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A forest getaway...
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest (Cumbria)
Member Name: nakmeister
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest (Cumbria)
Advantages: lots of things to do, great setting
Disadvantages: You can end up spending a lot
A short introduction is perhaps useful for those people who are not familiar with Center Parcs generally. Center Parcs is a group of holiday villages in Britain and Europe. They are generally all set in wooded countryside, often with a small lake as well. Accomodation is primarily in wooden lodges sleeping between 2 and 8 people. There's lots of things to do including swimming, sports, outdoor pursuits and lots more.
The rest of the review is about Whinfell Forest village.
- Location -
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest is located a couple of miles from Penrith, a mid size town in Cumbria. It's about 1 hour from Lancaster, 1 hour 30 minutes from Preston and probably about 2 hours from Manchester by car. If travelling by public transport, it is best to get the train to Penrith and then a taxi to the village. I believe buses do occasionally run, but are not regular.
- What it's like -
The village is mostly made up of a sprawling pine forest - it would probably take at least 40 minutes to walk from one end to the other if walking in a straight line. Most people hire bikes though (about £20 for a long weekend) or you can bring your own. There's lots of wildlife here, from different varieties of birds, swans and ducks on the lake, squirrels everywhere, badgers in the woods and lots of trees and flowers. It may not be the most natural and wild of places but as well as a holiday village it's something of a nature reserve which I like. There are two main sites in the villages: the first is the Village Centre. This is on the edge of a small lake, and is covered in a giant dome, where the temperature inside is always warm! Inside the dome is a swimming pool complex with several pools, slides, rapids etc. all surrounded by tropical plants to make a nice ambiance. Also in the village centre is a small cinema, bowling alley, live music venue, village shops, and several restaurants.
The other main place of note in the village is the Sports Plaza. This is a large building with lots of badminton courts, squash courts and multi functional courts that can be used for basketball, five a side football and an indoor tennis court amongst other things. Also in the sports plaza are various rooms for other activities such as aerobics, fencing etc. Finally, there is the sports bar, where you can eat, drink, watch sports on large tvs and play pool, billiards and snooker.
Outside the sports plaza are quite a few tennis courts, crazy golf and outdoor pursuits centre with climbing wall, zipwire and other fun stuff of a similar ilk. Oh and there's also the aqua sana spa, which I'll mention later on.
- Lodges -
The lodges vary in size, catering for between 2 and 8 people. It's worth noting that the cheaper accomodation for 2 people are the studio apartments, which is basically like being in a hotel with large rooms. The lodges may vary in size but are all fairly similar. There's a large open plan living area with plenty of sofas and comfy chairs, a large table which is easily big enough to seat as many people as the lodge is for, and a well equipped kitchen with fridge-freezer, cooker and microwave. Some lodges have dishwashers and washing machines too. The lounge area has a tv but no dvd player, games console etc. There's also patio doors out of the lounge onto a patio. The patio has outdoor chairs and tables and a brick barbecue. Your lodge may be next to other people's lodges, but immediately behind the lodge is usually just woodland, so the patio area is relatively private. The bedrooms are either twin or double - you can usually select when you book as to how many of each you want. For 6 or 8 person lodges there are always 2 bathrooms. Some lodges are single storey, some have 2 floors.
Generally the lodges are fine, well equipped and clean. They also offer a nice atmosphere very conducive to having a fun but relaxing holiday with friends and/or family.
Note - if you are going with a large group and you need more than one lodge, you can ring up when you book and ask for the two (or more) lodges to be next to each other - this is usually easy to arrange.
- Activities -
One of the big draws of a Center Parcs is the big choice of activities. Swimming is always free, you just turn up at the swimming complex whenever you want. As mentioned previously there's a wide range of sports available, and it's advisable to book early at the start of your holiday to ensure you can play when you want. If you just turn up they'll usually have something, but maybe not the sport you wanted. As well as playing sports amongst yourselves, there's also friendly tournaments you can participate in for tennis, badminton, table tennis etc.
For other activities it's advisable to book before you start your holiday to avoid disappointment, as many book up quickly. About 2 weeks before you are due to go, you will get sent a book with all the activities available together with times and prices. You can then ring up and book what you want. Depending how busy it is, you may be able to book some events while you are there, but this is not guaranteed.
Below is a list of some of the activities that are often available. This is not an exhaustive list, just what I can remember.
High Ropes assault course
Clay Pidgeon Shooting
Prices range from £5 to £40 approx per activity.
For those that want something a little more relaxing, there is the Aqua Sana. This is a state of the art spa, with lots of treatment rooms, hydrotherapy pools etc. There's the Tyolean sauna, Greek Herbal Bath, Balinese Steam Room, Turkish Hammam and quite a few more I can't recall at the moment. There's also a zen garden, a lovely area to relax in and a nice cafe. Prices start from around £30 for a 3 hour session, but you can also pay extra for massages, treatments etc.
As well as all the paid for activities, it's very enjoyable just to cycle or walk around the village and through the woods, particularly in the early morning when there's not many people about.
- Eating Out (and in) -
There are lots of places to eat out in the village. There's a French bistro, Italian restaurant, American/Mexican restaurant, Chinese, Hot Dog bar and also the Lakeside Inn (which has lovely roaring fires in winter, and regular hog roasts and pub quizzes all year round). Prices aren't cheap, but are about what you'd expect to pay in an average restaurant (£7 to £10 for a main course).
If you'd prefer to eat in, I suggest you pick up most of the food you'll be wanting before you get to the village. There's a mini supermarket in the village centre which stocks everything you are likely to want, but it's quite expensive.
- Shops -
As well as the mini-market there is a sweetie shop, toy shop and gift/souvenier shop.
- Prices -
For a standard lodge, a good guide price is £600-£800 per 6 person lodge and £800-£1000 for an 8 person lodge. This is for either a Friday to Monday (3 nights) or a Monday to Friday (4 nights). It's a fairly similiar price for mid-week or weekend. There are often discount vouchers available, just type 'center parcs voucher code' into google for lots of voucher codes you can use when booking (or even just when trying it out to see how much it would be). Many will be out of date, but some will work. 'CPWEB' is Center Parcs own discount code which they often give out and generally stays the same. Other codes come and go.
- Summary -
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest is a great place to go on a short break with either friends or family. I've been with friends, but in the future we'll go with family too, and there's a creche and kids club for children which hasn't been of use to us so far but no doubt will one day! Whether you want a relaxing or active holiday you are bound to have a good time, and even if ir rains it can't spoil the fun!
Summary: A great holiday, whatever the weather
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