A January Break at Centreparcs, Longleat Forest
So here we are again, “Home sweet home….!” Although in this case we are not actually home, we are back in our happy zone having another family break at Centreparcs. We (that is our little family of a Mum, Dad and two girls) have been to Longleat a number of times over the years and in various seasons; this time we opted for an out of season winter break, took advantage to upgrade our lodge to an executive version and even made sure we had logs for the fire waiting for us on arrival in early January – something to blow away the Xmas cobwebs (and to paraphrase Christina Rossetti) help us get through the ‘bleak mid-winter’.
So, what keeps bringing us back to this ‘little forest’ down the road? I guess we each have our own individual reasons which, collectively, keep pulling us back – for me (Mum) it’s the sheer peacefulness, it never fails. Even though there are lots of other people and the cabins are relatively close together, their outlook and clever placing means that I feel like I am completely alone in an ocean of trees and it just grounds me. I love the switch off from reality and the back to nature environment with all the mod cons of home, and unless you are in one of the many action zones you really can feel like you are the only family there.
The dry British weather allowed for an abundance of daily walks, which were smothered with sweet cold January air (there are no cars allowed on site at the cabins once you have unpacked) down to the various zones. The girls scooting off ahead, leaving me and the other half hand in hand squinting at the low winter sunshine as we watched them race ahead in anticipation of the day’s adventures, was a real unexpected charm at this time of year.
For my other half it’s a little bit of everything, the quiet outlook, the photographic opportunities, the convenience – oh and the swimming pool, (but more about that later), but mostly it’s probably the lodge itself – they are self-contained, with everything you need; a fully functioning kitchen, separate en-suite bedrooms (in the case of our particular cabin, complete with whirlpool bath!) and even an outdoor BBQ, although perhaps this was wishful thinking in January…you can arrive with your shopping (as we did/do) and you can be set for the week (Wine and all of course) that said when we have been less organised we have ventured into the on-site supermarket, its well-stocked and pretty much has everything you need from ‘Cab-Sav’ to cous cous, (albeit arguably at a slight premium we feel) or you can opt at a supplement to have a welcome pack already with essentials in your cabin for arrival.
So what about the kids? My husband thinks that they enjoy the freedom to scoot along the (many) paths and explore the vast amount of woodland, building dens, exploring the safe freedom or that they relish an old-fashioned board game we play as a family, cosily sat in our lodge in PJs after dinner, I guess he is partly right on both counts, however if you actually ask them though then it easily comes down to two main things:
Firstly, being together as a family and the ‘extra’ activities – I say ‘extra’ as there are so many, that you can do just about anything during your break for these though a charge is required – the prices vary but we try to allow for a few each time. During this little 5 day break we opted and paid for Human football pool, Ten-pin bowling, Indoor rock climbing, Crazy golf and Junior Quad Biking. Centre Parcs for us always works best when you pre-plan your adventure before you come giving down time and excitement throughout the week.
Watch out, as some of the really popular activities get booked up early so you have to be quick (swimming with a mermaid tail anyone?) but generally if you are prepared to be flexible then we have found that we can find a suitable time and day that fits. This time round, no surprise for us, the Quad Biking was the easy winner (albeit the most expensive) the hour spent throttling the quads around the woods was a sheer joy for both girls a new experience and one that will carry memories for a long while…….
Secondly, and probably the biggest pull for our kids is the (truly epic) swimming pool – you see at Longleat the word ‘swimming pool’ simply does no justice; it is the centre of the park and is basically a huge covered indoor, tropically heated water fun zone.
The centre has a large tropical lagoon pool (periodically awoken by Tarzan, which summons a substantial wave machine) and then from this there is a lazy river which you can float around, every age group is catered for with a toddler Pirate themed play area, various large (group and individual) tunnels, slides and rides, an indoor jacuzzi, outdoor hot tub (We always end our water visit here to warm our bodies and watch the stars, a must for us!) an outdoor pool which leads to the centrepiece, what we call ‘the rapids’. Not for the faint hearted, this fast flowing, downward ‘river’ which has numerous slides, mini waterfalls, cascades you (and your family, a strong swimmer is a must) along for what feels like an eternity, finally spitting you out, breathless and laughing back inside. Yes, for sure, this is their highlight, I know this because its where they spend most of our time, in the pool, racing down the rapids, for at least 5 to 6 hours a day (more if we would let them) Even this time, in January we found ourselves being squirted along outdoors in the cold January air, steam rising from the hot water, until 9pm most evenings!
All said and done a fantastic little week’s break, which simultaneously wore us all out (lots of walks and swimming) whilst really recharging our batteries. On the last day we even managed a long swim and lunch poolside after packing up the lodge (cars are allowed on site from 7am to aid with this and then are removed back to the carpark! – it hadn’t moved all week) before heading back along the motorway, arriving home a few hours later, ready to face the the months ahead; here we are again, “Home sweet home….!”