Center Parcs Whinfell Forest is an outdoor activity holiday set within the rolling hills of Cumbria. Let me walk you through why Center Parcs is my happy place and I’m sure, if you’ve visited you’ll agree, and if you haven’t you be booking to visit on no time.
Why Center Parcs.
Cumbria is a place I know very well. Many a childhood school holiday has been spent there due to having family live in a (very) small village in between Carlisle and Penrith. Sadly, I don’t think I really began to appreciate it’s beauty until my more adult years. However, my husband hasn’t visited much and with two children I’m sure I’ll get to play tour guide for many visits to come.
We decided to book Center Parcs as our familymoon as it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to experience for some time, going back to its first opening as ‘Oasis’. Once you start talking to people about Center Parcs, it’s amazing how many people you know have actually visited. I have a friend who goes at least twice a year and others who have a specific date they return on each year. So to say I was expecting great things was an understatement.
Center Parcs has five villages spread across the UK, with its first village being Sherwood Forest. The villages and their concept brought a new wave and style to the normal ‘family holiday’, which were normally seaside located and brought people back to nature. And that’s what drew me to visiting also, was the outdoor tag line. In a world of ever-evolving technology, it’s great to find somewhere to switch off.
Over our visits we’ve stayed in two types of lodges; a ‘comfort’ lodge and a ‘woodland’ lodge’. Both are more than adequate for what you need, however, I can’t recommend more than being aware of where you lodge is based. Having a young family, we’ve always chosen to be within the ‘central area’. This being closest to the village center. Choosing to be within the central area does incur an additional cost at time of booking. Specifically, we try and stay in ‘Badger wood’, this area within the central area is also super close to the Lakeside Pub, which along with being somewhere to eat as well as hoasting the fireworks at Christmas, also has a small but substantial soft play area for children inside, which helps with losing the energy of children.
What There Is To Do.
Use of the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise is included in your booking, so I thoroughly recommend making the most of it. Opening at 10 am each day it boasts a children/baby area, general pool/wave pool, rapids, heated outdoor pool, a number of slides, jacuzzis, and a teaching pool where bookable activities take place.
Bookable activities. With more than 200 indoor and outdoor activities to choose from, there is plenty on offer. These can be booked prior to your arrival, which we do tend to do, as activities can get booked up quickly. But you can also book activities whilst visiting, at the village center and Sports complex, which we have done a number of times.
Throughout our visits, we’ve participated in a good number of activities, such as;
Toddler Party Hour – With one of our visits being inline with our toddler’s birthday, this sounded like a perfect activity for him to do on the day of his birthday, just to help make him feel a bit special. Party games, dancing, singing and a party bag at the end. Perfect.
Soccer Play – Eldest loves football and over the years and our visits, this activity has been a must. Although he knows what it entails, he loves it none the less. There are two age options, the youngest being a parent and child class and then older being child only. Both are brilliantly lead, with games and obstacle courses to help with coordination and of course fun. Children are also awarded with a certificate and clap at the end.
Messy Play (up to 24 months) is, well, exactly that. Messy! Held at the children’s activity hub in the village center, the room is set up for all the messy play you and your child could imagine. Paint, water, sand, goo, play dough, cornflakes, shaving foam. You get the idea. Side note: change of clothes required and or strip child to bodysuit/nappy.
Zumbini. It was a mixture of dance, songs, and instruments, which is definitely his thing.
Aerial Adventure is very much similar to that of Go Ape.
Mini Tree Trekking.
Our Encounter Some Baby Owls was held at the Rangers Lodge, which is basically the hub for all things nature. We really enjoyed it and the gentleman that was doing the presentation wad great humour. Our little boy wasn’t so sure about stroking the Owls. However, I ended up with some really comical split shot photos of his facial expressions.
The Aqua Sana really is a beautiful space. It’s clean, modern, tranquil and the ladies were nothing but smiley and helpful. The facial was just amazing. Exactly what I’d hoped it would be and exactly what I needed. Though I’ve definitely now caught the Elemis bug! On my way out I ended up making a purchase of a product or two. I didn’t have time to use all the spa facilities, as I wanted to get back to the boys, but I will be making time on my next visit for sure.
Quad Bike Experience.
It’s advised to make restaurant reservations before you arrive, to avoid places being booked, however, you can book to eat out whilst there too. We work on the basis of eating out on at least occasions, the first always being the first night, as with the chaos of travelling, arriving, unpacking, adjusting etc, it’s just easier.
Huck’s American Bar and Grill is always a winner. We’ve always had great food. But they do get busy, so the wait time can be long. However, they do have a children’s buffet, which includes; chips, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, etc which is always a good shout for them.
The Lakeside Inn, very much a pub is a lovely place. The views across the lake and of the village center are breathtaking and a perfect viewpoint for the Christmas fireworks. The menu is exactly what you’d expect; pub grub, however, it is a small menu.
The last restaurant/food place we visited was The Pancake House. You can’t actually book to visit here, it’s a case of turning up and either waiting or taking your chances and coming back another time. I’d heard it was good and my husband, having visited the Sherwood Forest one when he was younger said it was a must and I wasn’t going to argue. I chose a toffee crunch pancake, which was just as yummy as it looked and sounded on the menu. It was definitely our treat of the week!
Dexters do amazing burgers and are also home to Millies Cookies. Say no more.
The village center houses the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, restaurants, shops, bowling alley, arcade area and bar, children’s activity hub and lastly customer services. It’s a lovely space to walk through and or sit-in, either on a bench or outside a restaurant, just watching the world go by. It’s also generally extremely warm since it houses the pool, so be prepared to be carrying your coat/jacket.
Bike hire is available, generally advised to be pre-booked, however, bikes aren’t a necessity. Id say it’s purely down to personal opinion and plans. Having hired bikes on one occasion, it isn’t something we’d do again, as we just didn’t use them as often as anticipated. We just enjoyed walking. Maybe once older, the boys would enjoy going off at sometimes. Hire isn’t limited to bikes, there’s also bike seats and trailers for children.
The lake isn’t just a pretty aesthetic addition. It’s also the location for some activities, such as pedal boating, canoeing, paddleboarding. To the edge of the lake you’ll find the beach. Yes, a beach. For people who live close to the seaside like me, this was amazing. Who doesn’t love a good play in the sand?
There are a couple of playgrounds on the parc; the bigger just outside the village center and the other outside the sports plaza. Both are brilliantly equipped with apparatus for all ages, as well as items at the sports plaza being wheelchair friendly.
The parc/village is very well maintained. There’s always staff and people floating around, cleaning, watering plants, delivering food, etc. Plus we saw not one piece of litter anywhere!
The idea/need to leave your car in the car park at the entrance is a brilliant one, not just for the conservation of the environment the village is set in and it’s wildlife, but also for us, it’s visitors, walking/biking around in our hundreds.
Center Parcs really is, quite literally a breath of fresh air. Helping families and children escape this technological world we live in and bring it back to nature.
Find it: Center Parcs Whinfell Forest, Whinfell Forest, Penrith, CA10 2DW, website
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