There isn’t a more perfect place for an outdoor activity holiday than within the rolling hills of Cumbria, especially as a first visit to Center Parcs Whinfell Forest.
Cumbria is a place I know well. Many a childhood school holidays have been spent there due to having family live in a (very) small village in between Carlisle and Penrith. Though I don’t think I really began to appreciate it’s beauty until my more adult years. My partner hasn’t really spent much time there, so I’m really looking forward to showing him and our son the sights.
We decided to book Center Parcs as our (late) (family) honeymoon. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to experience and see what the hype is about. I have a friend who holidays there at least twice a year, so to say I was expecting great things was an understatement.
Center Parcs has five villages spread across the UK. It’s first village was Sherwood Forest. The villages and their concept brought a new wave and style to the normal ‘family holiday’ at the seaside and maybe even abroad and brought people back to nature.
Booking online was easy and simple and done within so many steps. We chose a simple Woodland Lodge, which was classed as within the central area, which was great as we have a slow walking toddler.
Once you’re booked you’re free to make activity bookings. With more than 200 indoor and outdoor activities to choose from this can become a task.
We opted to choose an activity each to do alone. I chose an Elemis Detox Facial, of course! And my partner chose to try his hand at the Aerial Adventure. Whilst one of us was away doing that, the other would do an activity with our little boy for some quality time. We booked Messy Play and Zumbini. We also chose one activity to do as a family, which was Encounter Some Baby Owls.
The Aqua Sana is a beautiful space. The ladies were nothing but smiley, chatty and helpful and the facial was just amazing. I’ve definitely caught the Elemis bug and on trying to leave, I ended making a purchase of a product or two. I didn’t have time to use all the spa facilities, but I will be making time on my next visit for sure.
My partner really enjoyed his Aerial Adventure. It was very much similar to that of Go Ape. His booking time was perfect also as he was the only one there, so he was able to chat to the instructor and also (tried) to race him round! He did want to do it again, however the next day, complained of muscles hurting that he never knew existed!
The range of activities for children was brilliant and well ran. He really enjoyed Zumbini. It was a mixture of dance song and instruments, which is definitely his thing. Messy Play was, well, messy and a new experience for daddy too. The room and children were covered in water, sand, cornflakes, gloop, paint… You get the picture. My partner and son also signed up for a 45-minute Soccer School. It was great seeing them do this together, as I know it’s something that my partner has been waiting to do with his son for some time, play kick about. He also got a certificate at the end (our son that is) which I thought was lovely.
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 was great humored. Our little boy wasn’t so sure about stroking the Owls though. I ended up with some real comical split shot photos of his facial expressions.
It’s advised to make restaurant reservations before you arrive. We decided to make the most of our visit and booked to eat out on at least two occasions.
One being the first night we arrived. I thought this be sensible among the chaos of arriving, unpacking, adjusting etc. I booked us in at Huck’s American Bar and Grill. The food was great. They didn’t have a brilliant children’s menu, but we ordered some mac n cheese for our little boy and we shared our chips with him.
The second evening we had a visit from my auntie and uncle that live nearby, so we booked in at the Lakeside Inn. We loved this place. The views are breathtaking, the food was exactly what you’d expect, pub grub and there is a small soft play area for the children. It’s a win-win. We visited here at least three more times over our week stay.
The last restaurant/food place we visited was The Pancake House. I’d heard it was amazing and my partner, having visited when he was younger said it was a must and I wasn’t going to argue. I chose a toffee crunch pancake, I had to, it sounded, looked and tasted exactly what I’d hoped for. It was definitely our treat of the week!
The village center houses the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, the restaurants, shops, bowling alley and arcade area, and the children’s activity hub. As ridiculous as what it sounds, it being the ‘free’ part of our stay, we only visited the swimming pool once. It is, however, exactly what you’d expect and hope for. I loved that they have an extensive area for children, which includes toys. Which definitely helped with easing my little boy’s panic.
For our stay we’d also reserved some bikes to help us get around the village, However, once we’d arrived and had a walk around, we realised that it isn’t actually as big as what it seems. Especially since our lodge was within the central area, we were quite well placed. We did use the bikes as our little boy does enjoy being in the seat on the back. But, I think for our next visit we probably won’t bother, maybe not until he’s a bit bigger and can have his own bike and we can go for some proper bike rides.
In conclusion, we really enjoyed our first visit and trip to Center Parcs and I can wholeheartedly say that it won’t be our last. 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 idea, not just for the conservation of the environment the village is set upon and it’s wildlife, but also for us, it’s visitors, walking/biking around in our hundreds.
This place really is a breath of fresh air, helping families and children escape this technological world we live in and bring it back to nature.
I can’t wait to revisit! (UPDATE-We’re booked to return March 2016)
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest
0344 826 7723