Yay, we've booked a family holiday. The first family holiday with 2 kids, so we were quite excited and were looking forward to August and a nice break! It seemed that £325 was reasonable value.
Haggerston Castle - Situated 3 million miles from anywhere in the Northumberland countryside - was to be home for 4 days, and the kids were excited. And so we!
We booked 4 nights in a 'superior' caravan thinking we will pay a bit more for a better van. I mean superior is a lovely word - a posh word conjuring up images of fancy sofas, and a big TV and plush carpet floors, with luxury galore....
However, Haven's idea of a superior van over an economy one must be that is has 4 walls instead of 3, or it has a roof, because it was the most basic caravan I have ever stayed in. No heating, single glazed, a creaking floor, no sound proofing or insulation, no outdoor facilities such as a deck, a chair or table to sit outside, beds made of solid stone and so poorly equipped I might has well of towed our house to the site due to the lack of things required in the van. We were however afforded the luxury of many hundreds of half smoked cigarettes festooning our parking place, and were we smokers, this was a veritable banquet.
Every time we walked around the inside of the shipping crate/caravan the whole floor bowed and creaked, waking the kids up. Not good when u have quite early nights with 2 young kids under 4. The van itself was equipped with a 14" television from 1987, a tin opener, and a friendly family of spiders.
The area around the caravan/shipping crate was full of weeds, and everything was very tatty around the site. Alot of the other vans were really tatty and poorly maintained too and we felt a little out of place and uncomfortable and missed our house and to a lesser extent our work! My kids seemed happy enough but were freezing cold due to the caravan having the insulation properties of a paper bag.
The touring area looked very shabby, overgrown and tucked miles away. It looked very grim.
The entertainment complex was a giant arcade with everything else tacked onto it. I mean seriously, having to walk through an arcade, and then the pub, then a terrace of drunk folk to get to a kids playpark is wrong. And the same can be said of the swimming pool. This place was supposed to be a family friendly place, but it is really only suitable for beer swilling, gambling knuckle draggers. For a park as big as this one, the play park is tiny, and was positioned so the drunk teenage parents could prop up the bar while their 3 year olds could sit under the swings eating bark. The exterior of the complex also smelled uncannily of urine which was even noticed by our 2 year old who said he can smell poop.
The pub served pub food a bit like wether spoons but cost twice as much. It looked very average and not very exciting. There is also a pizza establishment too serving the worlds most expensive pizzas. Perfect for a post bingo nibble. The Chinese restaurant that was shown on the map had closed down which was annoying.
The entertainment is very varied, as long as you like bingo or some 19 year old entertainments organiser high on red bull dancing around dressed as a smurf, which we do not.
Our van was in 'west lawn' which is great if you like hearing Eddie stobart driving along the A1 or listening to the idiot in the Civic Type R with a stupid bore exhaust driving in and out of the park over and over. The best thing about the park is how close it is to nice things to escape to such as lindisfarne, bamburgh and Alnwick. Fortunately these tourist places are within 20 minutes of Haggerston.
Everything about Haggerston is aimed at making as much money as possible through gambling, drinking, gambling, bingo and gambling.
If you want to stay in a glorified green house (an ABI vista caravan which should be avoided) on a shoddy park, full of bingo addicts and other families like us thinking, "Oh god, what have we come to", here's your place! Haven it is not. Caravancatraz more like it. I think next time I will hire a cottage on holy island.
Never have we been so glad to be going home. Granted some people like bingo, and will like this park. But we think it is the most miserable place on earth.
Also on Ciao.
Haggerston April 2010. Caravan was meant to be a top-of-the-range 'prestige'. It was appalling. Carpets sticky and stained. Food debris all over the place. Cooker and utensils covered in a greasy grime. Stains on the seating upholstery. Shower cubicle had black mould all over the place. Cleaned before you arrive? If only. God knows what a basic caravan would be like. As for the site........ Dining room was in a disgusting state. Made the mistake of having 'lunch' on arrival. Food was terrible. Cheapest of the cheap. Tasteless. Barely warm. And they served this muck to three CHILDREN!! Nightime?...... Main cabaret hall was a damp, smelly hovel. Drinks were expensive and vile. Cheap coke. Watery lemonade. And flat beer. And every single glass, without exception, was dirty and grimy. The toilets stank. Baby changing platform was dangerously un-secure. And this was at the START of the season! Do NOT complain. You will get fobbed off or ignored by rude, arrogant staff or 'managers'. Booked 3 nights. 2 were enough! I would not send my DOG to stay at Haggerston. Book a 'holiday' at this slum at your peril. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!
I found it less than 'perfect for a family holiday in a 'safe' environment' as the HAVEN web site declares, correspondingly I won (yes won, it was a battle) a refund for the inconvenience, stress and anxiety as a result of my short break there. Short break? More like losing grip on reality!
On a 4-day visit, I had to change caravans once, had a sleepless night because a carbon monoxide alarm sounding and my daughter got injured in a swimming pool accident. After this incident we learned that HAVEN do not have a statutory duty to provide first aid so they do not.
So, if your aspirations for entertainment are limited to beer and crisps for the adults and slot machines for the kids, you will be entertained. If you don't mind paying cash to get your cash from a cash machine you will like that too as most of the hire equipment calls for a cash deposit. If your in the habit of replacing the bed in your childrens room with some tables and chairs and eating your Chinese takeaway in the 'newly created restaurant ambience' - you'll enjoy the on site Chinese restaurant. If, on the other hand you fancy half decent surroundings, use the restaurant at the golf course - but bring cash or your chq book - no debit or credit cards accepted.
The 'new for 2010 swimming complex' is the 'hi-de-hi old one' with a lid and some additional changing rooms. Happy Camper - NOT!
Haggerston Castle, Northumberland, has been my families choice of cheap-week away holiday, for the past 4 years, and in this time we have been 4 times. Twice in the summer, once at Easter, and the last in the October Holidays.
Our first experience here was absolutly fantastic, and so we have continued to return, each year.
Haggerston Castle, is situated, in the heart of Northumberland. The caravan site, is brilliant for everybody, ranging from couples looking for a cheap weekend getaway to familys ready for a week of fun and excitement. Haggerston is filled full of exciting things to do, such as day entertainment, kids entertainment, night entertainment, show bars, restuarants and fast food places, swimming pools, kids clubs and lots more.
_ACCOMIDATION_ at Haggerston Castle, ranges from the very basic, to the ultra-luxurious. Every holiday-goer, here is based in a Caravan. The caravans are extremely varied, starting with the very basic, to the almost hotel like. However although some caravans are extremely basic, they are in no way uncomfortable, or uneasy to live in.
There were 5 of us staying in our caravan, and I do have to say, I think anymore bodies and it would have been a bit of a squeeze. Our caravan had 2 bedrooms, a lounge, a small kitchen, a dining area, a toilet, and a shower room.
The lounge was a good size, with a wrap around couch surrounding the very front wall of the caravan and placed directly infront of the window. In the lounge, we had a small television (channels; bbc1, bbc2, itv, channel 4 and a tempromental channel 5). There was a coffee table and a set of drawers among a couple of other peices of furnature. At the top of the lounge, there was another, smaller wrap around couch, this being the seating area for the "dining" table. When we first arrived, our dining table wasn't in perfect condition, and we did find it had sticky marks and fingerprints all over. We tried not to let this put us off. Oppositte the dining table, there was a small kitchen. We had about 5 worktops, all with drawers and cupboards, and above on the wall, there were also around 4 more cupboards.
We also had a small fridge, but sadly no freezer. Placed on one of the counters was also a microwave, though it took us about 2 days to figure out how to work it.
A door is joined onto the living room wall, which leads to a narrow "hall". Coming off the hall, there were the shower and toilet and the two bedrooms. The toilet consisted of a toilet (really!?) and a washhand baisin. Next door was the shower room, a simple room with a reasonable sized shower. The first bedroom was the largest, it had a double bed (a small double bed at that) which took up most of the room. There was a small bedside table next to the bed with a lamp on. Built into the walls were small cupaboards, with shelves above. The next bedroom was small, it had two single beds, with around a 2-3cm gap inbetween. There were no cupboards in this room.
Our caravan was quite clean, and our first impressions were good.
The caravan had central heating (though i'm not sure the very basic ones do). When the central heating didn't seem to be working, the fire in the lounge warmed the caravan up.
Overall we were impressed with our caravan.
The _COMPLEX_ is within walking distance of all the caravans. Though this could take a 5-10 minute walk if you are in the farthest away caravans. The complex is very large, and caters for everybodys needs. When you first enter in the main door, you will be asked to show your pass, or you'r wrist band. The wrist bands are given to you on arrival and you must wear them at all times in the complex- simply to show you have infact got the right to be in the complex.
When you first enter, to the righthand side is a giftshop. Then you will come to the arcade area. In the complex, are the main entertainment bars, the indoor pool, restaurants and much more.
There are 2 SWIMMING POOLS- one indoor and one outdoor. The indoor pool is heated, although it can sometimes be a bit chilly. The pool is a reasonable size, with a shallow end which leads up to a deeper end. At the top of the pool is a jacuzzi, which I wasn't allowed in, as only over 15 year olds were allowed in. There is also a large chute, that opens at particular times of the day. The pool isn't that great for actual swimming as it is usually extremely busy and heaving with people. However it is good for familys, and little children.
The changing rooms are few and far between. There are only around 6 cubicles at the side of the pool, which can be quite offputting for some people. Though I think most people just opt to put there swimming gear on underneath there clothes and strip off poolside. There are also toilets at the pool, and for some reason there are more toilets than changing cubicles. The floors of the toilets are usually soaking wet, so i'd reccomend going BEFORE you get changed back into your clothes. There are also 2 showers, and there is usually a 5 minute wait to use them.
There is also an outdoor pool, which is opened in the summer months. This pool is sometimes heated, however on other days it is freezing cold. In my experiences it has 90% been heated, which sometimes displeased me as it was hot weather, (I got sunburned). The pool is larger than the indoor one, and the chute is alot higher. It is more of a "twisty" chute, and has a large set of stairs to get up too.
There are lifeguards on hand at both pools, all the time, and are always happy to help. The swimming pools are closed for an hour, in the middle of the day (i think between 12.30pm and 1.30pm). We always spend quite alot of time at the pools as there is no time limit on your swim.
After a swim, you may be feeling peckish. Haggerston castle has this covered. The complex has a huge range of _RESTAURANTS_, which cater for everybodys needs. There is a Burger King, a fish and chip shop, chinese restaurant, a restaurant, a cafe bar, and in the summer, barbiqueues are held outside. We have been to each of the different places and have been pleased with them all. The Burger King, is just as a burger king usually is. Though I do find that the haggerston Burger King, provides hotter food than the ones I go to at home. We sometimes come here for a quick lunch, or a snack throughout the day. The fish and chip restaurant was surprisingly nice. Each time we have been the food has been to excellent quality and is consistantly hot and enjoyable. The chinese restaurant is usually purchased by us at midnight by us, when we are retiring to our caravan for the night. There isnt a great choice of food, and one time we went, they had ran out of chicken which was a great disapointment. The Aqua bar is the main restaurant in the compelx which provides, meals, starters and desserts. They also do special kids meals, though not all of the staff make this clear. The eating places are normally really family friendly and the service and staff is usually of top quality. They provide highchairs for babies too, which adds the easiness of the whole dining experience.
Haggerston also has a small grocers/newsagents, which provides some frozen ready meals, sweets and snacks such as Pot noodles.
_ENTERTAINMENT_ is brilliant at Haggerston. There is seperant entertainment for kids, which is on all throughout the day, and in the early evening before the adult and older kids entertainment begins. Carnabys is the place where all this happens. This leads onto the sports bar on the right handside and the Aqua bar on the left. There is also a small bar in the actual Carnabys room. There is a stage, and a large "dancefloor" where kids go to sit and watch the entertainment. There are plenty of tables and chairs around the room too for adults too sit and watch.
The other bar is the showbar, which is mainly aimed to older children and adults. This is where the majority of the nightly entertainment happens. There are musical numbers, dancing, singing, competitions, comedys, interactive shows etc performed here everynight, with a disco normally. There is also a bar here which provides chilled cold drinks, alchohol, slush pups etc.
_FUNSTARS_ are the name given to the holiday reps. Funstars are almost always on stage providing entertainment. For kids, alongside Bradley bear, Rory the tiger etc, they provide great entertainment and by the end of the holidays the children almost always no the names of all the funstars and look up to them hugely. The funstars are great with children and are very pursuading when asking parents to join there kids on the dancefloor.
The funstars are equally purseuding when trying to convince the older generation to go up onto the stage in the showbar, to take part in competitions and such like.
They are always wandering round the complex, and are happy to help with any enquries or problems you may have. They are all round very friendly and you feel extremely at home!
The _ARCADE_ is extremely popular with all generations. Aswell as the penny machines, airhockey and such like, there is also a bowlplex, where up to four different families can play at a time. There is sometimes a wait to get to play, however in the morning its usually empty and ready to play!! Also, there is a bungee for children. This is situated on the upper floor. The "bungee" seems to prove popular with all ages of children, and it seems to be very safe, and risk-free (or as risk free as a bungee can be).
Haggerston also provides horseriding, quad bike and many more fun activites for the whole entire family to enjoy.
There isn't much surrounding the site in terms of days out. However we did take a trip to the castle in which the Harry Potter movies were filmed, and we thouroughly enjoyed it.
This would probably be one of the only down sides to this holiday.
The cost for each caravan varies. The basic caravans are normally very cheap, however the luxury caravans, are obviously a lot higher in cost. However when you do pay for your holiday, things such as entertainment is payed for. A downside is that, if you think you are getting a really cheap holiday, it usually turns out to cost a fortune, as meals, restaurants, arcade games, and groceries all have to be payed for seperatly. Costs for the pools are included also.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my holidays to Haggerston and I think we will continue to go back in the coming years. Although it suits everybody, I think i'd mostly reccomend it too familys with young and old children alike.
You can spend any amount of time here, from a weekend break to 10 or 11 days. However I think any longer than 10 or 11 days and you will begin to get a big fed up.
Overall, 4 stars!!
This review is based on a stay with partner, two children, one child's friend and a dog at the end of August 2008. The stay was booked via Haven Holidays and paid for with Tesco Clubcard tokens (note - no longer available).
Haggerston Castle is a large site in the very north-eastern corner of England; 10 miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and directly adjacent to the main A1 road.
If you're the sort of family that goes to a site and stays there for the full week or weekend, never leaving, then you'll probably love Haggerston Castle. We're not and we didn't.
Our visit was the tail-end of high season so we expected it to be busy. But it was unbelievably busy. We couldn't get a table in either of the showbars unless we were there very, very early or we were extremely lucky and happened to be walking past a table when a group stood up and left. But more often we didn't have the patience and retired back to the caravan. If you get there at noon and watch all of the shows during the day then you'll probably be fine. But if you've been out for the day (and we were out every day as there's so much to see around the area) then by the time you've got back, eaten, got dolled up (kids!) and hiked across to the complex then it'll be packed full.
The shop also frequently ran out of staple products (e.g. bread and milk). More area devoted to food and less to fluffy gonks may have been useful.
On the plus side, the site itself was fine. It was very well kept and the lake is lovely. The hire boats were good (if not a little expensive) and the kids loved the freedom of having a boat (they're 15, 15 and 17).
On the positive side and despite having the lowest class of accommodation (Bronze) because of the dog, the actual caravan was fine. All I want of a van on these sites is that it's somewhere to cook and sleep. It was in good repair and everything worked. Perfect.
The site's location is it's main plus point though. Just off the A1, it's ideal for visits to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) or the many attractions on the coastline (Seahouses, Bamburgh Castle). It's a short-drive to Berwick-upon-Tweed (where there's a Morrison's supermarket for when the camp shop runs out) and you can jump on a train there and zoom up to Edinburgh. We took the car up to Edinburgh as we wanted to call it at a friend on the way and to go across to Leith to see the Royal Yacht Britannia (well worth a look around).
Please don't think I'm being a snob. I've been to many Haven parks over the years and I know what they're like. I've actually been to its sister site in Berwick-upon-Tweed and loved that site. But Haggerston is the worst site I've been on in and that was simply because of the volume of people. The staff were over-stretched and impersonal. The queues for the pool were horrendous (we queued for much longer than we spent in there).
This is probably a great site when it's quiet. But it isn't when it's busy.
I was at Haggerston Castle a couple of years ago. I didnt take my dogs as I was told I couldnt. Our caravan had no nets so we had to keep the curtains closed for privicy. It was freezing cold as it too was heated by just one fire in the lounge area. Our Caravan wasnt dirty but could have been better. It smelled of damp and as it was right at the back of the site by the touring vans pitches i cant imagine it was used much, but at least there it was quiet.
We didnt use the onsite entertainment it was all to noisy, to crowded and way to expencive. We did pay for passes to use the facilities but they were closed more offen than not so that was money well wasted.
The Pool area was disapointing, most of the time it was closed but when it did open it was a haven for foot desease. I would recommend swim socks if you do venture into the pool venue.
Some of the vans around the lake looked devine and the areas around them was well kept, Obviously thats where the money is as the other vans on the site got the grass cut but that was it. The stream running through the camp could have been an asset but was more of a giant litter bin. I dont think David Bellemy would have been so keen to put his name to the place had he seen it when I was there.
The vans were also very close together so you could hear all the going on next door and that was very annoying and at times embarresing.
Good points. It was a great base to explore from. We went over to Holy Island a couple of times which was fantastic and there are some great places to eat. We also went up to Edinburgh for a day, now thats a treat everyone should endulge in.
I would go back with my touring van to use it just for a base to explore from but for anything else I would say look around, there are much nicer places to stay and cheeper.
Sorry Haggerston, you've lost my vote.
We holidayed at Haggerston Castle Holiday Park on a 4 night stay, as we were recommended it by my own parents.
It's in Northumberland, very near the beautiful coastline, and it's a Haven Holiday Park so you are covered by all their guarantees etc.
It was quite a distance for us to drive, yet we found it really easily - The location is superb, literally just off the A1. Don't worry however, the actual accommodation is far away from the traffic noise, down a long winding road which was really nice - lined with trees, with birds and other wildlife along the way.
Now we have had some corkers before when it comes to bad accommodation in a caravan, but this was absolutely fine: We had a static caravan to sleep 2 adults and 2 children and we found it to be clean, modern and everything we would need as a base for a few days.
There is a shop on site, which sold everything from Haggerston souvenirs to daily newspapers, food and drink, and the prices were reasonable too.
There was also a spa where you could have treatments: we didn't get to try this ourselves, but were still pretty impressed that there was a spa at a Haven campsite :)
There were several cafes and restaurants, which seemed huge: When we went in for a late breakfast, we were the only ones in there, and the food was pretty good.
The site has a swimming and amusement complex, all in one vast building, which we did enjoy with the children: Plenty of slot machines, live entertainment and the like, lots of fun to be had there.
Our favourite feature was the little boating lake in the middle of the park, we hired a pedal boat and took a leisurely float around: If you like to see wildlife, this park has it: We saw a heron, a family of ducklings, numerous squirrels etc etc.: The highlight for nature lovers was that, at night, in the mist rising over the water, there were hundreds of bats.
Okay, so that might be some people's worst nightmare, but we liked it, lol.
Our visit was off-season, so not everything was open or running, and I think there will be a lot more going on in peak time.
The best thing this park has going for it is it's location: Northumberland is just beautiful and we visited Alnwick Castle (see my other review), Berwick-upon-Tweed town, took a boat trip out of Seahouses and much more, packing a lot into a few days - we were able to do this because of the central location of this holiday park, so if you do visit, take full advantage of that.
We just returned today from a four night stay with the view of purchasing a caravan and pitch at Haggerston Castle , it was a truly dreadful experience. The caravan we were given was a standard plus rating, we took along our two Yorkie dogs, apparantly you can't have anything of a higher rating if you do take your doggy with you. Fair enough,maybe some dog owners don't treat their holiday accomodation with very much respect , but we do and found to our dismay upon arrival we had to pay the price by being presented with a grubby, smelly, draughty and well hammered caravan for having our two small dogs with us, to add insult to injury we had paid an extra £20.00 for each animal too.However, after speaking to others who stayed when we did and reading other reviews from those who had the top grade caravans, I am in no doubt the same standard of slovenliness, neglect and filth is the same throughout regardless of which grade of caravan you get.
Upon entering the caravan for the first time we noticed at once an unclean smell and could see how grubby and ground in the front seating area was.Instead of beige upholstery it was a dark grey except for the parts which were hidden beneath where the lift out bed was. The carpet was hoovered but did smell, particularly of old urine in places as did the seating.The curtains were disgustingly stained with mould.
Three of the windows did not close properly,( two bedroom ones and one in the living area ) and considering to our dismay, that grade of caravan is heated by a single gas fire in the front living area only and we had hail storms most of the week, it was probably the nearest we have been to living in a walk in fridge.I had to sleep in my coat and scarf beacause I was so cold the first night until we went out and bought a heater from Berwick the following morning.None of the three bedroom windows had any net curtains , so we had to keep the main curtains closed the whole time making the place even dingier than it was if that was possible.
I had to clean some of the pans and utensils before we could use them as they were still crusted in the remnants of food, the bottom plastic box in the fridge was sticky with food too, which I refused to clean and just lifted out and left in a cupboard until we left.
There was no cover on the freezer box in the top of the fridge and so the food on the top shelf of the fridge froze up if we weren't careful, almost as frozen as we were due to the badly fitting windows actually. The bottoms of the kitchen cupboards were thick with dust.
The pillows were wafer thin and four stacked up would probably still not give you the thickness of even one, the duvets were no better. Thank goodness we were required to take our own bed linen as at least we knew they at least would be more than satisfactory.
The Park itself has a nice lake in the centre with lots of geese and swans and a ittle stable so the kiddies could have pony rides aroung the park, the only good things I can think of to mention.
The complex where the bars are situated is a real shocker as you walk in. It's just one huge, noisy,chaotic, money grabbing amusement arcade. The bars are quite dingy, smelly with sticky carpets and packed to the hilt,so don't have any visions of having a few quiet drinks 'cos it ain't going to happen.
The onsite food is something else...and I do mean something else ! We had fish and chips from the on site chippie on the first night,most of it went in the bin as the fish didn't smell right and it was all covered in too much grease, promptly afterwards later that evening we were rewarded for our custom by upset stomachs. Following that episode we didn't touch anymore of the onsite food on offer at all. We noticed the staff in the chippie and some of the other takeaway food places there employed no more than spotty youths, didn't this didn't instill any sense of confidence in their cooking skills to be honest.
All in all, I would say to anyone thinking of booking a holiday here, don't feel you have to be put off by our sad experience, you might get a fantastic caravan and not be knee deep in mud when you step outside it and not mind all the noise and bingo and the like, but if anything, please think carefully before sampling the fish and chips if nothing else.Somehow I don't think we will be buying into the new lifestyle at Haggerston Castle anytime soon.
Pity there isn't a zero rating.
Summary: A complete and utter dump.
Haggerston Castle Holiday Park
Owned by Haven Holidays this park is located just a few miles outside Berwick Upon Tweed and is very easy to find, just off the A1.
The park is rated 5 stars by Haven and after visiting I generally agree. The park is aimed at families and is great for kids
The park is set in the countryside and has a large boating lake. It is a very attractive park and is kept spotlessly clean by the staff.
There are a variety of caravans available ranging from complete luxury (on-suite bathrooms, LCD TV's, gas central heating etc) to very basic accommodation (older vans, gas fire in the living room, pets allowed etc.) Prices vary greatly also.
My caravan was superior plus (medium range) and cost £499 for an 8 berth for one week in June. The caravan was clean, modern, well equipped and overall I was very happy with it. The location of the van could have been better. Due to the great British weather outside the van became quite muddy, as we were located on a small slope.
Park Facilities Include-
Indoor Pool, Outdoor Pool, Horse Riding, Quad Bikes, Bike Hire, Boating Lake with Pedalos, Traditional Restaurants, Chinese Restaurants, Supermarket, Show Bar with entertainment every evening, Kids show bar with daily and nightly entertainment a sports bar, an adults only bar, trampolines, golf course and much more.
My only complaint was some of the prices. A pint of lager was coming in at around £4. Just as well this was a family holiday!
Not bad at all. Would recommend and possibly even return
Absolute dissapointment, I don't normally bother with reviews but as no-one from haven has bothered to get back to me with an apology after my comments, well here goes- The actual campsite & our caravan was clean but thats the good bit done, The place is far to overcrowded, They have a monstrous amount of gaming machines for your entertainment-& for squeezing every last penny out of you which they are remarkeably good at on this site, The swimming pool was filthy, cold, over chlorinated, and there was not enough cubicles & showers for the mount of people they cram in there, the 1/2 queue was not worth it, the whole complex was filthy & stunk of cigarette smoke, at night we had to wait an hour to get a table in the only non smoking entertainment hall which itself was filthy along with the carpet, the Bar, the Beer, & the staffs attitude, all I got was abuse when I took a Flat, cloudy, disgusting pint back whilst avoiding kids lying on the filth ridden carpet, the "entertainment" was lacking, 4 fat blokes stripped to their waists making pratts of themselves, the following night a girl singing to backing CD's, then the police arrived no doubt on the lookout for some undesireable which there was plenty of, the following night we went to Main entertainment hall which was a bit better once we had waited 3/4 hour for a table which we had to clean ourselves but the stench of fags on all our clothes in the morning was too much so we didn't go back there. We went bowling only for a load of people to arrive playing football, giving up we mentioned it to the assistant manager who said they get too much abuse so they let them get on with it, that is one of the problems with this place, the management don't want trouble so they let the all day beer swilling, smoking, not giving a care what their kids are doing people who are unfortunately the majority in this place get on with it, well they make more money this way, they shan't be making any more money out of us as we'll never go back, we went to a British holidays site in Blackpool once which was great, now they have joined Haven its gone downhill at a rapid rate, Thanks to customer care at Haggerston who couldn't even be bothered getting back to me, if you had & apologised then this wouldn't have been written, we will never be back, I'd rather stayed at home.
Me and the lads try to get away with just our children at least a couple of times a year and have had some really cracking holidays, none more so than the two occasions we have travelled up to Haggerston Castle near Berwick on the Scottish borders. This place has proved ideal for the sort of holiday we want on these occasions. We want to be able to just sit and relax and have a few beers and a bit of crack without having to worry about what the kids are up to. Obviously to achieve this certain criteria have to be met, first and foremost it has to be safe for the children who range from 8 – 14. Secondly, there has to be something to keep them occupied and thirdly, there has to be something to keep us adults happy apart from beer !! Well, Haggerston Castle certainly meets these points on every score … and then some. The way I’ll demonstrate this is by taking you through what has turned into a typical weekend for us over the last two years and what will hopefully continue for the next few till the kids are too old to want to go away with their dads !! We travelled up on the Friday morning arriving in Haggerston early afternoon, the place itself is very easy to find with the distinctive tower (hence the name) being visible from miles around and the turning itself being well sign-posted on the main road. So anyway, once inside we went and waited in the bar area … surprise surprise until it was time to be allocated our caravan for the weekend. The process for this is very efficient with the various standard of caravans being allocated a certain booking in time. When your allotted time is up you go into the check in area and tell them your name and they in return give you a pack containing details of where you are, maps, passes etc. Once you’ve got this info it’s off to the car to find your home for the weekend, this is always a little bit exciting for the kids but nerve racking
for us. Will it be big enough, will it be in a good location, is it miles away from the pub? You know, all the important things !! To help you in this quest they do supply you with a very detailed map with your own caravan, and route, highlighted and it is usually pretty easy to find your way as the various areas are well sign-posted and the caravans clearly marked. You also get given a very clear map of the site on which your caravan is highlighted to make it even easier for you. So there we are, we find our caravan and go through the usual ritual of arguing over whose getting what room and forcing the kids to unpack the cars we simply let them loose and off they go. This is usually the last we see of them till they either get hungry or run out of money which unfortunately as far as money goes is not too long in this place, but more on that later. After enjoying this little bit of peace and quiet we will walk up to the central area where most of the action happens and have a look about ourselves. Luckily on our two visits we have always been within a few minutes walk of the main area which is handy for just popping back and forth. A word of warning at this point, some places on the park do have a considerable longer walk which I don’t think I’d find quite as good. So if you have any elderly or not so mobile people in your party it may be worth bearing this in mind when you book, I’m sure they would be willing to try and place you in a convenient area if you asked them. Anyway, to get into the main amusement area where the majority of the entertainment is found you will need a pass, these cost around about a fiver per person and come in your welcome pack. In theory you have to have these every time you go in here but we have found that the security guards do show a little bit of common sense if you have forgotten your pass and let you in anyway. Obviously they do ask that you bring the pass next time and it is b
est to try to as it may be a new guard who doesn’t recognise you. The first thing that hits you when you enter this area is the noise, there are dozens of machines in here ranging from fruit machines to arcade games. These make enough noise in themselves but when you add loads of screaming kids (and attendant screaming adults) it is a bit hard on the eardrums. So anyway, these machines might give you a bit of a clue as to one of the many black holes the money drains into. On our first visit we made the mistake of giving the kids their whole allowance for the weekend on the first day … big mistake as it was gone in the first hour and the reason was now plain to see !! This year we simply allocated them half a day’s money at a time which seemed to work a bit better as they didn’t think they had as much to waste in the machines and hence stayed off them a bit more. Didn’t stop me using them though but that’s a different matter !!! Within this same area is a shop selling all sorts of toys and other bits and pieces, mainly souvenirs. I cant say I was too impressed with the quality of stuff in here but the kids were so another black hole was identified. Not only were your eardrums attacked in this area but also your nostrils were tempted to part with some more money by the BurgerKing outlet conveniently placed right next to the walkway. If you managed to get past here you were confronted by a bank of those machines where you feed in a 20p coin and manipulate the grabber to try and pick up a cuddly toy. What is it with these machines that make you pour in pound after pound in a futile attempt to pick up a toy that you could probably but for half the price in the shop ? So by now you might be getting an idea of where the money goes so I would strongly suggest to you that if you do let your kids loose in here you make sure they are disciplined enough to resist the temptatio
ns …. yeah right, like there is such a thing as a disciplined kid !! Once you get round the corner however a more adult orientated money waster is confronted … a bookmakers !! Unfortunately my mates are similar to me in this respect and can not resist a bet now and again so now it was our turn to test our resolve, we managed on this particular occasion I’m pleased to say. I have got to admit though it is a very handy service to have on the site. We found this out the next day when we watched the football on the big screen in one of the bars and decided we fancied putting on a few bets on to make the afternoon more interesting. At this point in the building you have a few choices as to which way you go so rather than try to give you a guided tour I’ll simply list the various areas and facilities and give you an overview of what they were like. The bar. This is the only area that is restricted to adults only and as a result seems to be very quiet and in truth, a bit boring. This might just be because we never went there late on preferring the main cabaret hall or it could be because it is boring, who knows? What I would say though that if you just want a quiet drink this is probably your best bet. We weren’t just after a quiet drink though so we gave it a miss. The sports bar This was more our style and was our home for most of Saturday afternoon when the football was shown live on the big screen, the fact that it was a live match obviously brought in a lot of people. These were mainly blokes of course and there was plenty of good-natured banter as the various tops portrayed their owner’s allegiance. Also in the bar was a full size snooker table and two pool tables which all in all meant that a fair few people visit this place and it has a really good atmosphere. Cabaret 1 This is as far as the adults are concerned the epicentre of the com
plex, at least on an evening when the entertainment is usually pretty good, the hall is split into three levels which seems to help the atmosphere somehow. The focal point of the room is obviously the stage, which is unusually positioned, in the far corner. This however doesn’t affect the view and in fact I actually believe it helps it. The main reason I can see why it is positioned in this way is to make way for the really important area …. the bar, this is massive which is just as well I suppose taking into account the size of the hall and the amount of people it holds which I would imagine is in the region of 500 –1000. They do operate a fairly strange queuing system at the bar however which I haven’t come across before in a pub setting. The best way I could describe this is the way the likes of Argos operate, you decide what you want and queue for an assistant, you then tell this assistant what you want and pay your money. She then gives you a ticket and you go to the appropriate point at the bar where the person behind the bar shouts out your details and serves you the drinks. It does seem to work pretty well although I do have a few slight criticisms, firstly there are about 4 tills which is fine, the problem is people are allowed to queue either side of this and the assistant will swap from side to side serving one from each queue. This obviously gives the ignorant queue hoppers the chance to swap sides as the situation suits. There’s nothing more frustrating than to be queuing patiently on your side with maybe 3 or 4 in front of you and have someone nip in the other side and hence get served before you. If everybody were made to queue the same side it would stop this. It’s a little point but it would stop a little bit of frustration and everyone would get served in the same amount of time. The second slightly annoying thing about this system is that once you’ve ordered and went to
the bar that’s it, there’s no going back and asking for something else without joining the queue again. So if you’ve forgotten to get your partners bag of nuts or whatever its tough, the person behind the bar cant serve anything other than what’s on the ticket. Apart from the above niggles though the system is very efficient and a welcome change from the normal mad scrambles you get in places like this. What about the entertainment ? Well, they don’t seem to have any big names or high class acts but they do get the balance right. By that I mean you have to take into account children are allowed in this area so they have to be entertained as well as the adults, this they do achieve with just about enough variety to keep everyone happy. On the times we have been in there we have seen acts such as solo singers, tribute groups, magician show and a “scary” horror show. There is also the compere who pulls it all together and again, he manages to strike the right balance between the kids and adults. All in all, you can guarantee that you will have a good night in here. It is actually one of the main bits we look forward to because once we’ve settled into our seats the kids can just come and go as they please between here and the amusements and we know they’re OK and we can relax and enjoy the night. Oh yes, one last thing. It is a good idea to get in here before about 9 o’clock as it tends to fill up round about this time when people move up from the smaller hall. Cabaret 2 This is Bradley Bears lair, whose Bradley Bear I hear you ask. Well, he’s Haggerstons kids favourite, he is a guy dressed in a big bear suit that wanders around the site during the day playing with the kids. On the night he has his own little show in the smaller of the two cabaret halls. This is really targeted though at the younger kids, we have watched bits and pieces
of the show and it is quite entertaining …. not entertaining enough to drag us away from the main hall mind but I can see why the kids enjoy it so much. After Bradleys finished his spot on here they also have kids discos, games and the like. This place does tend to be fuller early on though with the majority of the people moving up to the big hall later on. Café There are actually two cafes on the site, with the first in the main building probably being the busiest. This is not because it is any better but because the majority of people spend time in that area rather than walk up to the other one which is situated about 5 – 10 minutes walk away. The food and refreshments in both is pretty average and is the type of fayre you would normally expect. If I were to have one complaint about either of them it would be the speed of service in the quieter one. On the three occasions we have been in there we have noticed the service is very slow compared to the main one, I suppose though if your willing to walk up there your not really in a rush so that doesn’t matter. Golf course. There is a golf course on the site as well, which we have visited twice. The course itself is not the most challenging in the world but it is of a good standard and well marked out and maintained. We have though found that it is a little compact with a lot of the fairways running parallel with each other, this does make it a little bit risky when there’s other golfers on there and we have had one or two near misses. I would also imagine that the caravans near it have had a fair bit of damage to them from stray balls as some of them are well within reach of a poorly hit shot but I suppose that’s a risk worth taking to offer another excellent facility. The course itself is open to anybody and the prices are very reasonable, we only paid £4 for a round with the hire of clubs only being another
couple of quid. The standard of the equipment is quite high as well and if you hunt through the hire sets on offer there is really good quality makes available. In summary, an excellent facility that is well worth visiting on a nice sunny afternoon. Boating lake For those of you who would prefer something a little more sedate there is the opportunity to hire pedal boats to cruise around the very scenic main lake. This is probably the nicest setting on the whole site with some of the caravans around the lake occupying really nice positions with lovely views across the lake. To take advantage of this you can hire a boat and spend an hour or so just drifting around, not our idea of fun but there are plenty of people who do enjoy this so another useful little attraction. I would say that I would like to see them allow fishing on here, which they don’t. In actual fact don’t think it is deep enough to hold any decent sized fish anyway. This I suppose is probably wise as there is obviously a lot of kid’s play around these areas and the deeper the water obviously the more dangerous for them. Setting this safety angle (pardon the pun) aside though fishing is a popular pastime and I’m sure a lot of people would like to see these lakes stocked and fished. From my own personal point of view it would certainly give me another reason for staying more often. Tennis courts There is a couple of tennis courts situated near the main area and equipment can be hired on site, as with most places though this facility seems to be quite busy and the courts always appeared to be fully occupied ….. not that we were after anything so energetic !! Bowling green A less energetic “sport” if ever there was one. Again though we didn’t really have much interest in participating in this although it was quite busy. It does appear to be in excellent condition although I mus
t confess to not really having a clue as to how good it actually is because I have never played the game and wouldn’t really know a goo bowling green if it came up and bit me !! Football pitch. This is more my area of expertise and we did break away from our relaxation to have a quick game. It isn’t a full size pitch and is just yards away from the café buildings which makes it a bit frustrating because you cant really start smacking the ball around like you would on a proper pitch but it did serve its purpose. On that particular day we soon ended up having around about 20 people joining in, a fair few of who were Scottish, naturally enough I suppose as we were near enough in Scotland ! Anyway, nationalistic pride soon took over and we ended up taking sides and ending up in a full blooded England v Scotland game, England won of course !!! Bike Hire/Kart Hire. For those of you who are still energetic there is the option to hire a bike or a 4 seater kart on-site. The problem is though there isn’t really anywhere to go other than round and round the site so it’s a bit pointless. Of course you could always hire them for a few hours and bike off site somewhere, the thing is though the cost would be a bit off putting. I seem to remember it worked out at over a tenner an hour, expensive exercise !! Swimming Pool. There is 2 pools on the site, an indoor and an outdoor. Unfortunately the outside pool has always been closed when we are there but it is a fairly large sized affair with plenty of seating areas around it to just sit and chill out. The indoor is a different matter, it has always been absolutely packed out so we have never bothered going in, the kids have though and they loved it. So there we are, practically a full tour of the site. There are of course the other normal things you would expect on a site of this size, a couple of takeaways, a newspaper/gift shop, a supermar
ket etc etc. Incidentally a word of advice, if you do intend to cook for yourself and plan to get in groceries I would suggest you either bring your own or pop up to Berwick to a local supermarket as the on-site shops prices are pretty high in comparison. I suppose its to be expected in a way as to all intents and purpose they do have a captive market, we though just jumped in the car to stock up on the essentials …. bacon, eggs, bread, beer etc !! To summarise then I would say that this place is absolutely spot on for a nice well balanced family holiday, its neither too loud nor too quiet and there is plenty to do during the day and the night to keep both kids and adults happy. Unfortunately I do not have a price guide to offer you as our visits have been courtesy of the Sun’s £9.50 holiday offers. However, I have noticed one or two brochures around the place where the going rate seems quite reasonable. The prices of course are dependent on season but if I remember rightly they seemed to be around about the £100 - £200 mark per caravan for a long weekend which is excellent value. You could of course always ring them on 01289 381333 for more details. Put it this way, if we can’t get another deal off the Sun we won’t mind paying that sort of money, it is worth it. We will be going again.