Winfell Forest Center Parcs 2013
Recently my family and I took a long weekend break to one of the award winning Center Parcs Holiday Villages in Cumbria, Winfell Forest.
If you have ever stayed at Center Parcs, whether in one of their 5 UK locations or at one of their overseas villages, you will know how fantastic these types of mini breaks are for the active family who just want to enjoy an environment that has all the amenities we have come to depend upon in modern life but without spoiling nature at its best and without having to travel more than a few hours away from home (a huge bonus for those who are nervous flyers or nervous about flying with children/babies!). The other wonderful thing about this type of holiday is it can be an extended family occasion as well as the lodges can sleep up to 8 people which meant it was easy for my Mum to join us, so lovely as the boys loved having their ‘Maw Maw’ with us.
As we decided to go in early November for Toby’s first birthday we managed to hit the ‘winter wonderland’ period. Everything was decorated for Christmas and between the stunning forest scenery and the lights it was beyond magical. We also took full advantage of the Christmas activities and took the opportunity to meet Santa for the first time. I have to say, I thought this was an ideal alternative to traveling to Lapland, as Reuben is only beginning to understand the exciting concept of Santa Claus and being only two gets tired so fast, I don’t think he’d get to fully enjoy that experience just yet… although being a Christmas addict, it will be something you will read about in the not-too-distant future!
We set off on the friday morning, arriving to the village just before lunch. It was ideal as the boys had a good rest in the car and were able to expend all their energy in the pool upon arrival. We had lunch at one of the many restaurants in the village square and then straight to the pool! The boys exhausted themselves with splashing around and enjoying themselves, in fact they exhausted us too!
We stayed in an exclusive lodge, which meant we had our own spa facilities, so once the boys were in bed we had the option of a sauna, steam room, power shower or hot tub! Relaxing in the hot tub on an evening with such a wonderful scene of peace surrounding us was such a welcome experience.
Not only do Center Parcs have wonderful indoor and outdoor pool facilities that will keep everyone, from babies to hard to please teens, entertained but they also have fantastic a fabulous spa at each location and run activities that will please everyone from the quiet artist to the extreme sports enthusiast. All activities can be pre-booked so it saves so much time and effort once you have arrived. We tried out Mammal Magic (an introduction for young children to small mammals by one of the highly trained and knowledgeable rangers) for Reuben, and he loved it!
When we weren’t in the pool, we hired bikes and took rides through the forest, stopping to admire the squirrels, collect trinkets and enjoy the breath-taking views. It was a great fitness boost for us as well as being family fun!
5 Top Tips to Make your Center Parcs Holiday Memorable:
- Pack a separate swim bag for when you arrive. You won’t be able to go to your accommodation until mid/late afternoon but you can use all the facilities from 8am on your day of arrival so make the most of the pool on this day.
- Pre-book a Cabana at the pool. Especially on your first and last day. The cabanas are luxury huts in the subtropical paradise (pool area) that have a t.v, stereo, comfy lounge chairs, floats to use in the pool, mini bar and a safe. The lockers are not huge at the poolside and I have found that my children will want something I don’t have to hand – their teddies, a drink, food… the list goes on. With a cabana I can pop some cash in the safe so I’m able to nip to the cafe, or food for the baby can go in the fridge. Even if it is something as simple as a nap, the cabanas are quiet and private and you can request a poolside cot. Makes life so much easier!
- Don’t take too much food with you if you intend to self cater. The lodges are all self catering and are fully equipped to fit all culinary needs, but something that a lot of people do (including myself in the past) is buy all of our favorite foods and then cram them in the car with the kids, the luggage and whatever else. Every village has a well stocked market shop carrying most things, making it much more practical for you to leave all of those necessities behind and either preorder them to your lodge or do a quick shop when you arrive.
- Pre fill all of your visitor forms online. Always fill any of your forms out online well in advance of your arrival at the village of your choice. It will save you time and effort when you arrive, making it that much easier to slip into holiday mode.
- Lastly, don’t try to overfill your holiday. I have done this before, totally overbooked activities, because they all sound so tempting and exciting. In the end we were rushing from one activity to another and I felt I was on edge because I didn’t want to be late for things. There is so much to do at Center Parcs, but there is much to be said for resting and relaxing by the fabulous pool, taking woodland walks, bike rides and making your way to the odd activity if you find time. And if you don’t get to do all the things you wanted? Center Parcs offer a fantastic incentive for re-booking within 28 days and they let you book up to 18 months in advance.
Have you been to Center Parcs? Do you have any top tips? I would love to hear what you have to say, please share your comments or send us a message!