely deep, easy to put up and comes with a mattress, however it doesn’t come with a cover for the mattress – which baffled me as how was I supposed to know the dimensions of a cot I’d never seen before? On the picture, the cot is by the right hand side of the bed, when it was put up there was absolutely no room between the bed and the cot, so was tricky to get him in.
Our housekeeper apparently forgot to supply us with toilet paper and when we opened the oven the oven tray was full of fat, so this wasn’t great. The apartment was clean, but they obviously hadn’t done a thorough check that they had done everything ahead of our check-in. This along with no cot bedding just felt like housekeeping let it down.
There were many free play parks around the forest, which were great and there was an indoor soft play in the sports centre – it was advertised at £4.25 for a two hour play session, but when I got to the desk they told me it was free for under 1’s. They just didn’t advertise that fact!
Verdict? – A great place to go with kids for a short break and to feel relaxed! Swimming is absolutely brilliant as are the outdoor areas if the weather is right for it. Should probably make some minor modifications to the lodges to make them a little bit more child friendly, in my opinion, Kielder lodges are cosier, but they just don’t have the facilities such as the swimming. It is very easy to go there and spend a further couple of hundred pounds on eating and drinking out – most being chain restaurants and hardly the tastiest things on the planet. I think Center Parcs is perfect for using the accommodation to cook your own food and enjoy the company of your loved ones.