Darwin Forest Lodges, Matlock, Derbyshire - 1 to 4 beds, pool, hot tubs
Swandown Lodges, Cricket St Thomas, Somerset: 2-3 beds, hot tubs
Bluestone Wales- luxury lodges & cottages with pool & sports
Gwalia Falls, Cardigan Coast, Wales - 2-3 bed accommodation
White Cross Bay Holiday Park, Lake Windermere - 2/3 beds, indoor pool, 5*
Lochgoilhead Lodges, Argyll - 2 & 3 bed lochside accommodation, pool
summer 2014: why not try a holiday park? part one: holiday lodges
- Previously I often wondered why so many families chose to go on holiday to a caravan park in the summer, naively assuming their decisions were solely based on cost (sorry!) That was until I started my own holiday business and discovered that actually in peak summer, they are not necessarily the cheapest holiday around – so why go there?
- I thought I would give it a try to see what I was missing, so in both October half term 2012 and 2013, we packed up the car, the kids, the bikes and what felt like the kitchen sink and headed off to try two different holiday parks in the UK. In 2012 we went to Darwin Forest near Matlock in the Peak District – the luxury version of a holiday park with accommodation in log cabins or lodges as they are more popularly known. In 2013, we headed south to Camber Sands near Hastings in East Sussex for the traditional caravan holiday, staying in a static caravan virtually on the beach with a family entertainment programme pretty much all day every day. So what did we think?
- We arrived in the dark in thick fog (what do you expect, it is England in late October) so we couldn't appreciate the stunning setting of this park which I can only describe as breath-taking or "awesome" as my kids would say. The park isn't huge, which suited us parents perfectly, but it really is set within a wood hence the name. Reception was busy yet very polite and efficient and sent us on our way to find our cabin with the keys. You could drive around and park right outside which was particularly useful given the amount of kit we seemed to have. Each of the holiday lodges were really well spaced apart between the pines, so it didn't feel like you were staying on top of your neighbour (who, by the way, had a tempting private hot tub on their verandah). Someone had thoughtfully put the heating on and the gas effect fire creating a really welcoming effect. The kids dashed off to check out their bedroom whilst I had a more leisurely look around. I had booked us a 2 bedroom lodge and was surprised how big it actually was – there was an open plan lounge, diner, kitchen with that all essential dishwasher, a double & a twin bedroom which although not huge were perfectly adequate and a small yet fully functional bathroom. If I am honest, I actually felt relief – it was much better than I had imagined and was really, really cosy.
- The next morning the boys and my husband went out to investigate (as you may know, I am disabled so I stayed in bed enjoying my holiday reading!) All I can say is they came back completely plastered in mud, beaming! They had been around the adventure assault course, taken their bikes around the very muddy woodland track and tried out the playground. They had also checked out the indoor play barn (which cost extra) and the indoor pool so of course they now wanted to go for a swim! So, having made them change out of their dirty gear (I just chucked it outside), we went off to play games in the pool. On the walk back, we grabbed a few things from the onsite shop for lunch – we could pop down the local supermarket tomorrow. That afternoon, the kids were back out on their own exploring the woods with the strict instructions to stay together and remain in shouting distance from our log cabin. When evening came, we couldn't be bothered to cook so headed to the onsite pub/restaurant for a beer and dinner – it was lovely and my husband was thrilled to see real ale on tap! We also found out that they were happy to do take-away so several evenings during our stay, James would take the kids to play in the games room and have a beer whilst he waited for food and then we would sit around the own table in the comfort of our holiday lodge.
- We didn't spend every day onsite during our short break, spending several days exploring the local tourist attractions and countryside. The rest of my family are keen cyclists so often I would be detailed to drop them off at one end of a cycle track and pick them up at the other where we would enjoy hot chocolate and cakes. What I can say is that we all thoroughly enjoyed our holiday – there was something for everyone and the park offered good value accommodation and facilities. I was impressed and would certainly go back there again. Holiday lodges can come in all shapes and sizes:
- For the super luxury, why not try Swandown lodges in Somerset with 2-3 bedrooms and private hot tubs. There are only 5 super luxury lodges, so you need to book early but it is well worth it, they are absolutely stunning. Set on the Cricket St Thomas estate, the communal facilities include an indoor heated pool, spa, adventure playground, fishing, clay pigeon shooting, kids activities & games, bike hire, nature trail, family friendly pub serving food plus internet access. Nearby you can explore Cheddar Gorge, the coastline around Bournemouth, the city of Bath, Glastonbury Tor, Wells Cathedral, Sheppy's Cider Farm, the "Strawberry Line" steam train or head out for some horse riding.
- If you have a big group then Piperdam Lodges near Dundee in Scotland might be the answer as they offer some of the most luxurious and largest holiday accommodation I know of in the whole of the UK. Their "Vegas Executive Holiday Lodge" has 6 en-suite bedrooms, sleeping up to 12 comfortably. The grand, spacious & spectacular open plan living space in on the first floor opening out on to a large balcony with private hot tub. There is also a unique, themed casino games room with full size roulette wheel, card table and 9ft snooker table! Piperdam also offers 1-5 bedroom lodges and is perfect for a golfing holiday as there is both a 9 and 18 hole golf course onsite, driving range, chip & putt and putting green. For the non-golfers, you can enjoy the indoor pool, gym, spa, fishing, quad biking, tennis courts, indoor watersports, archery, disc golf, fencing etc. etc. There is also a bar, restaurant & children's play area.
- Bluestone Wales in Pembrokeshire is a good choice if you want an activity holiday staying in lodge accommodation – it is run along the same lines as the well known Center Parcs chain, yet I think it offers better value for money. It is geared to cater for couples, families and larger groups with activities galore – you name it & they have probably got it! Perfect for short breaks or longer holidays all year round with luxury accommodation for between 2-14 people. Set within 500 acres of beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside yet still close to the stunning coastline, having been there, I can certainly highly recommend giving it a try.
- If you are looking for stunning coastal views, you could try Gwalia Falls in a stunning hilltop setting overlooking Tresaith Beach in Cardigan Bay, Wales. The beach has some of the cleanest and safest waters in West Wales and its very own 100 ft waterfall cascading over the cliffs above.
- For the lakes, why not try White Cross Bay on the shores of Lake Windermere set on over 60 acres within the heart of the Lake District. Awarded the David Bellamy Conservation prize it is a perfect base for walking, hiking, climbing, fishing, sailing and boating. Ambleside, Windermere and Bowness are all nearby. Onsite there is an indoor pool, gym, sauna, games room, bar/restaurant, playground, mini supermarket and launderette.
- For lochside holiday lodges I would recommend Lochgoilhead in Scotland. A stunning setting is the real draw, on the shores of Loch Goil which is next door to the more famous Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. The lodges are in the grounds of Drymsie House Hotel so you have access to two restaurants, indoor pool, 9 hole golf course, indoor bowls and a large indoor play area for the children.
- We booked via the agent, Hoseasons, who I have a partnership with and the online booking process was easy, secure & efficient. Actually they are the biggest providers of self catering holidays in the UK, offering parks, lodges & cottages but they are only agents, the parks themselves are either privately owned or run by a smaller chain. Hoseasons also offer a range of activity holiday locations, called their "Go Active breaks" which are designed to keep the kids busy whilst you relax (or join in of course). Locations include:
- Finlake Lodges in Devon
- Devon Hills Holiday Village
- Hengar Manor Country Park in Cornwall
- Piran Meadows, Cornwall
- Oakdene Forest in Dorset
- Cheddar Woods in Somerset
- Gurnard Pines on the Isle of Wight
- Bainland Holiday Park in Lincolnshire, East of England
- Sherwood Castle Holiday Forest in Nottinghamshire
- The Bay at Filey in North Yorkshire
- Keilder Water Lodges in Northumberland
- Talacre Beach, Flintshire, Wales
- Brynteg Park, Gwynedd, Wales
- Hunters Quay, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
- Lochgoilhead Lodges, Argyll, Scotland
- Great Glen Water Park, Scottish Highlands
- Whatever you choose, I can certainly recommend staying in a holiday lodge.
- Article By Lucilla Paull 14 January 2014
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