“ Address: Manoir de Terre-Rouge / 35270 Bonnemain / France „
Following my third and best visit to Domaine des Ormes, I felt I must share my experiences. I haven't visited this campsite situated in the North of Brittany near the port town of St Malo for 14 years, so it has been lovely to return with my own children. Voted one of the top campsites in France, it literally has something for everyone, but as a Premier park it has a more upmarket feel for a campsite (as much as camping can feel upmarket!).
With accommodation to suit every budget there are options to suit every need. We opted for a 3 bed caravan although we did toy with staying in a treehouse for a week (but the lack of electricity put us off!). There are also safari tents (imagine a premier looking canvas tent with cast iron beds, and a real posh feel!), wooden cabins, caravans in various star ratings and of course, tents. They are grouped together collectively so tents are in one area, etc.
The facilities of this site is where the camp really comes into its own. From the moment you pull in to the grounds you can see just how much there is to do. The grounds are stunning and passing the grand gates on your arrival at the site is a lovely feeling. The Chateau on site, complete with its own helicopter landing pad, used to give its name Chateau des Ormes, however it has now taken the Domaine des Ormes name since we last visited.
Arrival is straight forward and the ample car park means you can stretch your legs while checking in at the reception for your compulsory wrist bands, which give you access to the on site facilities, before making your way to your holiday company check in desk. The rep then cycles around to your accommodation and gives you the basics of what you need to know before your holiday can really begin.
Activities on offer:
Where do I begin!? As I mentioned, there is something for every budget:
The vast lakes on site make Pedalos a must do activity for all families. At only 6euros for the hire of a Pedalo for a family of 4 it is a really relaxing activity (except for when my youngest decided to lean over the edge to look at fishes and nearly fell in, which sent me in to 'mummy panic'!). The hire includes life jackets for the children, and is meant to be for half an hour, but we were told to stay out as long as we wanted (I can imagine this isn't the case in peak season!).
This looked fantastic and we kept meaning to do it but with so many other activities to do we just didn't get chance. At Euro5 for an adult and Euro4 for a child, it did seem relatively expensive for the short amount of time you would spend doing it, in comparison to other chargeable activities on site. For a family of 4 or 5, the price would soon add up, but the option is there should you wish.
Horse /pony riding:
A must for all little girls, this was a nice activity for our two girls who attend riding lessons at home. The option to lead them independently of any instructors led us to the pony option. They were given hats, but that was about it. The half an hour hire of the pony will cost Euro9.50 per child, while a horse for an hour will cost Euro18. The option of pony or horse will obviously be dependent on the age of your child, however it was a refreshing change to be able to take them out by ourselves and the short trek around the lake was a lovely scenic route. The site also has its own independent riding school which is just on the outskirts of the grounds. On our last day there was a dressage competition and visitors of the site were able to watch this.
We were incredibly surprised (we obviously didn't read the brochure properly!) at the option of completing a 'Go Ape' style assault course through the trees, and waited until our last day to give it a go. Wow! When we made our booking, we were asked if we wanted to book green/blue or red/black. Huh we asked! Hard or easy?! Erm hard please! My oh my! Me and my husband completed the Go Ape course in the Lake District a few years ago and thought that was hard, but this was much much harder! Although the course is shorter, it is extremely challenging but completely worth it. I've never laughed and shrieked at the same time so many times in one hour! Our guide was exceptionally helpful and extremely knowledgeable. As the two routes (easy and hard) were both in play at the same, he had to guide the group who had decided to take the easier route while we made our way through the higher, harder and longer alternative! We incurred a few injuries along the way although only minor, one resulting in me trying to stop myself from zipping backwards across the lake on the zip line and putting my hand on the wire to slow myself, schoolgirl error! All in all one of the highlights of my holiday. You get to go around the course twice and each time there are effectively 4 routes: green and blue (easy and medium), red and black (difficult and expert). Me and my husband went the red / black route and he separated off to the expert black route. Afterwards he said I would have physically been unable to do it as it involved doing the monkey bars (25 feet up), among other difficult exercises. I wouldn't recommend this for women, so yes do go on the hard route but stick to the red route unless you have immense upper body strength and endurance! This route took us 1 hour and afterwards we decided to do our second go on the easiest route as it involved more zip lines across the lake. This was extremely easy though and literally took us around 12/15 minutes. There is also a children's course which is probably aimed at 5-8 year olds and is only a few feet up off the ground. This was all reasonably priced and cost us around Euro35 for myself and my husband to take part.
Storm and Power cut!:
While this isn't going to be an issue (hopefully!) for anyone else's holiday, I feel our dealings with the site are relevant. The biggest storm that Brittany has seen in decades hit us on our last afternoon after a scorcher of a day and rumblings of thunder all day. We had booked the girls on the independent zip line (you literally just do the zip line twice at the price of Euro6 but children aged 5+ can take part too), after trying to get them to do it all week. An hour before our 5pm start the storm came and rain came down like I've never seen. I drove round to the pool to rescue my eldest daughter and my step dad and on my way asked if we could get a refund on our Euro24 but they said no and said we had to come out again at 5pm. I wasn't very happy as it didn't seem fair that they should expect us to come out again, but we did end up getting refunded after returning. The storm in the end lasted for 4 hours with relentless rain and shut down the whole site including the bar and the restaurant much to our distaste! The Manager of the site came knocking on each and every accommodation type, and told us to stay inside if possible, but if we needed candles we could go to reception. He was extremely helpful (in stark contrast to our earlier dealings with the assault course staff), and this seemed incredibly well managed, which is why I felt this relevant to include.
The site has 3 pools on offer. One is near the Chateau and is a simple swim up and down pool, more suited to adults as its also a quiet area. The next pool is what I nicknamed the flintstones pool the first time I visited years ago, and as an outside pool can be cold. For that reason it only opens at 2pm (we visited in early June so this may change in July / August). It has various different slides, including a black hole and has whirlpools, waterfalls and a shallow area for younger children. The best pool by far though is the covered pool which offers a lazy river, a jacuzzi, separate shallow pool for babies and of course slides. It is all covered so the pool is incredibly warm.
For most children, although they love spending the time with their parents, they do need an hour or two away each day, and my girls were no exception. They loved going to the kids clubs, with two on offer each day, one morning session and one late afternoon session, they usually went to one each day. These are completely free of charge and each session is themed so they could find themselves dressed as pirates one day on a treasure hunt, a disco the next, or crafting under the sea creatures. All of the staff are qualified with appropriate childcare qualifications, and all are friendly but firm with the children, so you know they are in safe hands.
I will list these briefly as we didn't take much notice of them as the children weren't interested but there is a childrens climbing wall with qualified staff, tennis, cricket and archery.
Restaurant and shop:
The small shop on site is handy and on par with the local Co-op in the Uk. Well stocked and reasonably priced, you can pick up a large selection of items, including fresh breads in a morning, fresh fruit, meat and of course wine.
The restaurant is basically a glorified take away, and is in fact attached to the take out pizza area. With nice views overlooking the pool, and a shaded area, it is a nice little retreat when you want to feel more included in the site rather than being in your caravan to eat. It is incredibly overpriced though. We spent Euro100 for 4 pizzas and 2 children's meals plus one round of drinks. When comparing this to a beautiful meal we had in St Malo which came in at a cool Euro65, and was nicer food and nicer surroundings! Don't get me wrong, it's a handy option, but I don't think the price was justified.
This is one of the sites major plus points, it has so many fantastic places to visit right on its doorstep. Last year we went to a site around 8 hours south of Brittany and you literally had to drive for hours to get to anywhere decent, however Brittany has so many jewels in its crown that it would be a shame not to visit. Firstly without a shadow of a doubt, I would recommend visiting Mont St Michel, a stunning place if ever I've seen one. Next, I would recommend St Malo, a beautiful port town. There are aquariums, stunning towns, and lovely beaches all within a short drive.
There are several large supermarkets within only a few kilometres, perfect for stocking up on all the wine to bring home! We bought around 50 bottles of wine and only spent Euro150. Bargain! Some beautiful wine too! Some items are quite expensive so do bring the basics with you, no point spending all of your holiday spending money on washing liquid etc! Most of the supermarkets have petrol stations, however they aren't always manned, so make sure you have a credit card that you can use for such an instance. Also bear in mind that supermarkets in France often only open till around 12pm on a Sunday, and some don't open at all. Bear this in mind if you are arriving on a Sunday morning/ Saturday night and need provisions.
Although prices vary massively due to type of accommodation, dates, etc, we managed to get an excellent deal as the girls have an extra weeks holiday in May so we get out of school holidays prices. Without the ferry (this only cost us £110 Dover to Calais), this specific week in a half decent caravan cost £410 (split between two couples was a bargain at £205 each!), however we skirted on the idea of coming in the 6 weeks holidays last year (instead opting for a site further in the South), from memory the price quoted was around £1600 for a week so it does fluctuate massively.
As we have holidayed in France for a few years now, we have learnt a few tips to keep costs down, and one included the ferry crossing. The first year we allowed Key Camp to include the ferry crossing and this came in at a hefty £600, we haven't done this since though and instead of opting for the longer, much more expensive routes, we always travel Dover to Calais, often which costs no more than £120 return. We then drive the rest of the way, but bear in mind, toll roads. To this specific site, we turned away from the St Malo option, despite only being an hour away from the site. The St Malo crossing is over night and would have cost around £550. Instead we did Dover to Calais, extended our holiday an extra night by staying at the Premier Inn in Dover, and drove the 4.5 hours to the site. Although my husband gets the nice little perk of a company fuel card, even if we paid for fuel ourselves, we still would have made a massive saving on the St Malo option. Toll roads on this option will come in around Euro70 as a round trip. This option isn't for everyone, but it suits us perfectly and means this year we holidayed in France for cheaper than it had previously cost us to holiday on a campsite in Cornwall.
This site is a fantastic option for holidays in Brittany.