All about Centerparcs holiday parks for family breaks away
What is Center Parcs?
Centerparcs is a group of holiday parks in the UK located in Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire and Suffolk. They all have a country theme, set in pine forests. There are a further 14 in France, The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. I am going to focus on one particular park, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, just a couple of miles from Penrith.
Center Parcs sites are all superficially similar, with a Village Centre, Sports Centre, lake for water sports and lots of woodland
There is a wide range of accommodation across the village from bedsit apartment type double or twins to four bedroom two floor lodges sleeping up to 8. There can be 2 children under 2 in each lodge which don’t count in the numbers.
All apartments/ lodges have bathrooms, cooker, fridge, bbq area and equipment, patio doors and one cot and high chair; additional ones can be booked and paid for. The comfort and comfort plus accommodation is basic and can be a little run down, but is cheap and cheerful and has just as pretty surrounding. The new style and original lodges do tend to be a bit nicer, in better condition. However, we have never experienced dirty or unpleasant accommodation in over 10 trips. The most expensive accommodation has been recently refurbished and often comes with dishwasher and toiletries. A few lodges have washing machines, hot tubs and maid service but you do pay a premium for these.
You can pay extra to choose the exact lodge you will be staying in and there is a map on the centerparcs website. It is graded by proximity to the village centre, but I think it is equally good to be near the sports centre. If you are happy to be located in any lodge still available with the type of accommodation you have chosen you need pay no supplement. We have never paid the supplement and out of ten visits have only been a little out of the way once.
There is some accommodation adapted for people with disabilities. This tends to be close to the village centre, which you don't pay more for, but there is still a choice of price ranges. There are braille maps around the site and push pad doors.
Arriving at Center Parcs
You can stay in centerparcs for a weekend (Fri-Mon), weekdays (Mon-Fri) or week (Fri-Fri). Weekdays tend to be slightly cheaper, but school holidays are always significantly more expensive. You can access your accommodation from 3pm on your start day and must depart by 10am on your leaving day. You can drive to your accommodation on your start day from 3-10pm and you can drive to recollect your belongings on your leaving day up to 10am but at no other time; you must park in the large car park on site. The exception is some people with disabilities who can park cars outside the lodge, but they cannot drive around in them. The rest of the time the only vehicles on site are service vehicles and cycles. You can take your own cycles or hire them on site for approximately £25 per person per stay with a free lock.
You can get to centerparcs via train and then a short walk to the bus station; buses go to centerparcs every hour and the parcmarket sells enough to allow you to travel lighter if needs be.
Clip of Zip Wire at Longleat
There are a huge range of activities available, which are all pre-bookable. Activities can be booked in advance online or over the phone and many people do. Activities are around £5-40 depending on what you want to do and some are a little on the costly side. However, it’s true to say that there is nowhere else you can do the breadth of activities so it is worth it. The swimming complex is in the village centre and is free with no need to pre-book and includes various slides, an outdoor pool, rapids and wave pool. You can do high adrenaline activities like quad biking, paintballing,and climbing. You can do water sports like sailing and windsurfing. You can do dance, yoga and relaxation classes or get a pass to the gym. You can do badminton, tennis and golf and a wide range of other sports as well as horse riding and golf putting.
There are also lots of guided nature walks, sessions with owls, birds of prey and other nature activities with experience staff at the Ranger's Lodge
Around the Site
The Village Centre houses most of the shops on site including the Parcmarket which is like SPAR, toys, sweets, gifts, swimming shop and sunglasses. It also has most of the restaurants within the park including Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Huck’s (American diner), the American Pancake House and a Starbucks. Be aware you can’t use Tesco clubcard vouchers at Bella Italia or Café Rouge in Centerparcs. The main reception is based here too. Kids Club is here too which is essentially a crèche or staff-led activities. Three hour sessions fully supervised are around £18 depending on the age of the child but they will take them from 3 months old in age appropriate themed sessions. There are also parent and child sessions, typically an hour which are £6-10. Look out for the Teddy Bear's picnic with Rupert the Bear. All of these are pre-bookable.
The Lakeside Inn is a pub in the middle of the park with the odd quiz and a free soft play area. The Sports Plaza is a complex with all of the sports courts and a large payable smaller kids play area, a Sports Bar & restaurant/ café and free small soft play area with pool and snooker tables upstairs. There is also a curry house Rajinda Pradesh. It houses a ‘corner shop’, Movenpick ice cream parlour and sports clothing. Within the area is crazy golf and a spa complex. This spa, Aqua Sana offers the usual massages, facials, hairdressers and treatments as well as a 3 hour spa session offering 12 rooms from saunas to steam rooms. These tend to be around £38 per session although from 6-10pm each evening you can often get 2 for £40 deals.
Centerparcs Family Hols
Center Parcs with Children
Center Parcs is a fantastic place for a holiday especially with small children including babies and toddlers. There are baby changing and accessible toilets in every area. Every restaurant has lots of high chairs and many have free Hipp baby food jars, microwaves and bottle warming, bibs, bowls and spoons as well as colouring sheets and crayons. Kids can run around safely, there are plenty of outdoor play areas and many people going have children. We've never feel so relaxed out and about with my three year old as we do at centerparcs and we've felt this since we took her aged 6 months. They also sell everything you could need for your child in the parcmarket so you don't need to worry if you forget something.
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