Monday, 4 April 2016

Family Weekend at Centre Parcs, Whinfell Forest

I know I speak a lot about camping, and in particular my love of wild camping - the escape from the modern world, the busy city and other human beings! But I know some people enjoy an escape to nature, but want to keep some of their home luxuries - enter Centre Parcs!

We actually headed to Centre Parcs in Whinfell Forest on a family-hen weekend away. I know the word "hen weekend" generates images of bunny ears, willy straws and tiny outfits. This was very much the opposite. The idea of this hen getaway was that everyone of all ages could enjoy the weekend - including the brides' younger cousin, aged 11 and her aunties and gran - and there will be something for everyone to do.

The accommodation is in the form of modern-yet-homely lodges, that include a cosy wood fire and a private patio with barbecue. Situated in the middle of a forest, surrounded by the smell of pine trees, there are no cars allowed around the lodges, other than arriving and departing, leaving the lodges feeling secluded from pollution and traffic, with only cycles roaming around the "streets". This is what makes this an ideal holiday destination for those who enjoy the secluded feeling of being at one with nature, but who can't cope without a toilet or a decent mattress.


View out the back of our lodge, including patio barbecue!

Having never been to Centre Parcs before, I was under the impression that it would be very family and child orientated, with not much to do for those of us childless and in our twenties. I was very wrong! The World of Spa I could talk about all day, but won't, as I'm aware it doesn't come under the outdoors theme I write about here! But if you need an afternoon to unwind from the energetic activities you've tackled during the day, the spa has a selection of themed steam rooms, saunas, showers and steam baths, based on different countries and cultures around the world. Well worth a look, and a nice bit of relaxation for the adults!

The main activity I personally enjoyed was cycling! Living in a tiny flat in Edinburgh, I have yet to bring my bike to the city, and I miss cycling. Growing up I would always cycle around the quiet streets of our town and down the nature trails. I forgot just how much fun cycling really is. You can hire an adult bike for around £28, plus £5 for a helmet, or obviously you can bring your own. They even do tandem bike hire if you fancy trying something different! There's plenty paths to follow while cycling, whether you follow the road and adventure through the different lodge sections (the park is massive) or whether you head off-road into the forest. I took any opportunity I could to head out on my bike, whether nipping to the store in the centre for supplies, or heading out with the kids for an adventure!

Myself and my beautiful cousin and bride-to-be, off on a cycle!

Another activity suitable for varying ages and abilities is the high ropes course. There's a small version, not too high off the ground. Then one of two medium heights (which are pretty damn high!). And one extremely high one. We didn't manage to get a look at the extremely high one, but I say it's extremely high, because even the moderate height ropes courses were pretty high! The idea is you bring yourself around a course making your way from post to post via various different walkways, at a high height. Obviously you are strapped to a harness and rope system to stop you falling, so those worried about safety, don't worry!

Lower ropes course
Moderate-High ropes course

Moderate-High ropes course

If you're a wildlife lover like myself, there's plenty to see. Ducks appear at the lodges on a regular basis, happy to interact and come close-up to visitors, looking out for nibbles! Keep an eye out for red squirrels, grouse and pheasants. Plenty of rabbits can be seen too, and if you go in the spring time, you might be lucky enough to see some babies!

Ducks at the patio door

Other options for things-to-do include nature walks, swimming (including slides and rapids), and watersports. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to head off on a walk, and it was too early in the year for watersports, but I definitely enjoyed it enough to visit again, so they're on my list for next time!

To look at a Centre Parcs weekend for yourself, head to their website It's a great weekend away, and I'd recommend it for families, couples and friends - anyone wishing to enjoy a break away from day-to-day life!

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