Three weeks ago we eagerly loaded up the car and headed up the A36 to spend four nights at CenterParcs Longleat. We were staying in a four bedroomed, eight person lodge with our good friends and their four year old triplets.
As you can imagine we were all looking for something different - plenty of fitness activities, child-friendly activities, rest & relaxation and activities easy on the wallet. We have never stayed at CentreParcs before, but had been told that it was "good fun but expensive" or "spread out over miles". However we were going with an open mind and knew that with 3 four year olds we were going to have lots of fun anyway.
There are plenty of reviews on line for visiting CenterParcs with children and while I'll make mention of things the triplets particularly enjoyed, this review is primarily for adults visiting.
We took advantage of filling out the pre arrival questionnaire online a few days before our check in date. This covered names, contact details and DOB of all occupants, vehicle details and if we were bringing our own bikes. You can check in from 10am and use all the facilities (swimming pool from 2pm), although you can only access your lodge from 3pm.
We got to Longleat at 1.30pm and there were only 2 cars in front of us. There were 6 book in points open and we quickly moved to a check in window. I explained that the other car in our party was arriving later so they kept one set of keys back. We were given a map of the site and some additional information and we were all set!
There's plenty of parking in the main car park (cars are only allowed on the main site to load & unload), meaning we were soon in the main plaza enjoying a leisurely lunch, before heading across to our lodge.
We booked to stay in a woodland lodge, paying a supplement to choose what area we stayed in to make sure the walk/cycle wouldn't be too much for the Littles. Everything was clean, in a good condition and well thought out. The main living area was open plan, with the kitchen, dining and living space all in one area. The two twin rooms were side by side, perfect for the children and the two double rooms were both good sizes. Along with the main bathroom, there was also a separate shower room, with a sink and another separate toilet, meaning there were no long queues in the morning!
Outside we had a patio large enough for us all to be outside together, with plenty of seating and a good sized table. We were provided with a BBQ stand, although you could only use disposable BBQs on it.
We were too excited to take photos before the Littles arrived - and once they did there was stuff EVERYWHERE! This virtual tour is of a lodge similar to ours.
All bedding and towels were provided. We did bring extra towels for swimming though. Each Woodland lodge has two fridges and a dishwasher, as well as plenty of crockery, cooking equipment and glasses. You are provided with a few sachets of washing up liquid & dishwasher tablets, but we also brought supplies and tea towels with us.
There is a cleaning/storage cupboard in the lodge that we stored the Littles balance bikes in, but it also contained a vacuum cleaner, ironing board & iron as well as plenty of other cleaning products.
On site there is a good sized, well stocked supermarket selling everything from newspapers to marshmallows! We used this to buy lunch supplies, snacks and of course alcohol. It was slightly more expensive than our usual store but it was a good option for topping up our supplies. The will also deliver your shopping to your lodge - perfect for that first night shop.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from too. We ate at The Sports Cafe, Huck's American Bar & Grill and Hawton's. Our friends also ate at The Pancake House. Every meal we had was lovely - Huck's had the added bonus of a fantastic balloon artist and a fully enclosed indoor play area, keeping the Littles entertained while we had a sneaky cocktail! On our last night we ordered pizzas from the onsite takeaway. We popped in to place our order when they opened at 5pm and booked a delivery slot (in half hour windows), paying a small supplement to have it delivered. Using a meal deal we had two huge pizzas, a large garlic bread, potato wedges, coleslaw & a large bottle of soft drink for under £40, including delivery. This is comparable to Dominos and the food was probably nicer too!
There is no WiFi in Woodland lodges and phone coverage is generally poor throughout the site. Free WiFi is available in the main plaza with a good speed, although none of us could make a call from there.
There is a huge number of activities available at Longleat CenterParcs, from water activities to zipwires and tennis to teddy bear making, with everything in between. It's a good idea to prebook activities before you go as the more popular ones get filled quickly. There are booking points throughout the park too which we took advantage of.
We prebooked a spa experience for our final day before we arrived, which I'll talk about in a separate post (it was amazing!) and we also booked a canoeing session. This two person canoe cost £9.75 for 30 minutes. We were 10 minutes early but we were allowed onto the water straight away. All the buoyancy aids were provided and there was a safety boat on the lake patrolling. We booked an early morning session (10.30am - bookings are taken from 10am) and there was plenty of availability although it got busier as the day went on.
For the rest of the time that we were at CenterParcs we used the free facilities. There's plenty of walking and cycling routes that we explored each morning and of course the Subtropical Swimming Paradise filled many hours! This facility has a number of pools for babies & toddlers as well as a main indoor pool and outdoor pool, rapids, flumes, waterslides and whirlpools. Other than £1 for your locker (refundable) you can spend all day here. It was great to see that there were plenty of buoyancy vests available for children to borrow free of charge and there was even a cafe bar within the swimming paradise that you could refuel at.
WHAT WE LOVED
The lodges were so well equipped, all you need to take with you was extra swimming towels, extra toilet rolls, kitchen roll & washing up supplies.
Seeing so much wildlife! Squirrels were everywhere and we even saw deer each evening walking past our lodge.
The choices for eating and the standard of food was faultless. Staff were all friendly and helpful.
Plenty of bike parking in the main areas meant there was no excuse not to cycle, although for Little legs or tired legs the land train was a welcome addition!
No cars (except for CenterParc maintenance vehicles) meant we could all take things at a leisurely pace. The Littles loved using their bikes on roads and footpaths and us adults could relax a little more.
Center Parcs Longleat is completely accessible for people with additional mobility needs. We have family members who use wheelchairs and we would be completely comfortable booking a break for them to enjoy. Pathways are wide with smooth surfaces and very few steep inclines. There are some stepped areas around the park, but there was always an additional route close by that is accessible to everyone.
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
Our lodge didn't have a bin in any of the bathrooms. This may have been an oversight but with two contact wearers and three nappy wearers (not the same people!) a bin in at least one of the bathrooms would have been useful.
There were plenty of cycle and walking paths but we found we would cycle the same route. If there were marked cycle paths to follow we would probably have seen more of the site.
It was frustrating that phone coverage was so poor on site. There were a few occasions that I checked my work emails (I know, don't judge me!) and needed to make a follow up phone call, but this entailed either going back to our lodge or down to the lake to find a signal.
TIPS FOR YOUR STAY
Pay the extra to choose the location of your lodge. We were less than 5 minutes walk from both the main plaza & car park which made getting around so easy. On check out day we walked to the car park with our bags and were packed up in half an hour, rather than getting caught up with everyone driving to their lodges.
Book an activity for your last day. We had a spa experience from 11am-2pm which meant we were completely relaxed at the end of our holiday and we missed that first wave of people leaving. After a short cycle back to the car we were on our way home at 2.30pm.
We arrived at 1.30pm and were checked in almost straight away, but we noticed when we left at 2.30pm there was a long queue of cars waiting to check in. I would suggest timing your arrival before 2pm.
After lots of trials we found that sitting in front of the Sports Cafe we could get WiFi and network signal at the same time! Outside the Grand Cafe also gave some of the best coverage too.
Bring a small portable or disposable BBQs with you. You can buy disposable BBQs in the supermarket, but they are relatively expensive.
We found early afternoon and early evening were the quietest times in the swimming complex. I think this is because we went outside of the school holidays so most of the children had afternoon naps...leaving the pool for us!
We were all pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed our stay at CenterParcs Longleat. It managed to cater to us all, leaving us with only happy memories of our stay. The fact that I only have a few photos snapped on my phone show that we were too busy having fun to think of things like blogging!
Would we visit again? Most definitely!
We paid in full for our stay at CenterParcs Longleat. We were not asked to write this review, but I thought I would share our experiences with my readers.
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