Bags packed we left the Surrey countryside bound for Center Parcs in Longleat. All three of us were really excited as we were heading there with friends. It meant more of a celebration for my husband, whose birthday it was, and six year old POD was thrilled she’d have chums to play with. Although the idea of Center Parcs has always appealed what with being outdoors types, this was our first experience holidaying with them.
Our friends had been to Center Parcs in Longleat a couple of times though which was helpful when it came to choosing our accommodation. We wanted cabins next to each other in a quiet location but within easy reach of the activities. The Center Parcs village in Longleat is just magnificent. Set in 400 acres, it’s surrounded by ancient trees with our cabin situated in the heart of the forest. The location was idyllic and we secretly hoped we’d see some wildlife during our stay. There are no cars permitted in all Center Parcs villages but we were able to drive to our lodge to drop off luggage and supplies. The ‘boys’ then returned to the car park, catching the village train back to the woodland lodges.
Our accommodation was spacious and welcoming with two bedrooms, a bathroom with shower and an open-plan living space. This consisted of a fully equipped kitchen with modern appliances, dining table and generous lounge-like set-up. There was also a TV/DVD player, an open fireplace and free wifi. It instantly felt like a home from home.
We’d taken pizzas down with us for the first night so once cooked, we spent the rest of the evening in our lodge with our friends while the three kids all played together. As you can imagine they were all super excited so it was inevitable we’d end up going to bed later than we intended. Aside from spending time with friends, one of the highlights of the evening was spotting a deer on the patio right outside the window. Literally a couple of foot away from us, how magical it was for all the children.
Although we knew the weekend was due to be mixed weather wise, we awoke up to beautiful sunshine. And a few bunnies hopping about our garden. The lodges are designed really well as they’re close together but you have your own outdoor space, you can’t hear your neighbours either. We had breakfast at the Sports Bar on our first morning and it was so nice we got to sit outside. It was so lovely to feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, it almost felt like we were in the Alps! The children played in the giant maze nearby working up an appetite before we all filled our bellies. We talked about the activities we were going to do and while spending time at the spa would have been lovely, it was never really on the agenda. One of the things that struck me about Center Parcs was how peaceful it seemed, such a relaxing environment. We honestly thought with all the cars that had headed in the night before, there would be people everywhere but that wasn’t the case at all.
We really wanted to make the most of our time outdoors on our first day as the forecast wasn’t looking great. Normally it wouldn’t matter as we’re more than happy to be outside when it’s wet but really heavy rain does of course impact on what you can do. There are so many activities available at Center Parcs both indoors and out. From watersports on the lake, to adventures through the trees and exploring the Subtropical Paradise. Although we could only do a weekend in Longleat, there was more than enough to keep us occupied for an entire week.
Having had a full on day with lots of exploring and an abundance of activities, dinner came in the shape of a BBQ. It was drizzling by that point but it didn’t stop us changing our plans. We’d bought a few supplies with us and from the village supermarket where we accidentally picked up some amazing pastries! After enjoying a huge feast, we cooked some marshmallows before the children settled down to watch a film. They were still up late but far calmer than they’d been the night before! Playing piggy in the middle with a rugby ball at the bus stop had certainly helped wear them out even more.
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise was a massive hit with everyone. Having had a quick change at our lodge, we caught the train there – there’s one every 20 minutes so it’s easy to get about. With a pool temperature of nearly 30°C, there was a wave pool, rapids and slides inside with wild water rapids and a lagoon-like pool water jets outside. Non-stop fun for all, we stayed for hours before grabbing some food as we were starving.
Despite enjoying the most amazing feast at the Pancake House beforehand, less successful was the Treetop Adventure. POD has always been a climber so it was such a shame she didn’t make it all the way round. The combination of her tiredness and the monsoon-like rain which appeared when she was mid air on the zip wire certainly didn’t help! She’s been asking to do Go Ape continually since she was about three so it obviously just wasn’t her day. POD has since been on a zip wire and loved it so much, she did it eight times in a row. That’s the POD we know!
POD was of course back to her usual self swiftly after a hot chocolate with marshmallows. After racing round a play area, she was back on her scooter in no time chasing the boys who were on their bikes. Center Parcs is brilliant for cycling (and scooting), you could spend the entire weekend just doing just that if you wanted to. We had the most amazing time at Center Parcs and loved everything about it – the accommodation, the activities and of course the company. We’re itching to venture back to one of their villages again having popped our Centre Parcs cherry. The only problem being, where do we head to next – a different village or back to Longleat?